Skip to main content
Skip to main content

Is the commercial truck driver shortage being fuelled by overseas restrictions?

Written by
Emma Tyrer
Date of Publication:
29 June 2021

The wheels of the haulage industry always keep turning, but at the moment, they run the risk of grinding to a halt. Whilst goods are still needed to be transported, actually making this happen is proving trickier at the moment thanks to a shortage in commercial truck drivers. This was once a popular job, but now the numbers seem to be diminishing.

It is believed that as many as a third of UK logistics companies face trucker shortages this year, with many citing recruitment as their biggest barrier. There could be many reasons for that, but Brexit restrictions are thought to be a key factor in this. Understanding those restrictions can be one way to overcome this problem, so here we take a look at driving in post-Brexit Europe.

Commercial truck drivers

It is thought that many commercial drivers in the UK were from overseas, and a good proportion of these have now returned home, leaving many seats unfilled. This is partly due to stricter visa rules as part of the Brexit changes, and also down to the COVID-19 lockdowns. These lockdowns did mask the problem for a while, as demand for many goods also dropped, but as the world reopens, the gaps in the driver market urgently need to be filled.

It is also possible that an ageing workforce has led to the shortage, with fewer younger people moving into the industry to replace those who are now retiring or cutting hours. The average age of the world's drivers now stands at 50, and with minimum age restrictions for drivers of certain sized vehicles, it can be difficult to lure young people into a driving career, as they may have already moved towards other options.

Recruiting drivers

The UK government has now agreed to increase the apprenticeship funding for drivers of large goods vehicles, but this will take time and there is an immediate demand for drivers, particularly as lockdown restrictions are lifting.

Recruiting young people and more women has proved challenging in the past but should be a consideration in an industry that is open to all. Only 2% of the world's truck drivers are women and only 5% of European drivers are under 25. Careful consideration and presentation of working conditions is important, as well as upskilling those who already work within the industry to broaden the options that are available.

Changes to immigration laws in the wake of Brexit have made it more difficult to recruit drivers from elsewhere in Europe, as red tape now seems to surround much of the process. The free movement of people around the continent meant that there were few restrictions in employing drivers from other European countries, but logistics firms will now need to get a better understanding of immigration restrictions in order to keep recruiting.

European Driving Permits

Ensuring drivers have all the correct paperwork has become more challenging since Britain left the EU. At the start of 2021, the rules surrounding driving in Europe began to change, and one of the key things to be aware of are International Driving Permits. These need to be held in addition to all relevant driving licences, and these vary according to the country that you are driving in. If your vehicles are travelling across multiple countries, you will need to ensure the driver has a permit for each one.

Carrying a Green Card is also recommended, although it is not yet a requirement. This is an international certificate of insurance, guaranteeing that the driver and the company have the necessary insurance for travel in each particular country.

Whilst Brexit is likely to be a large cause of these difficulties, there is evidence that there is now a global shortage of commercial drivers, and the COVID-19 pandemic is taking much of the blame for this.