Shortages of drivers have long been one of the major challenges affecting the logistics sector. Studies indicate that there was a shortage of at least 70,000 truck drivers in Germany alone in 2023. With an upward trend. In the previous year, the figure was 53,000. So shippers and freight forwarders from trade and industry need to act now.
The logistics industry is battling rising costs and immense time pressure in a highly volatile market. “For drivers to be paid more appropriately, transport prices would have to rise. The competitive pressure, however, barely allows for this, giving no hope of any great leaps in personnel costs and thus increasing the concerns about new recruits,” predicts Gunnar Gburek, spokesman for Timocom. Its marketplace for road freight transport uses the ‘Transportbarometer’ for different relations to show the current ratio between supply and demand on the European freight market.
The problem: high demand for cargo space and limited supply. And the lack of professional drivers makes this problem even worse. The shortage of skilled workers hampers future economic growth.
“We need to take countermeasures, as otherwise we will end up with conditions like those in the UK,” warned Dirk Engelhardt, spokesman for Germany's Federal Association of Road Haulage Logistics and Waste Disposal (BGL), at a hearing in the Bundestag in May. Supermarket chains are not the only ones who could be even more threatened by the shortage of truck drivers in the logistics sector in the future. There is a similar trend for consumer goods such as clothing, textiles, furniture and electric appliances, which are mostly transported by truck drivers. In 2018, this already caused bottlenecks with delivery delays because the required cargo space capacities were not available on the market. Having worsened further, this situation will become even more acute in the coming years, as the driver shortage is an unresolved problem.
According to a consortium study on capacity bottlenecks in logistics with a focus on drivers, the shortage of drivers costs the German economy ten billion euros a year. Based on current statistics, there was already a shortage of 70,000 professional drivers in 2023. According to forecasts, the shortage increases by 20,000 missing drivers every year. The study identifies 40 reasons for the growing driver shortage.
Heavy industry is less affected: scarce capacities for drivers and cargo space have less of an impact on goods such as iron, metals or fuels, which are traditionally transported by rail. However, rail transport also quickly reaches its limits.
For 2022, the Federal Statistical Office reports that trains transported just under 135 billion tonne-kilometers, while road freight transport transported more than three times as many, at around 505 billion tonne-kilometer. In spite of the COVID-19 crisis and the war in Ukraine, rail freight traffic grew by 0.6 % per year, according to SCI Verkehr GmbH. According to calculations in the study “The European rail freight transport market 2023”, it is set to grow by an average of 1.6 % per year until 2027. Yet, logistics companies are caught in a tight spot, as on many routes there are virtually no alternatives to trucks. According to the Federal Statistical Office, trucks took over the lion's share of transport services in 2020 at 74.4 %, with an upward trend. Rail (18.7 %) and inland navigation (7.1 %) carriers are currently underrepresented in the modal split.
How the logistics industry can turn things around will be discussed at transport logistic held from June 2 to 5, 2025 in Munich. The shortage of truck drivers and load space will once again be discussed in many forums of the trade show’s extensive conference program; the presentations are free of charge for visitors.