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Professional truck drivers: Appreciation has right of way

Undoubtedly, theirs is one of the most important jobs in the country: without drivers and logistics, the wheels of the economy would literally stop turning, resulting in empty shelves in supermarkets and department stores. This makes the findings of the International Road Transport Union (IRU) all the more alarming: the freight forwarding industry is running out of young drivers. As many as 62 percent of carriers in Europe complain that they are having major problems recruiting people to drive their trucks.

The logistics sector lacks young drivers. Attractive training concepts are needed. Foto: DACHSER/Julia Laatsch
The logistics sector lacks young drivers. Attractive training concepts are needed. Foto: DACHSER/Julia Laatsch

By Michael Kriegel, Department Head DACHSER Chem Logistics

A joint study published at the beginning of 2023, entitled “Addressing capacity bottlenecks in logistics with a focus on drivers,” extrapolated from the latest statistics that Germany is currently short of more than 70,000 truck drivers and that around 20,000 additional driving jobs are going unfilled each year. This is already having a noticeable economic impact. The study puts the costs of this shortage to the German economy at around EUR 10 billion in 2022 alone.

“We must not allow the driver shortage to worsen,” warns IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto. “Freight forwarders are doing their best, but governments and authorities need to step up their efforts to improve working conditions and access to the profession.”

This sets the agenda for policymakers. But to continue to provide customers—especially those in the demanding chemical industry—with reliable and predictable transport and logistics services, there’s also work for logistics companies themselves to do. The following kinds of questions stand front and center: How do we recruit young people to enter this profession? How can we “revamp” a job description that has often been perceived negatively and make it more appealing? How do we increase mutual trust and appreciation for the people “out on the road”? How can we portray ever-higher demands, especially when dealing with dangerous goods, as an exciting professional challenge? And how do we get the ball rolling with individual, targeted training measures that are ultimately scalable and thus pave the way out of the shortage?

DACHSER was one of the first companies to address the issue of driver shortages, starting back in 2014. Even though the European market leader in groupage and contract logistics doesn’t maintain a large vehicle fleet of its own, preferring instead to work with independent transport companies, ten years ago DACHSER took the initiative to launch its own qualification offensive in the form of a dedicated training company called DACHSER Service und Ausbildungs GmbH. The aim is to attract young people to the driving profession, inspire them, train them, and secure them for the market over the long term—perhaps with them later becoming transport service providers themselves.

Finding drivers and inspiring them

Since then, DACHSER has qualified over 100 trainees as professional drivers every year. DACHSER Service und Ausbildungs GmbH also professionalized the provision of TQ1 truck driver training and took a careful look at all processes relating to the world of drivers. This included, for example, hiring a fleet manager at every DACHSER branch in Germany to deal specifically with drivers’ needs.

The aim of DACHSER is to attract young people to the driving profession, inspire them, train them, and secure them for the market over the long term – perhaps with them later becoming transport service providers themselves.

DACHSER always says, “Logistics is people business.” This is based on the conviction that every employee at each level of operations is important and deserves to be valued highly. For professional drivers, this kind of appreciation and work culture finds expression not least in modern, pleasant workplaces. That includes ensuring that the truck and the driver’s cab feature state-of-the-art technology and ergonomics. It also involves addressing topics such as healthy eating, exercise, and addiction prevention.

Moreover, drivers themselves have an important role to play on the road to greater sustainability in logistics processes. Studies show that the right training can reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 14 percent. That’s something the drivers find appealing. DACHSER’s trainees often get to drive the electric vans and e-trucks that the company is now increasingly using in short- and long-distance transport. This makes them “first movers” and provides them with self-confidence and the certainty that they are on the right path for the future.

Ten years ago, “DACHSER Service und Ausbildungs GmbH” launched its own qualification offensive. Foto: DACHSER/Stefan Gergely
Ten years ago, “DACHSER Service und Ausbildungs GmbH” launched its own qualification offensive. Foto: DACHSER/Stefan Gergely

Capturing the imagination with innovations and technology

Logistics projects such as “Drive,” an innovation by BASF in Ludwigshafen to reduce truck throughput times, are also attractive to young talent. Using new digital processes and RFID technology, the project has managed to save around 30 minutes at the entrance to the plant and optimizes loading processes. For drivers, this means less time wasted waiting around rather than at the wheel. At the same time, it brings home to drivers how their actions are part of a larger context and a factor in shared success. This is extremely motivational for everyone involved.

DACHSER regularly carries out comprehensive value-stream analyses at its branches. These help the company understand the potential for developing the truck driver job profile further, and allow DACHSER to identify optimization measures. This work explicitly takes into account the concerns of drivers as well.

DACHSER is taking things even a step further. It recently set up a task force with the aim of ensuring sufficient transport capacity even at peak times. The drivers employed in this context work on a temporary basis for DACHSER’s transport partners and support the branches as required. DACHSER also set up a service partner initiative that brings together employees from the Head Office, Regional Head Offices, and branches to optimize collaboration in a spirit of mutual respect. Among other things, the initiative appoints coordinators who promote service quality at the interface between strategy and operations with the transport partners. The first steps in this direction have already been taken and are being implemented in all European countries in which DACHSER is represented through branches of its own. 

Even if the various interlinked initiatives and projects alone won’t be enough to solve the structural and global shortage of drivers, they clearly set the course. Sustainable logistics will be determined by quality—of both the service and the people who provide it on a daily basis.

DACHSER worldwide
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