South Africa’s driver shortage offers truckers opportunity to grow their income – here’s how much they earn

South Africa is suffering from a shortage of qualified truck drivers, amid early retirements and following lockdown restrictions making it difficult for drivers to access training and to get licensed.

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.

Citing data from the Office for National Statistics, Bloomberg reported that about 268,000 people were employed driving heavy goods vehicles in the year through June 2021, down 53,000 from when the industry peaked in 2017.

Official data showed 52,000 vacancies for posts in transport in the three months through September 2021, the highest since records began in 2001.

The American Trucking Association estimates the local industry is facing a shortage of approximately 80,000 truck drivers, with some companies offering salaries north of $100,000 a year, plus bonuses.

South Africa’s transportation industry – like most sectors – is also still reeling from the effects of the pandemic and a contraction of the economy.

However, as the country gears up to reclaim some semblance of normality, drivers are presented with an opportunity to not only fill the skills shortage gap present in the transport and logistics industry but can leverage their training and experience to increase their earnings said Arnoux Maré, managing director of truck driver training and testing centre, Innovative Learning Solutions.

He said that since the start of this year, there has been a shortage of about 3,000 truck and bus drivers in the country.

“Professionally trained drivers are in high demand as the industry aims to regain the losses suffered under the various lockdown levels and stifled economy. Drivers which fall in this category have specific skillsets such as, driving in wet conditions; economical driving; heavy goods vehicle braking; straight reverse and ally docking,” said Maré.

The Department of Labour published its minimum wages for South Africans who drive as wholesale and retail truck drivers, in February 2021. Code 14 drivers who worked in more populated municipalities could expect to earn no less than R6,083 a month. However, this figure is not reflective of what more experienced drivers can earn in South Africa.

For those who work as drivers, the maximum permissible number of hours per week is 45. Broken down into a working week of five days, which represents a maximum of nine hours per day.

Drivers can work overtime and agree to work six-day weeks, depending on the agreement they have with their employer.

Driver type Area A Area B
Light (3,500 kg or less) R4,229.22 R4,229.22
Medium (3,501 kg – 9,000 kg) R5,085.20 R4,229.22
Heavy (9,001 kg – 16,000 kg) R5,535.62 R5,264.60
Very Heavy (16,001 kg or over) R6,083.53 R5,787.15

It should be noted that these are minimum wages and are not reflective of what more experienced drivers can earn in South Africa.

Drivers can also earn substantially more based on which companies they drive for and what haulage they carry.

Data sourced from salary website Indeed shows that the base salary for a truck driver is closer to R10,324 per month in South Africa – or roughly R124,000 a year. Comparative salary information from PayScale shows that the average pay is slightly lower at R98,225 a year, or R8,185 a month.

The more qualified a driver is the better efficient they become, this also extends to their reliability leading to increased productivity which positively impacts their employers’ bottom line, offering them a huge negotiation advantage over their peers without the necessary training, said Maré.

“It is not just the drivers who stand to benefit from having skills that set them apart. Businesses that invest in the development of systems and staff, increase their functionality and gain valuable data and insights over the industry and competition.

“As companies also seek to trim costs, being leaner and more capable of doing more with less will likely be more commonplace. This includes improving recruitment processes to ensure drivers beyond the technical know-how required of all drivers also have necessary soft skills such as communication, motivation and customer services,” said Maré.

Read: Here’s how much money truck drivers earn in South Africa

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South Africa’s driver shortage offers truckers opportunity to grow their income – here’s how much they earn