Opportunity knocks in SA trucking industry? See salary range for drivers

26 October 2021 - 16:18
Despite a huge unemployment rate, SA has a shortage of truck drivers, but so do the US and the UK, which take advantage of the low rand value to lure truckers to greener pastures. File photo.
Despite a huge unemployment rate, SA has a shortage of truck drivers, but so do the US and the UK, which take advantage of the low rand value to lure truckers to greener pastures. File photo.
Image: DELORES KOAN

“As of 2021, there is a shortage of approximately 3,000 truck and bus drivers in the SA transport sector.”

This is according to Arnoux Maré, MD at Innovative Learning Solutions, a code 14 driver training and testing centre.

SA Trucker however, believes the opposite is true and that SA has the skills. The publication voice for the SA trucking community said: “Our privately run database of truck drivers looking for employment runs to thousands of qualified and experienced personnel who cannot find jobs because there aren’t many opportunities out there.

“It’s shocking that with the level of unemployment in the country, ISS [Innovative Staffing Solutions, a body of Innovative Learning Solutions] is reporting a shortage of skilled code 14 drivers.”

Stellenbosch University and World Bank figures estimate SA’s logistics sector is responsible for 11.8% of the country’s GDP.

Innovative Learning Solutions emphasised the importance of truckers by using the July unrest as an example.

“Any pause in the movement of essential goods from suppliers could lead to calamitous shortages of vital supplies and food affecting all South Africans.”

The company said road freight had surpassed rail, “worsening the issues caused by the growing scarcity of qualified truck drivers”.

According to the C-track Freight Transport Index report for April, more than 150-million tonnes of cargo were transported by road between January and March 2021, compared to 40-million moved by rail.

Maré said: “Our goods and supplies don’t miraculously appear in supermarkets, and the trucks they come in don’t drive themselves. The people responsible for driving those trucks are as vital as the goods they deliver because without drivers, our supply chains will come to a grinding halt.

Trained and qualified drivers mitigate accidents, curb losses and ensure the country’s residents receive their essential supplies without delay, all while contributing to the economy.
Arnoux Maré, MD at Innovative Learning Solutions

“Without skilled, committed truck drivers, much of the economy and life as we know it in SA, would come to a grinding halt. Trained and qualified drivers mitigate accidents, curb losses and ensure the country’s residents receive their essential supplies without delay, all while contributing to the economy.”

The US and the UK have the same, if not worse, issues in terms of a lack of truck drivers. However, they are able to make use of their strong currency to lure truckers — many South African — to their countries. 

According to Innovative Learning Solutions, this is fuelling the lack of qualified drivers in SA.

The department of labour published its minimum wages for South Africans who drive as wholesale and retail truck drivers in February, said the company.

“Code 14 drivers who worked in more populated municipalities could expect to earn no less than R6,083.53 a month. However, this figure is not reflective of what more experienced drivers can earn in SA.”

Data sourced from the salary website Indeed shows the base salary for a truck driver is closer to R10,000 month.

According to the Economic Research Institute, heavy truck drivers in SA make an annual salary of R229,035, earning on average R110 per hour and receive on average R5,680 in bonuses. Payscale estimates the average earnings of truckers in SA at R48.93 per hour.

A SalaryExplorer survey shows a trucker in SA typically earns around R10,100 a month with the range from R4,960 (lowest) to R15,800 (highest).

“This is the average monthly salary including housing, transport and other benefits. Truck driver salaries vary drastically based on experience, skills, gender (male truckers earn 8% more than women on average) or location.”

An experience level between five and 10 years lands a trucker a monthly income of R10,400, 38% more than someone with two to five years of experience, said SalaryExplorer, rising to R12,900 monthly for people with 10 to 15 years’ experience.

When the education level is high school, the average salary of a truck driver is R7,560 a month, an employee with a certificate or diploma gets R10,800 while a Bachelor’s degree earns its holder an average salary of R14,900 a month, according to the survey.

Looking at salary offerings in the US on the job searching website Indeed.com, the average heavy truck driver salary is $100,000 a year (about (R1.4m), which includes benefits. In the UK the average wage is £200 a day (about R4,000) including benefits, according to the job seeking website Driver Express.

Opportunity is knocking in the SA transportation industry, said Maré.

Like most sectors, it is still reeling from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and a contraction of the economy, he said.

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.

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

The “Freight Transport by Road in South Africa 2021” report recently shared by ResearchAndMarkets.com said the industry faces many challenges including reduced demand due to:

  • pressure on consumer spending;
  • high input costs;
  • competition from e-commerce platforms;
  • labour demands;
  • pressure by customers to reduce transport costs;
  • automation and new technologies;
  • border post and port congestion; and
  • excess capacity.

The industry is responding by using technology to improve efficiencies and reduce costs  by spreading risk, using flexible distribution models and decentralising operations, said the report.

“The effect of the pandemic on the operations and revenue of the road freight and warehousing sector has been mixed. The benefits of providing warehousing and transportation for sectors such as healthcare and consumer goods was offset by the negative effect of protocol compliance requirements, lower volumes requiring transportation, movement restrictions and border post congestion. The volume of freight transported by road decreased in 2020.”

Opportunities were evident, however. “Businesses in this industry range from large companies to small family businesses and owner-driver operations. Owner-driver schemes offer opportunities for new entrants to the industry. Increasing use of e-commerce opens opportunities for the parcel and courier industry, while there are also opportunities in the removals industry and for companies that provide flexible and customised services to meet specific needs.”

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