Truck driver shortage getting critical in Latvia, says industry

Take note – story published 1 year ago

The international road freight industry is experiencing a crisis in Latvia due to a lack of drivers. Businesses acknowledge that Latvian residents do not want to work in this area, so hundreds of drivers from the Philippines, Georgia, India and other third countries are hired, Zemgale Television reported February 9.

At the beginning of this year, the State Employment Agency (NVA) accounted for 1,101 truck driver's job vacancies and forecasts that job shortages will increase in the coming years.

"If there are around 3 million truck drivers in Europe at the moment, the shortage currently amounts to just over 425 thousand. It is expected that this gap could grow to one million over the next three years,” said Igors Jagodins, consultant for international road transport at the Road Transport Directorate.

The reason is that drivers reach retirement age, but the young generation does not want to spend so long on work outside the house and also outside Latvia, despite the fact that wages are high enough – up to €3,000 a month net.

“The young people in Rīga, they certainly won't want to, they want a desk job, somewhere in the companies. It was an attraction for me when there was no chance of being abroad in the Soviet era, but the young people of today do not want to go because now there are opportunities. Buy a ticket and go where you want,” said Edmunds Martušenckis, a truck driver of 25 years.

Entrepreneurs are attracting employees from foreign countries. Before Russia's launch of the war against Ukraine, hundreds of drivers from Russia and Belarus arrived in Latvia, but now drivers are sought elsewhere.

“We also attract drivers from Asian countries, from the Philippines, from Georgia, I know businesses where people come from within Europe,” said Aleksandrs Pociluiko, Chairman of the Board of the "Latvijas auto" association.

“The youth has no interest, so we are forced to look in third countries,” added Allans Aukštikalnis, board member of "Dinotrans".

Another problem is the expensive courses to obtain the truck driver's license category in Latvia. “The problem is getting licenses, it's very expensive now, they cost a thousand or two thousand altogether, driving and everything – it's expensive,” Martušenckis said.

It is possible to obtain a license free of charge at the NVA provided that it complies with the requirements.

"Unemployed persons registered in the Agency who have previously acquired skills not sufficient to find a job successfully can apply for driver licenses. And from December 12 last year, the Agency also organizes training for persons at risk of unemployment and currently employed persons and self-employed persons can apply for training,” said Armands Zujevs, a senior expert of the NVA project.

Last year, the Agency trained 763 C-category drivers and 282 CE-category drivers for State budget funds, which is still insufficient for the industry. One of the solutions that freight carriers want to achieve is to allow the truck driver's license to be acquired starting at age 18 rather than 21.

The road transport association "Latvijas auto" consists of 496 companies, employing 120 thousand people, with at least half being drivers. The exact number of drivers in Latvia as a whole is not known, and the exact number of drivers lacking is not known either.

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