Ferenc Lajko, president of the Hungarian transport and logistics company Waberer’s, believes that European transport needs constructive cooperation instead of market protection. He also talks about how the group he manages coped with the outflow of Hungarian drivers to other countries.
Zsofia Polos, Trans.INFO journalist: France and Germany, as well as their transport associations, are working hard to counter social dumping. They claim that carriers from Central and Eastern Europe hinder their activities with allegedly unfair competition. Meanwhile, the shortage of drivers in Western European countries is growing. How can we reduce the tensions between the Old and the New Union? Is there any solution that could satisfy both parties?
Ferenc Lajko, president of Waberer’s: In recent years, the concept of social dumping has often been used by Western European countries, although its precise definition is still unclear today. The answer to problems in the area of transport is the so-called Mobility Package which, in the context of the fight against social dumping, is supposed to introduce uniform regulations for the transport market in the EU.
One of the proposals of the Mobility Package, questioned by Eastern European countries, postulates that the EU Directive on the posting of workers (96/71 / EC) apply to all business trips lasting for three days and more on the territory of a Member State in a given calendar month, assuming that working hours would be at least 6 hours per day.
An alternative compromise proposal, taking into account the interests of the transport sector, would allow for 10 days of work per month in a given Member State. Only work exceeding this time would be treated as a delegation. According to this version, one business day is 24 hours.
Contrary to the second important suggestion of the Mobility Package, stating that drivers should spend their 45-hour mandatory rest in accommodation facilities, it is very important that drivers be able to spend their weekly rest in well-equipped parking areas in the cabin of their vehicle.
The current practice is rejected by the European Commission with the argument that there is no infrastructure available. Germany, France, and Belgium have already introduced laws whose compliance is occasionally controlled and violations are punished with a mandate. These countries claim that the problems arise from the practice of employing drivers in the countries of Eastern Europe for lower rates, which creates a cost tension.
We see, however, that entrepreneurs from Western Europe establish so-called „mailbox companies” in other countries to carry out domestic transport, while benefiting from more favorable tax treatment abroad. This allows them to bypass German and French regulations.
All this can have a negative impact on the free movement of products, services and workforce from the European Union. Instead of protecting international markets, there is a need for constructive cooperation and thinking at the Community level so as not to jeopardize the competitiveness of the Union in the world. A compromise solution would be to change the Mobility Package as part of the negotiations conducted by the European Parliament and the European Council, based on the interests of the entire European sector.
Hungarian drivers emigrate to Western countries, especially to Germany. Do you feel the effects of this exodus? Is this a problem for Waberer’s? And if so, what should be done to stop them?
We do not have staff shortages, but this is mainly due to employee packages and driver-friendly technologies introduced in the last three years. In addition to wage increases, we offer many incentives and we also work on working conditions, such as the best cabins available on the market, day and night assistance for drivers, as well as specialised medical care.
Thanks to these measures, our turnover is below the average in the industry. At the same time, the outflow of drivers abroad is weakening. The large wage gap that existed between Hungary and the West in 2004, when it joined the EU, dropped significantly. Anyone who goes to work abroad without knowledge of foreign languages cannot count on working conditions matching those in their homeland, and still bears the costs of regular travel home. We also expect that Brexit will result in some of the employees returning home from economic emigration.
We have been seeking government assistance for five years, so we are now better at solving staffing problems than other sectors. We actively participate in the Hungarian driver training program, we are strengthening our position on the Romanian labor market, we have also opened to Ukraine and Poland. Competitive earnings and various incentives, a regional approach and driver training are key to success.
According to the project of the second Mobility Package, which concerns the reduction of exhaust emissions, transport companies must significantly reduce their emissions. What are Waberer’s plans to meet these expectations?
In international transport, we use vehicles that are compliant with Euro 5 and mainly Euro 6 emission standards. We meet all the technical and environmental requirements, and our system is compliant with the EN ISO 14001: 2004 standard. Bearing in mind the required standards, we constantly monitor and analyse our impact on the environment, which we also try to minimise.
In my opinion, the sector should place great emphasis on optimising or reducing fuel consumption, for example by promoting economic driving. It affects not only competitiveness, but also constitutes a key condition for reducing emissions. In our company, we have been putting a lot of effort into this for a long time.
Although Hungary was so far more of a transit country, much has been done for it to also become an exporter and an importer. Hungarian transport logistics received significant impulses for growth in 2017. Do you also feel that way?
Yes, we feel the impact of positive processes taking place in the industry. Our main export and import partners have increased their supplies, which is associated with the growing economy. In addition to the delivered loads, domestic production also develops, which also contributes to the industry’s revival. As a result, Hungarian carriers have increased their market share.
Industry 4.0 and logistics 4.0 in the United States and in Germany are becoming more and more common, they are no longer just a vision of the future. How can this be achieved in Hungary? What is missing in this field?
Industry 4.0 is practically related to logistics 4.0, because the produced goods must be stored, transported, and new technologies in industry 4.0 are also used in logistics.
Slowly, the entire process emerges in Hungary – machines are increasingly replacing human labor. The trend is similar to the appearance of electric cars: a few years ago, we only talked about it, and today more and more often we see them on the road. The same is happening in the field of industry and logistics 4.0. It is a bit slower in logistics, but there are also warehouses where some operations are performed by robots, and inventory management is automated.
For the process to spread, apart from the financial background, a different kind of thinking is needed. Society must accept the fact that machines are taking over more and more jobs. Of course, the proper legal and regulatory system as well as the auxiliary infrastructure are equally important. I have no doubt that automation is also the future of the logistics sector.
Waberer’s is close to introducing many automation solutions in their warehouses. Our capital group wants to maintain a decisive role on the regional warehouse and logistics market. Therefore, we must further strengthen our stability and competitiveness.
We see the future of the Waberer’s group in the introduction of further innovative solutions. It is not a coincidence that we were looking for and found a partner that has extensive experience in warehouse automation. In order to implement the warehouse engineering project.