Truck Driver Shortage & Loadspace Scarcity: Possible Solutions for the Logistics Industry

The loadspace shortage has long been one of the biggest challenges of the logistics industry: Germany alone is nearly 40,000 truck drivers short every year, with an upward tendency. This is the time for carriers and forwarders from industry and trade to take action in order to solve the problem before it is too late.

Loading trucks

Acute Truck Driver Shortage Hampering Growth Potentials in the Logistics Industry

Higher costs and time pressure are the consequences of the loadspace shortage which has been challenging the logistics industry since 2016. “In 2019 transport prices will continue to be under pressure”, predicts Gunnar Gburek, spokesman of the Timocom freight exchange. At (only german) his company offers a daily update of the ‘Transportbarometer’, showing the current ratio between supply and demand on the freight market.

Imminent Collapse of Supplies Due to Shortage of Skilled Labor in the Logistics Industry

What we see: extremely high demand for loadspace meets with only a small supply. The problem: The truck driver shortage in Germany, which will become even worse in the future. This shortage of skilled labor in logistics is in danger of becoming a highly regulating growth factor in business.

Super market chains, in particular, may be threatened by the truck driver shortage in the logistics industry in the future. A similar development might be looming for consumer goods, such as clothes, textiles, furniture or electric appliances, which are almost exclusively transported by truck drivers. This had already caused bottlenecks with delayed deliveries in 2018, because the required loadspace capacities were not available on the market. This situation is likely to get even worse in the years to come, because the driver shortage remains an unresolved problem.


Driver shortage threatens to bring truck fleets to a halt | transport logistic

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Reasons for the Driver Shortage in Logistics

While according to ‘Die Welt’ (only german) about 40,000 truck drivers retire every year, only 16,000 complete their training. A World Bank Group study conducted by the Kühne Logistics University actually confirms an increasing driver shortage in logistics for all of Europe.

There are serious reasons for the waning of the profession:

  • Age structure: The logistics industry did not manage to attract enough newcomers to the profession to replace the older generations.
  • Unattractive working conditions: Stress, excessive working hours and a low quality of life are among the day-to-day challenges for many truck drivers and define their hard everyday work.
  • Low wages and low social status: The wages of the drivers are not sufficient to compensate for the stressful working conditions. The social status of truck drivers is also low and they meet with little appreciation.
  • Rising crime rate: The high crime rate which reflects risks faced by truck drivers must not be underestimated as well. Thus, the GDV reports (only german) that cargo worth 1.4 billion euros is stolen in Germany. In addition to that there are 900 million euros in penalty payments for delayed deliveries, repair costs as well as loss of sales and production for the final recipients. The assaults on truck drivers are not even included in these figures.
Trucks in a row

Alternative Transport Channels at the Limit

The increasing scarcity of truck loadspace does not affect types of goods in the heavy industry as much, which are traditionally transported by train, such as iron, non-ferrous metals or solid mineral fuels like lignite and anthracite. But a considerable extension of railway traffic is hardly possible: In 2017 trains transported 112 billion ton kilometers, while road freight transport shouldered 479 billion. According to Verkehrsclub Deutschland (German association of traffic participants) (only german) the absolute limit of the railway capacity is, however, 130 billion ton kilometers.

This means that logistics managers are in trouble, because there are hardly any alternatives to trucks on many routes. This is also reflected by the development of the modal split, which has been developing in favor of road freight traffic for decades. According to Statista (only german), the share of trucks in freight transport was 71.8 per cent in Germany in 2018. The remaining nearly 28 per cent is shared by railways, inland waterways, long-distance pipelines and air transport.

Chances & Possible Solutions for the Driver Shortage in the Logistics Industry

At transport logistic from June 4 to 7, 2019 in Munich the logistics industry discussed how the logistics industry can turn this situation around.

Four forums on the truck driver shortage and loadspace scarcity were available for visitors to use free of charge in the extensive conference program :

  • “Automated driving functions and the role of driving and resting times in the context of the driver shortage”: The Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) discussed the potentials of digitalization for the driver shortage with self-driving trucks.
  • „Truck driver 4.0—Quo vadis professional driver?“: Right on the first day of the trade fair, the Federal Association of Road Haulage, Logistics and Disposal (BGL) discussed the question how the occupation and image of the truck driver can be improved.
  • „Loadspace and driver shortage—fake news or slowing down the economy?“: The VerkehrsRundschau forum was totally dominated by the current driver shortage and discussed sustainable ways to get drivers and create loadspace.
  • „Rail for the future! What can the Rail Freight Masterplan do?“ The German Transport Forum looked at the potential of the master plan for rail freight transport in a panel discussion.
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