The ‘Future of the Driver‘ was the topic of a talk at IAA – where are drivers headed?

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineOctober 1, 2018

New Zealand isn‘t the only country dealing with a shortage of professional truck drivers, as a talk given by Traton Group at IAA Commercial Vehicles illustrated recently.

The shortage of professional drivers in the transportation industry is having a negative impact on business in Germany and Europe. The lack of drivers increasingly slows the smooth transportation and timely delivery of raw materials and goods, and the progress in vehicle technology in assistance systems and in the digital network of the logistics chain requires a higher level of training for drivers.

Holger Mandel, chairman of the MAN Truck & Bus Deutschland board of directors, captured the harsh reality in a nutshell.

“Germany is seeing 30,000 drivers a year retire,” he said. “And they are being replaced by only 16,000 drivers per year.”

He paints the picture for this Christmas to come: “Punctual delivery of parcels and packages could be a problem.”

Germany currently has a deficit of 45,000 drivers and Mandel predicts that it could soon be 100,000, and maybe even 200,000 in the future. He said transportation is the backbone of the economy and the shortage was an enormous challenge for everyone involved.

“When drivers in Brazil were on strike, the shops were empty after just a few days.”

Policymakers, truck industry, logistics, drivers, federations, and practitioners took part in the Traton Talk panel discussion chaired by industry expert Werner Bicker. Truck driver Axel Flaake did not mince his words, saying the situation was hardly surprising, given the lack of respect with which drivers were treated.

“The situation on the roads, in parking lots, and in sanitary facilities is almost degrading,” he said.

Policymakers were calling for regulations and an image campaign aimed at improving the way drivers were seen.

Logistics service provider Hubertus Kobernuß said it could not just be down to driver wages, as drivers today could earn good money. However they would need to have a few qualifications, especially if they were transporting more demanding cargo. He said that the demands on the drivers of today were huge.

“The drivers of today are ideally supposed to be chemists, legal experts, engineers and a few things more,” he said.

Jörg Mannsperger from Dekra Akademie urgently recommended “not making the barrier to entry too high” as it could make the shortage worse. However he did make it clear that there was no future for those unable to overcome their aversion to digitalisation. He believed that in general, the importance of hands-on training was growing when it came to training drivers.

There was broad consensus regarding the main causes: one being the poor image that those involved in the logistics chain should tackle together, and the other being the appalling conditions on the roads, in parking lots, and in sanitary facilities, coupled with increasing qualification requirements, and a remuneration that was not always appealing.

The conclusion was there were no simple solutions for the shortage of drivers. The issue required close collaboration that went far beyond the logistics industry.

“We need a round table for this and we need it now so that road transportation can continue to hold on to its role as the most efficient means of transportation,” said Mandel.