Exclusive: we speak to the agency helping European hauliers recruit Asian drivers

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Exclusive: we speak to the agency helping European hauliers recruit Asian drivers

Last November, Lithuanian haulage firm cargoGo, which has 1,000 drivers on its books, revealed it had established a partnership to aid its recruitment of drivers from India and other Asian countries. Since then, other hauliers based in the Central European region, including Girteka, Waberer’s, Hoptrans and AEH, have all gone public regarding their Asian driver recruitment plans.

Amid this evident rise in the recruitment of drivers from Asia, we reached out to Novalife Global Recruiters, the company whose partnership with cargoGo appeared to kick-start the trend last autumn.

How long does the onboarding process take? What length of contract can the drivers expect? What motivates the drivers who come here? What is the level of interest in Asian driver recruitment?

We sought answers to these questions and more when talking to Monal Sachdeva, the Director of Novalife Global Recruiters.

First off, given the transparency from the aforementioned logistics companies concerning their Asian driver recruitment strategies, one would assume an agency like Novalife Global Recruiters has been busy of late.

The agency assures us this is the case, saying they have talked to around a dozen companies from various parts of Europe. This includes Lithuania’s CargoGo among other medium and large-scale operators. The company adds that interest in its services is steadily increasing due to the demand for Asian drivers rising rapidly.

Monal told Trans.INFO:

“Post-covid we have seen a rise in European companies approaching us. Companies from various parts of Europe have got in touch with us for help with recruiting drivers from Asian countries.

Companies from medium and large-scale operators have mainly approached us to meet their shortage of drivers. Some of these, like CargoGO, have even flown down to India and we have organised tests for them to select drivers that meet their standards.

We are teeing up with companies throughout Europe at a steady pace as the demand for drivers increases at a rapid rate.

There has been a steady rise in companies looking for drivers since 2021. The drivers currently working in European companies are getting older. More are retiring, and younger ones are put off by difficult conditions.

This year, the war in Ukraine has also majorly added to the rise in demand for drivers, as most of the drivers who were operating in Europe mainly came from the regions where the war is still raging. Hence, drivers have been called back to their countries and European firms have had no other option but to look elsewhere to fill up their ranks.

We have been approached by between 10-15 companies this year from different parts of Europe, all of whom are looking for help with the provision of drivers ready to be deployed.”

Photo: Novalife Global Recruiters

When deciding to go down the route of recruiting drivers from India and other Asian nations, European hauliers will of course have to consider factors such as time and cost.

As regards the former, Novalife Global Recruiters Director Monal Sachdeva told Trans.INFO that the onboarding process typically takes around 3-4 months:

“Our organisation gets prospects from all over the world to our various offices spread across the globe.

All these profiles go through an initial filtering process done by our processing team in which candidates’ credentials and documents are processed. Following that, candidates whose profiles meet our standards on paper are forwarded into our centralised system at our head office in Goa.

We are aware of the standards a driver must meet for driving in Europe. Our team has conducted extensive research and with our CEO at the helm, we have come up with a processing procedure in which candidates undergo thorough screening.

The screening process includes testing a candidate for his attitude and dedication towards his work, communication skills, driving experience, and technical knowledge. We believe this is the right mix that a driver needs to smoothly operate in European conditions.

The process usually takes a period of 3-4 months for the company to have a driver on the road.”

Photo: Novalife Global Recruiters

Indian drivers are of course already commonplace in countries like Canada, where emigration is seen as an attractive proposition for many professions.

This naturally prompts the question as to whether Europe is seen as a more attractive location for Indian drivers compared to Canada.

On this very question, Monal told Trans.INFO:

“This is very much a subjective matter. In some cases, the drivers have moved either for the reasons they have friends or families based there. They may have been told that work culture or life is much better in either Europe or Canada. It might be that they have heard from their previous colleagues that there is a surge of opportunities in Europe or Canada and that they should also consider moving to do the same.

At the moment, Europe is enticing drivers because a lot of reputable logistics companies have started to look towards Asian regions to recruit drivers due to the driver shortage, reasons of diversity and so on.”

In recent times, documentaries like Lithuania’s award-winning “Lorry Slaves” have brought the issue of 3rd-country HGV driver exploitation into the spotlight.

Interestingly, Novalife Global Recruiters observes that there is also exploitation in India and the Middle East. Indeed, so much so that Europe is seen as a “safe haven” as far as many Indian lorry drivers are concerned:

“Aside from these [reasons for moving to Europe referred to previously], another reason is that the Indian drivers working in India or in the Middle East live and work in harsh environments. They are extremely underpaid, they drive poorly maintained vehicles in India, they are constantly ill-treated by their employers (violation of basic rights etc.), and they are generally disrespected as truck drivers are considered a low-end profession mostly taken up by uneducated or financially disadvantaged people.

To these truck drivers, Europe is seen as a safe haven for them to escape from this harsh lifestyle and work culture.”

This isn’t to say that Novalife Global Recruiters believes that Europe is a bed of roses for every Asian driver that moves there. Indeed, the company has openly talked about how some drivers have been “scammed” by other recruitment agencies.

In one such case, Novalife Global Recruiters says that two drivers were sent over to work for a haulier that had just gone bust. That left the duo in the lurch in a foreign land with no job or assistance.

The drivers reached out to Novalife Global Recruiters having seen their videos on YouTube, and with the help of the agency, were able to secure work in Lithuania with another haulage company.

When it comes to recruitment costs, Monal added:

“There is no denying that cost and time is involved hand-in-hand when recruiting drivers from India. But the fact still remains that there is a lot of untapped potential within the truck driver community in India, irrespective of whether they drive in India or other countries within the Asian region.

Indian drivers have gained invaluable experience driving in different countries, in diverse terrain and weather conditions. This is where we have had the advantage of having the right access to the trucking community and logistics companies.

We have been able to bridge the gap and bring awareness to both communities regarding the advantage of hiring Indian drivers. We make the process seamless and the transitions smooth, so that both drivers and employers find it less time consuming or expensive in recruiting drivers with us.”

Once the drivers arrive in Europe, how long are their contracts? According to Monal Sachdeva, the agreements vary from 1-2 years:

“This strictly depends on the employers. For some companies they offer a contract of a minimum of 1 year with a chance of a yearly renewal based on the driver’s performance.

Some employers opt for a 2 year contract with the drivers and this gives the employers an opportunity to make up for the cost spent on recruitment also.”

Finally, has the thirst for Asian drivers helped Novalife Global Recruiters to grow its business? It certainly appears to be the case, as Monal explains:

“Irrespective of the demands, Novalife Global Recruiters always had the vision to expand and have the kind of outreach we have always envisioned.

Having said that, the pace at which we have steadily expanded is a sure mark that there has been a rise in the demand for drivers. Hence, we have had to go to great lengths to open new branches in Dubai and Europe.

European companies have approached us with enquiries on how to get onboard with our recruitment process and be able to work together synchronously and beneficially.”

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