Australia not alone in driver shortage concerns


Driver shortfall and industry perception prove key discussion points at IAA Commercial Vehicles

Australia not alone in driver shortage concerns
'Future of the Driver' was the subject of the Traton talk during the IAA.

 

MAN and Scania parent Traton Group has voiced its discontent at the growing shortage of professional drivers in Europe, described as a "worsening driver crisis", echoing a sentiment voiced in Australia and North America in recent times.

At the ‘Future of the Driver’ panel at IAA Commercial Vehicles 2018, MAN Truck and Bus chairman Holder Mandel states that Germany lacks about 45,000 drivers, a number that could reach 100,000 to 200,000 in the future as roughly only half the retiring drivers are being replaced by new entrants at the wheel.

As in Australia, the European transport industry sees the driver’s role as being the "backbone of the economy and the foundation of our quality of life", while the task itself is seen as lending itself to the ‘tech-savvy’ as truck technology is constantly improving.

However, a poor external perception of the job "impedes" the industry, with contributing factors identified as:

  • lack of respect towards drivers
  • appalling conditions on the roads, in parking lots, and in sanitary facilities
  • increasing qualification requirements, in part due to increased digitisation of the role
  • remuneration that is not always appealing, "due often enough to companies on the road at dumping prices, the difficulties in competition within Europe".

Commenting on the above points from a driver’s perspective, German driver Axel Flaake described such disrespect towards drivers and poor conditions on and off the road as "almost degrading", while logistics service provider Hubertus Kobernuß adds: "The drivers of today are ideally supposed to be chemists, legal experts, engineers and a few things more."

'NO SIMPLE SOLUTIONS'

While it was acknowledged that digitisation will not replace drivers altogether, "it is also clear that there is no future for those who are unable to overcome their aversion to digitalisation", hence the role "requires a more qualified training of drivers".

Beyond the growing importance of hands-on training in regards to training drivers, the panel says "close collaboration" at many levels of the industry was needed to address regulations and deliver an image campaign aimed at improving the way drivers are seen, but ultimately admitted there "are no simple solutions".

SIMILAR IN AUSTRALIA

The above is almost an exact mirror of the Australian industry, with a number of bodies and conferences confirming, and looking to combat, the issue of driver shortage and industry perception in Australia.

The current average age of drivers in Australia is around 50 and less than 15 per cent are under the age of 30, which doesn’t bode well when the road freight task is set to double by 2030, NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says.

"With the average age of current drivers now 53, and the difficulties with getting insurance for those under the age of 25, the problem is compounding. It is becoming increasingly hard to recruit skilled drivers," Clark says.

The list of Australian initiatives has steadily increased in 2018, including:

While the impact of these is yet to play out, a key sentiment is shared with overseas counterparts: the importance of the industry as the backbone of the economy.

"Day in, day out, transport business across the country provide the link between manufacturers, producers and retailers to keep Australia moving," Clark says. "We as an industry need to ask the hard questions and find the answers."

 

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