The International Road Transport Union (IRU), the world road transport employers’ organisation, representing more than 3.5 million road transport operators, and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), representing 18.5 million transport workers, have launched a three-point plan to help fix driver shortages.
The new approach aims to ease driver shortages and transport labour market imbalances, ensure decent working conditions and standards for drivers working outside of their home country, and simplify and enforce rules for workers and employers.
IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto said, “Driver shortages are quickly getting out of control. Balancing global labour supply and demand via simple measures to ease legal immigration and stop exploitation of non-resident drivers is one way to fix the problem, support decent work and keep vital road transport services moving.”
ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton said, “Governments, transport employers, and the multinational customers of transport must work together with trade unions to build decent work to end driver shortages. Road transport will only be able to attract and retain drivers if it is built on cooperation between all stakeholders and rightsholders to ensure decent work, fundamental labour rights and genuine social protections.”
The plan outlines action for the UN, national governments and the industry:
- 1. UN and international organisations – develop a global framework with clear guidelines to protect non-resident drivers; improve driver conditions and increase social cohesion; and harmonise qualification standards and cross-border recognition.
- 2. National governments – amend and enforce labour immigration procedures to protect non-resident drivers, reduce bureaucracy to allow easier legal immigration for current and potential drivers; boost recognition of third-country qualifications via bilateral agreements; invest in and increase enforcement of road transport laws and regulations; and subsidise domestic training and integration programmes.
- 3. Road transport operators – develop operational integration programmes for non-resident drivers to receive the same conditions as their domestic workforce; and support training, skills management and certification processes.
The plan aims to better balance national labour pools – between those with a surplus and those with a deficit of driver talent – without exporting problems from one country to another. It should not override existing national initiatives, or harm safety standards or worker conditions.
The chronic global shortage of professional truck, bus, coach and taxi drivers is accelerating, impacting millions of road transport workers, employers and services. Around 11% of driver positions were unfilled in 2022. With up to one third of drivers retiring within the next three years in many countries, unfilled driver positions could more than double by 2026.
Governments, unions and operators are driving multiple actions, but it is not enough. Other solutions include subsidising licence and training costs, building more safe and secure parking areas with better facilities, encouraging more women and young people into the profession, and improving the treatment of drivers and understanding of the profession.