Robert Falck, Founder and CEO
Over the last couple of days, the UK fuel crisis has received attention world-wide. The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) in the UK, representing independent fuel retailers and accounting for 65 percent of all UK forecourts, stated that 37 percent of member forecourts reported being out of fuel the day before yesterday. Earlier this week, as much as 50 to 90 percent of pumps were dry in some areas among PRA’s members.
One of the effects of the current crisis is that road traffic volumes have reached the lowest level since the COVID-19 lockdowns. Some have argued this trend is having a negative effect on the recovery of the UK economy, and also on Britain's economic growth.
Considering the fact that the UK is the world's fifth largest economy, the crisis shows the role played by transportation and infrastructural systems for the world economy at large.
Given the impact of the current crises on the UK’s economic outlook, the question becomes: is this driver shortage a problem specific to the UK or not?
Even though the British crisis likely relates to several factors, the fact of the matter is that the UK is short around 100,000 drivers.
In contrast to what some of the recent news-reports might suggest, the driver shortage is a problem that spans across many European countries. In a report from Transport Intelligence published in August this year, Poland is estimated to have a driver shortage of over 120,000 drivers, Germany between 45,000 – 60,000 drivers and France 43,000 drivers to mention a few examples.
The driver shortage, however, is neither a problem specific to the UK nor other European countries. Across the pond – in the US – the shortage in 2019 was estimated to be 60,000 drivers, and is forecasted to reach 100,000 drivers by 2023.
Adding to the gloomy outlook, a recent report from the International Road Transport Union (IRU) forecasted driver shortages reaching 18 percent in Mexico, 20 percent in Turkey, and 24 percent in Russia in 2021. One of the few countries able to find drivers is China where the estimate reached the relatively undramatic figure of 3 percent.
Taken together, the British driver shortage is part of a global problem. Countries across several continents are facing the very same challenge – how to attract and train drivers of tomorrow.
Even though there are several aspects to why potential drivers are hard to recruit, one of the main reasons is related to work-life balance. More specifically, truck drivers are one of the occupations that suffer from a multitude of work-family and work-life conflicts. Professions faced with these conflicts have been shown to exhibit negative health behaviors and outcomes such as insufficient sleep and mental illness related to anxiety and depression.
So, what can be done to tackle these structural problems?
We believe that the solution to these problems is simple – disrupting the driver profession by leveraging new technology to transform it into becoming sustainable for the millions of men and women that together make up the industry.
One example of how this can be achieved was showcased in April last year when we presented our remote drive station publicly for the first time. The remote drive station enables truck drivers to monitor and control vehicles remotely over a 5G connection from nearly anywhere in the world. Before the Goodwood Festival of Speed Future Lab this summer, we shipped the remote drive station over to England and offered visitors the chance to maneuver the Pod live at the AstaZero test track in Sweden, 1,200 kilometers away.
Our technology has tremendous potential in improving the work environment for truck drivers across the globe by changing what it means to be a trucker: from “on the road” to “work from home.”