Status: October 18, 2021 8:12 a.m.
In Great Britain, the shortage of truck drivers is leading to empty supermarket shelves – but experts warn that such bottlenecks are also threatening in Germany. Why is offspring so difficult to find?
When Udo Lautenschlager gets behind the wheel of his truck to transport containers from Regensburg to Landau an der Isar in Lower Bavaria, then he enjoys his work. The 60-year-old is a passionate professional driver. But he sees black when it comes to the future: Here too, British conditions soon threatened with empty supermarket shelves and closed gas stations, Lautenschlager fears.
MOMA Reporter: Truck Driver Crisis
Hardy Hausberg, WDR, Morgenmagazin, October 15, 2021
“Sooner or later, that will happen to us in Germany for the next five years. Because society does not recognize us,” he says. According to Lautenschlager, trucks are seen as “stinkers and polluters”, which is why the drivers do not get the respect they deserve. He sees the bad image as the main reason for the lack of young talent in his job.
Up to 80,000 drivers are missing
Tens of thousands of workers are now lacking in this occupation. According to the assessment of the various professional associations, unions and chambers, the need fluctuates between 45,000 and 80,000. According to a study by the Federal Ministry of Transport, it could be more than 185,000 by the end of the decade. According to the leading association of German transport logisticians, BGL, around 30,000 drivers retire nationwide every year; at the same time, however, only around 17,000 new people are being trained.
When researching the causes of why so few people want to get involved in the profession of driver, the union and chambers largely agree: Depending on the type of assignment, wages are below average, but there are irregular working hours, and working conditions are generally considered to be difficult.
Nothing works without a driver from abroad
This is one of the reasons why the industry is dependent on workers from other European countries. During the corona pandemic, for example, the border region in Eastern Bavaria was much closer to British conditions with empty supermarket shelves than you could imagine, says Manuel Lorenz, logistics expert at the Regensburg Chamber of Commerce.
The haulage companies here recruited up to 60 percent of their staff from the neighboring country of the Czech Republic. When the Czech border was closed to day commuters during the pandemic, Lorenz wasn’t sure whether the truck drivers could still show up for work. “If you then know the logistics chains and know which forwarding company works for which retailer: I’ve already thought of buying hamsters, to be frank,” he says.
Bad pay, difficult working conditions
More than three quarters of all drivers in Germany work in the low-wage sector, criticizes the ver.di union. According to the union, the average starting wage is less than 1900 euros per month. Wage increases are difficult to implement because of the massive price war taking place in the logistics sector.
In addition, many drivers are under time pressure. They often cannot cope with the tight schedules by legal means. So rest times are repeatedly disregarded or even tachographs manipulated. Police chief inspector Harald Beigel knows many such cases from daily practice. He is an expert in heavy traffic and dangerous goods at the Upper Palatinate Police Headquarters. It is not uncommon for truck drivers to report themselves – out of desperation. “It happens again and again that truck drivers come to us and ask for a check because they are instructed by their company to drive longer than allowed,” reports Beigel. “Because then they choose this way to get help somewhere.”
Solution through new technologies?
Industry experts do not believe that drivers will be replaced by autonomous driver assistants in the near future. A greater shift in freight traffic from road to rail fails because of the rail capacity deficit. It will not work without professional drivers in the future either.
The ver.di union believes that the solution to the driver shortage depends above all on the question of pay. Both the training and the work of the driver must be financially upgraded.