Truck drivers: What happens in Great Britain threatens Germany too

4 Oct. 2021 09:55

The British supply crisis, which was triggered by the shortage of truck drivers, was the reason for RT DE to take a closer look at the situation in Germany. Both interlocutors confirmed the serious crisis, but their solutions differ significantly.

The collapse of British freight transport is making headlines across Europe. Not only are the shops empty, entire branches of production are also at a standstill because raw materials cannot be delivered. The reason for this is a massive shortage of truck drivers.

In order to find out whether a similar development could also flourish in Germany, they searched RT DE two interlocutors. The first, Jens Pawlowski, is the head of the Berlin representation of the Federal Association of Freight Transport, Logistics and Waste Management, in which over 7,000 companies from the sector are members. The second is Geoffrey Summers, a truck driver for 30 years.

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When asked whether there were similar supply bottlenecks in Germany, Pawlowski replied with a resounding yes. “Great Britain is a kind of magnifying glass. What we are seeing there now has been evident for a long time, across Europe.” Only a few years separated us from a comparable situation.

He wanted politicians to make the job more attractive and to organize fair competition in road freight transport. The job is unattractive because it receives little recognition. Society is also called upon to “show appreciation for those who ensure our security of supply every day”.

The Corona crisis showed how vulnerable the system was when “we suddenly stood in front of partially empty supermarket shelves”. At that time, the supply was secured in a single effort with the Ministry of Transport and other associations. But even the number of drivers from Eastern Europe is declining: “It is already evident that a great number of Central and Eastern European transport companies that are very active here in Germany can no longer find drivers there in Eastern Europe because nobody wants to do this job anymore . ” That is why drivers from countries outside the EU, such as Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, are now being hired. “We urgently have to be careful that this spiral is not continued here, but finally stopped.”

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Politicians are asked to remove hurdles. “A truck driver, even if he has a lot of professional experience, has to regularly carry out the same training measures every five years. Even if he has been on the job for fifteen or twenty years.” That would make older drivers quit the job.

“We are currently short of 60,000 to 80,000 professional drivers in Germany,” said Pawlowski. Every year 30,000 would retire, but only 15,000 would be trained, so the shortage is worsening. He sees the solution to this in immigration. “That you bring potential drivers from third countries here to Europe, to Germany, also integrate them here, offer them a reliable perspective with their families here.”

Truck driver Geoffrey Summers also confirms that there is a shortage of drivers and that even companies that pay good wages or train themselves are now having problems filling their positions. But he sees the reasons for this elsewhere. “On the one hand, the salary is still very low and is being pushed down further by colleagues from Eastern Europe, who receive even less, and the training is extremely expensive.” Drivers who are not completing an apprenticeship as a professional driver have to pay for their training themselves. “I have a colleague who we were able to finance through the employment office, whose training cost 12,000 euros.” In the past, the Bundeswehr also trained truck drivers. That was also omitted.

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When asked why there are so few offspring, he refers to the working conditions. “When I started back then, we simply drove two weeks to Spain and back and had time. There was something interesting about it. You could go to the sea, you could see the world. Today is it is so that the colleagues have to do one and a half tours to Spain a week. There is no time at all. But with one and a half tours, that’s logical, you only come home every fortnight. And many young people don’t want that long being away from home, especially not under the conditions. “

Three factors, he says, could make the job more attractive. The first is payment. The second are the circumstances under which long-distance traffic is currently being driven. “Especially with colleagues from Eastern Europe who drive in a two-man crew, they live a minimum of 14 days on five square meters.” And the third is the pressure that arises from just-in-time production, which has shifted the warehouse from the factories to the streets.

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When asked by RT DEWho was driving on Germany’s roads at the moment, he replied that colleagues his age had looked for jobs in medium-haul and local transport, “or with the few reputable companies”. There are now many drivers from non-EU countries on the long-haul routes. “For example Belarusians, who then travel with a German owner for a Polish forwarding company via Romanian work permits.” They actually only received a wage of 400 to 600 euros and lived more on the expense rate.

His proposed solution is completely different. The regulations and the density of controls should be tightened in order to enforce better working conditions, and above all: “If the driver moves a truck in Germany, a German minimum wage must also be paid be spent in the vehicles, but in decent accommodation, I’ll put it this way. “

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