The growing volume of shipments, lack of drivers and the product prices lowered before Christmas may result to the „bottleneck” in the transport industry – the trade union of Thuringia warned.
Transport companies from Thuringia used all their capacity during Christmas. According to the letter of LTV, the transport union, the excellent condition of German and European economy in connection with commercial campaigns before Christmas and the lack of truck drivers, will lead to bottlenecks in transport. Customers have to take delays into account. Claus Thomas Bodamer from the trade union of Saara also informs of the situation.
Growing demand for transport services
The German FMCG industry (Fast-moving consumer goods, the industry of dry and fresh food, industrial products, tobacco products and chemical products) is alarming about the demand exceeding the supply of transport services. Markets and discount stores in Germany have already been experiencing problems with meeting the demand for transport, and the forecasts for the coming year are not comforting. The reason for the difficult situation in the FMCG sector and also freight forwarding companies, for which it is increasingly difficult to meet delivery deadlines, is growing lack of staff in the transport sector, as emphasized „Lebenszeitung”, a magazine dedicated to the food industry.
The situation is similar in Austria, where transport capacities are lower than the demand for transport services. Prices of transport services in Austria are higher by 5-20%. What caused that? The same thing as in Germany – primarily the lack of staff in the transport industry.
This is not just a question of these two countries, but the trend throughout the European transport market, which in the third quarter of 2017 had lower transport capacity in comparison to the same period of the previous year. The analysts say that these changes are affected by both the economic boom and the lack of truck drivers.
Lack of drivers in Germany
The reason for the „bottleneck” before Christmas expected by LTV are not only commercial actions, but above all lack of qualified staff. The association points out that the average age of drivers employed by freight forwarders from Thuringia is over 55.
The situation in the rest of the country is not better. German transport associations are raising the alarm. Currently there is a shortage of about 45 000 truck drivers and in 5 years it may increase even to 400 000.
– In the next 15 years 2/3 of drivers will retire – warns Markus Olligschläger from the DSLV association.
Out of 1.5 million drivers who had the driver card last year, over million are older than 45 years old.
According to Olligschläger, on average truck drivers retire at the age of 60, so the industry should get ready for even bigger crisis associated with lack of staff.
The Thuringian association criticises mainly the business model operating in Germany for years, which is outsourcing transport to subcontractors from Eastern Europe, who offer more attractive rates.
The effects of long-term use of these actions have already affected the Austrians. They did not invest in the fleet, but commissioned the services to the carriers from the East. In a result, a large part of the market was handed over to competitors. Despite reduced investing in trucks, it is not the lack of fleet which is the biggest problem, but the staff shortage.
Even 5% of the European fleet is not in use just because of the lack of drivers – as emphasized by Franz Danninger, a spokesman of carriers from Upper Austria and head of the company Hofmann & Neffe.
According to LTV, as a consequence of this strategy of German carriers, freight prices were not corrected and the drivers’ salaries stagnated.
Reasons for the lack of drivers
The association highlights that the profession of trucker in Germany has become less attractive, largely due to low salaries. Neither students nor persons deciding to change their qualifications are interested in this job.
Thomas Mutsch, the president of large German transport company, mentions the following reasons: high costs of gaining the qualifications (5-6 thousand euros), traffic jams, time pressure, overcrowded car parks, the way in which the drivers are treated during loading and unloading, increasingly strict domestic and European regulations and spending weeks away from family and friends.
Another relevant issue for the transport industry is the abolition of the compulsory military service in Germany. Bundeswehr used to be „a seedbed” of truck drivers, 15 000 young people were getting the qualifications during their service per year – emphasized professor Dirk Engelhardt, the head of BLG association (Federal Association of the Transport of Goods and Logistics). In 2011, this unfortunately changed to be infavourable to German carriers.
Increasing number of foreign drivers in Federal Republic of Germany
The last report of the Federal Office for Transport (BAG) shows that Germany is employing more and more truckers from abroad. „The employment of foreign workers in the sector of road transport plays an increasingly important role” – says the report of the German government. Most of these drivers come from the European Union countries, in particular from the East.
At the end of 2016 the proportion of foreign drivers in German transport reached record level of 15.5%, mainly due to the citizens of the EU countries, such as Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria. In the analysed period (2012-2016) the employment of the truckwers from the above countries increased by several hunder percent. Among foreign drivers working in Germany the largest group are the Poles (more than 14 000 people).
However, German industry experts realise that they will not base their transport on Polish, Romanian or Bulgarian drivers, because the unemployment in the Eastern countries is clearly decreasing and the citizens prefer to stay and make a living in their homeland.
Transport must have the price
According to DSLV, the market is already reacting to the difficult situation by increasing transport prices and salaries.
If we fail to attract young people to the industry, we will be at risk of bottlenecks in supplies – says Matthias Krage of DSLV.
They will involve longer times of completing services – adds Claus Thomas Bodamer of the carriers union of Saarland.
On the other hand, LTV points out that the client must realise that transport of goods is associated with costs, even if the order is „free shipping”.
Editorial team comments:
The transport costs and will cost more, because it is becoming a scarce good. The international companies are already increasing the prices of transport services to face the situation on the market and carry out their services at the same level. The crisis in the West may be a chance for the Polish transport sector for further development and expansion. Provided that our entrepreneurs will struggle with the lack of staff faster than their colleagues in the West.