EU licence proposal to help truck driver shortage
The European Commission has today published its proposal for the EU Driving Licence Directive, and the industry has been eagerly awaiting concrete solutions to what is seen as one of the biggest threats to road transport operations: driver shortages.
The International Road Transport Union (IRU) has said that the proposal has many promising aspects that can address the “chronic shortage of drivers” in the goods transport sector, but it “falls completely short” when it comes to passenger mobility.
The IRU’s 2022 driver shortage report showed that some 600,000 drivers are missing in Europe, and forecasted it to reach almost two million by 2026 given current trends.
The predicted increase is due to an aging driver population, coupled with a low share of young drivers. Across the EU, only six per cent of professional drivers are below 25 years old, according to the report.
The IRU said the revision of the EU driving licence provides the possibility to remove one of the major barriers to young people joining the profession: the gap between the age they finish school and when they are allowed to become professional drivers.
It added that by doing so, it also has the potential to facilitate the access of third-country drivers to the EU market, which would bring a needed enlargement to the EU driver pool.
Today’s proposal clarified that the minimum driving age for truck drivers is 18 – a step which has long been called for by the road transport industry.
The European Commission also recommended allowing 17-year-olds to start training by accompanying experienced drivers and through apprenticeships. Such an amendment is not included for the passenger sector.
IRU EU advocacy director Raluca Marian said: “We welcome the European Commission’s proposal to give young people the chance to become truck drivers. This will go a long way in reducing the ‘school-to-wheel gap’.”
“Where the Commission’s proposal does fall woefully short is in passenger transport,” she added. “We see well trained 18-year-old men and women safely driving buses in some Member States, while in many others the minimum age is between 21 and 24.
“The proposal fails to set 18 as the unequivocal minimum driving age for bus and coach services. Consequently, it has taken no steps in addressing increasingly severe driver shortage issues that are hindering the collective mobility of EU citizens.”
On a positive note, the IRU stated it appreciates the European Commission being open to the sector’s call to enlarge the pool of drivers by facilitating third-country drivers’ access to the profession in the EU.
“The proposal opens a new avenue for the harmonisation of requirements on the recognition of driving licences from outside the EU,” Marian added.
“While the list of countries and concrete conditions must be further determined based on solid safety criteria, we already see a positive step in facilitating third-country citizens becoming professional drivers in the EU and complementing the EU talent pool.”