Almost half of the Dutch carriers have staffing gaps in driver positions and problems filling them. German carriers are also suffering from staff shortages. Experts warn against the supply crisis this summer. However, they have a solution in place.
The Dutch association of carriers TLN conducted a survey among its members. It shows that in the first quarter of this year the majority of them assesses as ‘normal’. However, the number of vacancies and the effort required to fill them are still a cause for concern in the industry. In addition, costs and prices increased, albeit in different proportions. Nevertheless, the majority of respondents closed the first quarter with a profit.
Vacancies and difficulties in finding candidates
As many as 41% of the surveyed carriers in the Netherlands confirmed that they have vacancies. Almost 90% of them are looking for 1 to 6 employees (30% have one vacancy and 59% have 2 to 6 vacancies). In contrast, 8% of companies are lacking between 7 and 10 drivers. Among companies looking for new employees, as many as 67% have difficulty finding candidates (46% think it’s difficult, and 21% think it’s very difficult).
The situation has therefore deteriorated compared to the fourth quarter of 2018. At that time, 37% of respondents admitted that they lacked the staff and 41% considered filling vacancies as difficult and 22% as very difficult. The statement “Getting the right driver remains a challenge” reflects the feelings of many respondents and is even more relevant in this quarter – comments TLN.
Here are some of the statements made by Dutch carriers:
- “The applicants are now not the best candidates at the level you expect, that’s why they are unemployed.”
- “Getting a good employee is almost impossible.”
- “Driving at night and on weekends is not attractive.”
- “Recent night tours must be interrupted due to problems with finding suitable personnel.”
- “Even temporary workers are getting harder and harder to find.”
Higher costs and transport prices
The TLN survey also shows that transport costs between January and March 2019 increased compared to Q4 2018 (the increase was confirmed by 79% of respondents), as well as in relation to the first quarter of 2018 (83%). The reason for this is that Dutch carriers see increases in staff costs, but also increases in fuel prices and German tolls.
As costs increased, so did the prices of services, although it was observed only by 66% of respondents (compared to the fourth quarter of 2018). On the other hand, according to 74% of respondents, transport in the first quarter of this year was more expensive than in the corresponding period of 2018.
71% of respondents expect that freight prices will not change between April and June this year.
The surveyed companies look positively at the future (the next 5 years). However, in the short term, most of them are cautious. Almost half of the companies are dissatisfied with prices and profits (only 61% closed in the first quarter of 2019 with profit). Uncertainty about cost developments and competition contributes to this.
Germany expects a supply crisis
German carriers are also at a disadvantage due to a growing shortage of workers. The transport and logistics association BGL estimates that the shortage of drivers currently amounts to around 60,000 and is inexorably increasing. Every year about 30,000 truckers retire. According to BGL, last year, 3,600 apprentices started their vocational training. This is only a drop in the ocean of needs, given that demand for transport services in Germany and other European countries is growing year on year.
No wonder that German companies even go as far as taking employees from their competitors.
Industry experts expect a supply crisis this summer due to a shortage of drivers.
Consumers will not have access to all goods at all times and in sufficient quantities,” says Martin Bulheller, BGL expert responsible for economic forecasts in ‘Deutsche Welle’.
The industry will also suffer from a shortage of staff in the transport sector.
Production based on the supply of parts and components within a strict time frame is at risk,” Bulheller continues. The expert also predicts that transport costs will increase, and the price of this increase will be borne, in the end, by the consumer.
“Despite the increasing digitisation and automation of transport, transport customers need to be aware that goods are still being transported by people. If younger staff cannot be mobilised, we face supply bottlenecks,” says Alex Plaß, head of the German DSLV transport association. Plaß points out that even wage increases have not improved the situation.
If the demand for goods availability remains at its current level, alleviation of the situation will be in the interest of trade, industry and consumers. They will have to understand that logistics and transport services cannot be purchased for peanuts anymore,” added the head of DSLV.
Germany wants non-EU drivers
Transport companies and lobbying associations are increasingly talking about the need to increase the number of potential candidates.
The state should make it easier for drivers from third countries to look for work in Germany,” says Bulheller. “This applies to those countries which are not members of the European Union, but whose citizens want to work in the EU.”
These include Bosnia, Serbia or Ukraine. Workers from these countries are much more likely to obtain work permits in the Baltic States, for example. Ukrainians may count on similar facilitations in Poland. If the German government decided to facilitate access to the labour market for Bosnians, Serbs and Ukrainians, they could work as drivers on local terms.
However, this would require a change in the rules and the inclusion of the driver in the list of deficit professions in Germany.