These ideas really help against driver shortages

Reading time approx. 5 Minutes
Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: Shutterstock, BGL, private

Germany already has a shortage of between 60,000 and 80,000 truck drivers. How do you still attract good people to fill vacancies? And how do you keep them? We present eight approaches from practice that could still use many supporters.

1: Provide attractive vehicles

For most drivers, the truck is much more than a work tool – it is often their second home. Many have favourite brands, and the fact that they insist on them during job interviews should not be a reason for rejection for companies. “We can only recommend that staff’s wishes be taken into account when purchasing vehicles, be it a specific make or even special equipment,” says Prof. Dr. Dirk Engelhardt, spokesman for the board of the Bundesverband Güterkraftverkehr Logistik und Entsorgung (BGL) e. V. (Federal Association of Road Haulage, Logistics and Disposal).
A modern fleet should take into account the needs of the people who use it. Larger cabs, for example, are a plus especially for long distances: “Of course, such extras have financial limits, but the investment can pay off quickly – not least because the drivers usually handle such vehicles more carefully. Companies that specifically advertise with the offer to customise the trucks have a better chance with applicants.

2: Offer fair pay

But a nice truck alone does not make you full: drivers should be paid fairly. 3. 000 euros gross plus expenses should be the monthly figure, according to Paul Kramer: “That’s a fair salary. As a newcomer you might get a little less, but I wouldn’t want to go home for less than 2,000 euros net,” he says plainly. Kramer used to drive trucks himself, then he founded “Truck drivers wanted“, a job portal for drivers. He says: “Good work must be expressed in the salary.”

Even if the economic pressure is high: a haulage company that does not pay its drivers fairly has significantly worse chances of finding good staff – and thus again more economic pressure. If the budget is tight, Kramer suggests, for example, bonus programmes that reward good performance in everyday transport such as accident-free driving or high reliability and punctuality: “Both sides benefit from this.”

»The industrial estate and the hedge must not become the standard for sanitary needs.«

Prof. Dr. Dirk Engelhardt, Spokesman of the Board of the Federal Association of Road Haulage, Logistics and Disposal (BGL) e. V.

3: Support a good infrastructure

The profession loses its appeal as long as there are too few or only unkempt sanitary facilities on the road, medical care is not guaranteed in case of emergency and there is a lack of parking spaces. Around 40,000 parking spaces for trucks are lacking in Germany. “The industrial area and the hedge must not become the standard for sanitary needs,” says Dirk Engelhardt.

Good projects already exist, and freight forwarders can support them: Together with many companies from industry and logistics, for example, the industry initiative #LogistikHilft has set up shower and toilet containers during the pandemic, which drivers can use free of charge. BPW Bergische Achsen is a co-initiator and supporter of #LogistikHilft. DocStop arranges medical assistance on the road: a free hotline provides information on request about the nearest practice or clinic where there is a parking space for trucks and doctors can quickly provide assistance. SaniStop is also dedicated to the issue of sanitary facilities: haulage companies, shippers and other businesses that can provide parking spaces and access to toilets and showers can register with the initiative. There could be more approaches like this – for example, how about supermarkets releasing their parking areas for trucks at night?

4: Design your online presence professionally

An attractive website is an important figurehead of a company. “Many applicants look at the websites of haulage companies before they make an enquiry,” says BGL ambassador Christina Scheib. “If they’re not very well done, it doesn’t go down well.” Drivers are interested in the fleet, for example: “If it’s presented on the website, that’s a plus for me. She also feels addressed if a company is socially committed – which is why she recommends that such activities also be listed on the website. Scheib especially wants to attract female drivers with “Ladies Days”. She herself has been behind the wheel of a truck for 12 years: “We women can do the job just like the men. You mustn’t be afraid and you need good instruction, then it’s no problem at all.

5: Support foreign forces

Without drivers from other countries, especially from Eastern Europe, nothing would have happened in the transport industry for a long time: the Federal Office for Goods Transport reported their share for 2019 at 22.8 percent. If these people have to leave their home countries again and again for longer periods of time to drive on German roads as wage labourers, they need special help. This can be, for example, support in overcoming language barriers, access to good medical care or clean and affordable accommodation. “In some cases, transport companies are already building boarding houses themselves where drivers from abroad can stay, and sometimes provide them free of charge,” says Dirk Engelhardt. It is a legal requirement to arrange their duty roster in such a way that they can go home regularly. Many drivers from Poland, for example, use a model where they work three weeks at a time and then have a week off. “You don’t always want to see your family on your smartphone,” says Engelhardt. “A good solution here is a question of humanity.”

»Part-time is definitely feasible in certain areas. Unfortunately, however, many entrepreneurs do not dare to implement such models.«

Christina Scheib, BGL Ambassador

6: Get more women behind the wheel

BGL Ambassador Christina Scheib is convinced that flexible working hours are the best way to attract more women to this profession: “Part-time work is definitely feasible in certain areas. Unfortunately, however, many entrepreneurs do not dare to implement such models. In doing so, they are giving away an opportunity to recruit more staff – especially female employees.” In her experience, they bring some strengths to the job: “Women solve conflicts differently than men. As a driver, you are in contact with people a lot, so that can be very helpful. In addition, women usually take better care of the truck than men – they love their trucks too, of course, but women are usually a bit more careful about cleanliness and order.” This supports a good image of the employer. Scheib counters the concern that women are more likely to be absent from work when they become pregnant or their children are sick: “Men can also take parental leave and also get sick sometimes. That’s life.”

7: Provide better support at the ramp

At the ramp the tone is often rough, the drivers are not infrequently treated disparagingly. And many industrial and commercial companies save money by employing fewer and fewer staff there – at the expense of the truckers. “They are the weakest link here,” says Dirk Engelhardt. “If they have follow-up orders, they have to leave quickly – and then, of necessity, they reach for the pallet truck themselves to take over the loading and unloading of the goods. Some companies take advantage of this and even have the drivers remove the foils from the pallets. It’s only understandable that some truckers don’t want to drive to certain companies anymore. A rethink is urgently needed here. Drivers need good organisation at the ramp and breaks that can be planned. This takes away their stress – and thus also increases road safety.

8: Retain good forces with appreciation

The German Association for Business, Transport and Logistics (BWVL) calls the people who are on the road every day “heroes of the supply chain”, making transport and logistics possible in the first place. With an initiative of the same name, it is promoting more appreciation for the profession. BWVL Managing Director Markus Olligschläger explains: “They are also among our rescuers in distress. They deserve the same respect and appreciation as, for example, female doctors, nurses, refuse collectors and the police.” PROFI, the initiative “Pro Driver Image”, also campaigns for this issue, just like for better working conditions a general upgrading of the image of logistics. BPW is one of the founding members of the association. Ralf Merkelbach, Head of Key Account Management at BPW, explains how important it is to view transport holistically: “As a company, we focus not only on the vehicles but also on all those involved, dispatchers as well as drivers. We want to improve their image and make it very clear that they are not only behind the wheel, but that they take on a variety of tasks. For us it is very important that the profession has a future. That’s why we have to clearly show what drivers do for us.

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