There is a severe shortage of approximately 25,000 professional drivers in the Czech Republic. This shortage further deepens as around 8,000 individuals leave the profession yearly, while only 5,000 new drivers enter the field. The lack of interest among young people in pursuing a driving career and the lengthy process of employing foreign workers contribute to the problem, according to Tomáš Bicera, the director of the Road Transport Institute at Česmad.
The shortage of drivers is particularly notable in the trucking industry, where around 20,000 drivers are needed, and in the bus transportation sector, which lacks over 5,000 drivers. Bicera emphasizes that the workforce shortage is a pressing issue in the transportation field, as the role of drivers cannot currently be replaced by technological advancements. This shortage is not unique to the Czech Republic but is a problem experienced across Europe and worldwide.
To tackle the issue, the Association of Road Transport Carriers Česmad, which oversees the Road Transport Institute, is taking steps to support Czech secondary schools. Bicera explains that they are encouraging students in technical fields to obtain a Group C driving license while they are still studying.
One of the challenges in addressing the shortage is the absence of a dedicated training program for driving. The transportation industry aims to provide graduates with versatile skills and high employability, and a specialized training program does not align with this objective, according to Bicera.
Individuals can acquire a Class C driving license for vehicles weighing over 3.5 tons when they reach 21 years of age. However, there is an exception for 18-year-old applicants who complete an extended training program of 280 hours. Bicera suggests that it would benefit the industry if individuals could obtain a Class C or D license at 18 after completing a basic training program of 140 hours.
While some argue that more extended training programs significantly enhance the knowledge and skills of young drivers, Bicera believes that modern vehicles equipped with advanced assistance systems can contribute to improved driving safety, even with younger drivers. Nevertheless, implementing such changes would require a modification of the European Union directive, as local Czech lawmakers alone cannot address this issue.
Simplifying the process of employing foreign workers for driving positions could also be a potential solution. Currently, the employment and work permit application process for foreign workers takes several months in the Czech Republic, whereas other countries, like Poland, have shorter timelines for the same procedures.