Rising wages on both sides of the Atlantic have helped get workers back behind the wheel after a driver shortage pushed the industry to breaking point, leaving cargo containers delayed at ports on the U.S. west coast and petrol pumps running dry on British forecourts.
What happened: However, a long-standing shortage of equipment — initially caused by coronavirus restrictions and chip shortages — is getting more severe as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupts the supply of vital components and Chinese lockdowns threaten more disruption in global supply chains, writes Financial Times.
“The driver has been the biggest constraint of the last two years. The bigger supply constraint now is the truck, and to some extent, the trailer,” stated Tim Denoyer, the analyst at Indiana-based ACT Research.
“We’re struggling to keep the U.K. fleet on the road,” said Kieran Smith, CEO of the recruitment agency Driver Require, who added that vehicle availability at the operators with whom he works had reduced substantially due to a shortage of replacement parts.
Meanwhile, the surge of new workers has helped to keep costs down for businesses that move items by truck. U.S. dry-van spot rates, excluding fuel, fell precipitously in March and have dropped by more than a third since the beginning of the year.
Why It’s Important: “A year ago, we were bleeding drivers all over as a result of Covid,” said Rod McKenzie, head of policy at the Road Haulage Association. “Now things are really easing.” McKenzie estimated a shortfall of 100,000 drivers had dropped to about 65,000.
Though the driver shortage is less severe, the industry has not addressed long-standing issues with recruiting and retention of an aging workforce.