Drivers wanted: what if the solution is for them to have office hours?

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The United Kingdom is the first country where the shortage of drivers is causing serious economic and social problems. The number of drivers needed to restore normal fuel supply to filling stations is between 90,000 and 100,000 professionals. How can we reverse a driver shortage that is spreading throughout Europe?

An impossible situation throughout Europe

Road transport is vital for Europe, accounting for about 75% of the three-quarters of inland freight transport in the EU. However, the unmet demand for hauliers is rising steadily. As early as 2020, the International Road Transport Union (IRU) indicated that the shortage of commercial freight drivers was growing at the rate of almost 15% per year, reaching 36% by 2020.

“What is happening in the UK is what will happen in the rest of Europe in a few years’ time, it has simply been accelerated by the endemic problem due to Brexit and drivers and companies leaving the country,” highlights Gabor Balogh, co-founder and Head of Growth at Trucksters.

“It is unsustainable the way the transport industry operates. On the one hand, drivers are treated as just another number on the bottom line, making the profession very unattractive to the younger generation. Many weekends at service stations sleeping in the truck do not help to attract young drivers, and older drivers are retiring,” Balogh says.

From expense to competitive advantage

The co-founder of long-distance transport operator FTL also believes that “transport in general is seen as an expense for customers, not a potential competitive advantage, which is also understandable given the lack of customer focus in the traditional industry. Add to this the price war driven by Eastern European carriers, and the potential gains from becoming a driver or transport entrepreneur are also reduced.”

What are the solutions to a seemingly intractable problem that has been growing in recent years? Balogh has the formula: “To succeed in evolving and preventing future problems on a larger scale, the industry needs a radical change. Drivers need to have a working day as similar as possible to an office job, and the value proposition of carriers needs to focus more on the ‘value’ and customer centricity part, rather than the price of their service.”

“The value proposition of carriers needs to focus more on the ‘value’ and customer centricity part, and not on the price of their service,” says Gabor Balogh.

Dignifying the transport profession

The health of road transport is closely linked to the professionals behind the wheel. “Drivers are a key part not only of road transport, but of the entire logistics chain. Situations such as what is happening in the UK, where there is a severe shortage, highlight this,” stresses Balogh.

“They are highly dedicated professionals, who know their job very well, and who are subjected to very tough working conditions. The future of drivers must be one of a dignification of the profession that at the same time makes it more attractive to many people entering the labor market” he explains.

The future of road transport only makes sense, therefore, if a serious problem that has been diagnosed for years is solved. Organizations such as the IRU, but also the European Centre for International Political Economy or the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) have been insisting for years on the need to make the requirements for access to the profession more flexible. Also, in terms of welfare, they are calling for improved rest areas, reinforced road safety and incentives for women and young people to enter the profession.

Sleep longer at home

Trucksters’ plans to improve drivers’ lives involve a truck relay system based on Artificial Intelligence and Big Data that allows professionals to sleep more at home. “We get the driver to move the goods to a point where the semi-trailer is swapped with another truck,” stresses Balogh, who emphasizes that “this way they go home and the goods don’t stop. This transforms the work of an international driver, who previously had to spend weeks away from home, into the work of several regional drivers.

“We get the driver to move the goods to a point where it is transferred to another truck. That way the drivers go home and the goods don’t stop”.

So how does a day’s work with Trucksters differ from a day with other suppliers? The head of the transport operator comments that “the big difference is that a haulier who works with us rests at home much more often than others. But that’s not the only benefit, as safety is increased because the driver spends more time on roads he is already familiar with. And the fact that he eats and sleeps at home more often has an undeniably positive impact on him. We are convinced that we are making a key contribution to improving the social sustainability of a profession that remains indispensable.

Find out how to move your loads faster, further and safer here.

José Ángel Sanz