An article recently in Lloyds Loading List brings to the fore the challenges faced in the industry as the retiring old guard leaves a driver void in its place. We present the article in full here written by Stuart Todd and Will Waters focusing on Euro haulier STEF which un-edited we think portrays well the scale of the problem. Interestingly this driver shortage problem is mirrored in the United States almost exactly.

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“Europe’s leading refrigerated road transport and logistics group STEF says it expects to struggle to find candidates for 500 new truck driver positions that it needs to fill this year in response to the growth in its activities and to compensate for workers reaching retirement age, highlighting a staffing problem faced in several European countries.

STEF currently employs more than 3,000 drivers among its 16,000 staff, operating around 1,900 vehicles and 1,950 refrigerated trailers for clients mainly from the food and retail industries in seven European countries: Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland.
Underlining the growing recruitment crisis in Europe’s road transport and logistics sector, the human resources director of STEF Transport France, Renaud Bouet, told French business newspaper, Les Echos: “The skills pool is seriously inadequate. The profession is looking for around 20,000 drivers across France.”

A spokesman confirmed to Lloyd’s Loading List that STEF had been trying to lure drivers away from its competitors with the promise of an annual bonus the equivalent of a month’s pay and the possibility of becoming a stakeholder in the group’s capital. And he confirmed that STEF had also signed an agreement with a branch of France’s Ministry of Defence specialising in the re-training of military personnel planning to return to civilian life, many of whom have an HGV licence.

Summing up the difficulties in recruiting staff, one French road haulage boss said: “We definitely have a poor public image in terms of being an attractive sector to work in. But the (truck driver’s) job has changed significantly; the development in ‘rolling stock’ has reduced the physical hardship.”
The UK is among several other European countries experiencing major driver shortage issues. In its most recent Skills Shortage Report, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) in November reported that UK driver shortages had risen sharply to 52,000 in the twelve months leading up to the second quarter of 2017, an increase of 49%.

It said changes in the large goods vehicle (LGV) driver workforce in recent years had been driven by the gain and loss of both the youngest and oldest staff, although recent losses in the LGV driver workforce had “largely been brought about by a failure to retain younger drivers who had flocked to the industry in 2016”.

The FTA fears that the UK’s impending departure from the European Union will greatly exacerbate the problem of driver shortages and shortfalls of staff within the wider logistics sector, with concerns that this is already beginning to happen.
Following the publication of quarterly migration figures last November, the FTA said the statistics “confirmed what our members are telling us – EU workers are beginning to leave the UK and head home”.

FTA deputy chief executive James Hookham said the association had received reports of businesses losing 100 EU nationals a month, partly due to uncertainty about the future, improved opportunities at home, and the devaluation of the pound making UK earnings worth less when converted to European currencies.
“There are 43,000 EU truck drivers working in the UK and an estimated 120,000 EU warehouse workers,” he noted. “They play a vital role in the successful running of warehouses, transportation hubs and freight deliveries – moving the goods UK industry and every consumer needs.
“Without the contribution of EU workers, where are staff for the logistics industry going to come from?”
Calling on the UK government “to act swiftly and decisively to address this issue”, he said: “The mass departure of these workers is a major threat to the logistics and freight sectors. If it escalates, there’s a danger some firms may be left without enough staff to continue trading.”

original article here –