The numbers are astounding. Data shows the truck driver shortage has grown to up to 425,000 unfilled positions currently in Europe.

An almost global phenomenon, including here in Australia, road freight businesses are struggling to fill driver seats.

The latest European Road Freight Report (Q1 2022) from the International Road Transport Union (IRU) says the war in Ukraine has made things even worse.

These shortages have been worsened by the war, with over 228,000 non-EU truck drivers operating in Europe in 2021, many from Ukraine and Belarus.

Just like in Australia, it’s also becoming more expensive to ship goods by road.

The report shows a 4.3% increase in European road freight rates to an all-time high.

Rising cost pressures, supply and capacity disruptions, regulatory change, and the war created a potent mix of rate drivers. 

And, not surprisingly, rising fuel costs are a major driver of those higher rates. Operators in Europe are experiencing a more than 50% increase in the cost of diesel this year, compared to last. 

Freight rates are expected to remain elevated through 2022 as volatility from inflation and the fallout from the war in Ukraine continue to increase costs, though as inflation takes hold overall demand may decrease, relieving upward pressure on rates.

Thomas Larrieu is the CEO of digital data transport platform, Upply, says it’s been a perfect storm of factors in Europe.

“The European road freight market has been marked since 2021 by an inflationary dynamic: freight rates are gradually increasing, and this trend shows no signs of abating. 

“In addition to the factors that have been known for several months (dynamic demand with the reopening of the post-Covid economies, rising fuel prices, pressure on capacities, and driver shortages), there is now a parameter that is exogenous to the usual problems of the sector: the war in Ukraine.

“This conflict is disrupting European supply chains, affecting driver availability, and causing an unprecedented spike in fuel costs.”