South Africa has a shortage of skilled drivers, which represents a significant risk to local businesses in 2022, says Arnoux Maré, managing director of Innovative Learning Solutions (ILS).
Maré pointed out that the transport industry contributes to 20% of our GDP and forms the backbone of South Africa’s socio-economic activities by enabling the movement of people and products.
In recent months, however, the country has struggled to meet the growing need for qualified truck drivers with lockdown restrictions making it difficult for drivers to access training and to get licensed, causing a backlog.
Similarly, a shortage of professional drivers in the United States and United Kingdom has led to companies recruiting drivers from South Africa, with the promise of better pay.
“South Africa is currently facing a shortage of skilled truck drivers, which will only worsen as the economy recovers,” said Maré.
“And like the current issues with national electricity supply, a shortage of drivers is also a catch-22. As business activity resumes, we will see more transportation demand, but a lack of adequate supply could quickly strangle economic growth again.”
Pointing to the high demand for truck drivers, the latest figures from fleet-tracking company Ctrack’s Freight Transport Index show that in November 2021, the average number of trucks passing through the Tugela toll plaza reached 7,450 per day. As the midpoint of the busiest long-distance freight corridor in South Africa, this equates to as many as 251 trucks per hour.
The index further shows that there were even more trucks than cars on the N3 corridor for 10 of the 12 months of 2021, and that despite the impacts of the pandemic, there has been a 30% increase in the number of trucks on South Africa’s roads compared to five years ago.
“A shortage of skilled drivers impacts nearly every sector. They transport essential goods like food, fuel, coal, hospital and medical equipment, clothing, and more. We urgently need to do more to fill the skills gap in South Africa by investing in driver training programmes now to avoid hitting a major roadblock in our economic recovery,” said Maré.
“South African businesses need to begin building a talent pipeline to plug the skills gap now if we are to avoid hitting a speedbump in economic growth. With affordable training programmes, a career as a truck driver is an attractive option for many unemployed South Africans – particularly for unemployed youth.”
Maré said that corporates especially need to invest in upskilling drivers to mitigate the risk they are taking by hiring drivers without proper background checks and driver training.
“With the rising demand for truck drivers, having professionally trained drivers is one of the best solutions available for enhancing operational efficiency. This means having truckers who know how to secure their load, drive in wet conditions, and have the expertise and confidence to act swiftly when a threat arises, to aid in ensuring that cargo arrives safely at its destination.”
The government in February published new minimum wages for wholesale and retail truck drivers – from 1 March 2022. While inexperienced drivers are likely to earn around R5,000 per month, data shows that experienced drivers can earn between R10,000 and R15,000 per month.
These wages establish the minimum baseline across the sector and workers can earn significantly more based on their position and the company that they work for.
Original story on BusinessTech