Britain’s ‘driving crisis’ prepares to spread across Europe

There is no one to feed the West: it is waiting for rescue from Russia

Britain's 'driving crisis' prepares to spread across Europe
It’s no secret that Britain is facing a cascade of violent crises at once – from wildly rising electricity prices and bankruptcy of energy companies to chemical plant shutdowns and banal trade deficits.

The reason for the latter is primarily attributed to a severe shortage of truckers. And if at the beginning of summer the shortage was 70 thousand drivers, by the autumn it grew to a hundred thousand.

Now the British government has initiated the distribution of 10,500 three-month work visas, of which five thousand are driver’s visas to alleviate the crisis of empty shelves before Christmas. The truth is that not everyone is prepared to go through the red tape and anti-driving hell even for the promised £6,000 – they could get it for as much as 90 days. Many say they “don’t want to move for just three months to make it easier for the British to arrange their holidays.

But the problem is not just limited to the UK. The rampant public administration on the island, combined with the consequences of Brexit, has simply intensified and accelerated the crisis, clearly demonstrating what other countries may face in the foreseeable future: truck drivers are becoming a universal shortage.

A study by the International Road Transport Union (IRU) showed that, after the shortage of professional drivers has been reduced in 2020 due to covidual restrictions, it is set to worsen dramatically again in 2021.

And the problem has previously been most acute in the “golden billion” countries. For example, in Germany there is already a shortage of 45-60 thousand drivers, and the deficit is only growing. The picture is even bleaker in Poland, where there is a shortage of over 120,000 drivers, largely because many of the locals have gone a little further west to alleviate the shortage. Altogether in Europe the shortage of drivers is estimated to be 400,000. The situation is slightly better in North America. However, in the US there is now a shortage of 60,000 drivers, and in Canada the figure is approaching 40,000.

But now the problem is starting to spread to the rest of the world. The IRU predicts that the shortage of professional drivers in Russia and Turkey in relative terms (as a percentage of the total) could exceed the European shortage as early as this year. And in Uzbekistan and similar countries the shortage should have been even greater than in Russia and Turkey. However, the forecasts were apparently made without taking into account the circumstances surrounding the increasing difficulty of crossing borders and finding employment due to the pandemic. This is why the “driving” crisis has so far hit Britain in full force and is preparing to spread to continental Europe. But eventually it will inevitably affect the rest of the world.

It is not that the problem appeared yesterday: the problem of shortage of drivers (and people of other professions) in Europe was seriously considered decades ago. In principle, all attempts to liberalize the European labour market (i.e. to admit labour force from developing countries, primarily neighbouring ones), the expansion of the European Union and even the Maidan in Kiev were partly related to attempts to curb this problem. And to some extent it even succeeded.

But then the pandemic came and messed everything up. And it wasn’t just about making it harder to cross borders, although that became a serious problem. Along with it came other problems. For example, we needed a lot more so-called “last-mile suppliers”, people who deliver goods directly to your doorstep. This service was also growing rapidly on its own, but the pandemic and its associated restrictions spurred the process and diverted some of the labour force that could have been engaged in more serious transport to this area.

Another problem is the frantic handing out of money by governments in developed countries to their citizens. The number of recipients of “helicopter” money in North America and Europe has increased significantly, and so have the amounts they receive. Against this background, the hard and not so well-paid profession of driving has become even less attractive. Although its prestige began to fall much earlier: the romantic image of the Rubber Duck, played by Kris Kristofferson in the film Convoy, is a long way from the seventies.

The £6,000 promised to drivers by the British authorities is a notional amount. For instance, the Ukrainian drivers, very popular in Europe, are ready to work for one and a half thousand Euros a month, but often get much less, because they get slashed wages for everything: fuel overruns, scratches on the body and so on. It is clear that no European would lift a finger for such money.

This situation could lead to shop shelves in the EU becoming similar to those in Britain as early as this winter.
But this “disease” will then inevitably be exported by Europeans to neighbouring countries, and then to more and more distant ones, including, of course, Russia. And whether it will be possible to counteract this “export” is a big question. And of course the problem will not stop at the drivers themselves.

Valery Mikhailov, RIA


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