The statistics are alarming and the problem is getting worse. Drivers are in short supply in Germany and demand is increasing. The mineral oil industry is faced with a particular problem in this respect, for dangerous goods drivers need additional, costly training, are required to carry out complex tasks and bear a great deal of responsibility.

According to the German Logistics Association, . . .

… the logistics sector comprises around 60,000 companies employing some 3.2 million men and women, making it Germany’s third largest economic sector.

The problem here is no different from that in other sectors: specialists are urgently needed. The shortage of professional drivers in long- and short-distance transport of goods and merchandise is particularly acute at present. According to the calculations of the German Federal Association of Road Haulage, Logistics and Disposal, around 67,000 professional drivers in Germany leave the world of work every year. However, only just under 27,000 new drivers can be recruited. This means a shortfall of some 40,000 drivers, which is now causing acute bottlenecks in the entire logistics sector.

The demand for drivers is expected to further increase in the coming years. Freight traffic on the roads is increasing. The German Federal Office for Goods Transport predicts that transport activities will grow by more than 3 per cent in both 2019 and 2020. At the same time, people will be increasingly switching from private cars to public transport as part of the change in traffic policy.

It makes no difference at all whether a truck, bus or van is used for delivery traffic over the last mile, whether diesel-, gas- or electric-powered – every vehicle has to be driven.

A broad alliance of associations from transport, logistics, industry and trade therefore warns against a collapse in supply, already handing over a five-point plan to combat logistics bottlenecks and driver shortages in road freight transport to Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer in December 2018. This involves first and foremost increasing the attractiveness of driving as a profession as well as improving training and qualification, for example by promoting driving licences for newcomers with training vouchers and tax incentives.

These are two important aspects, which in addition to digitisation, also directly affect mineral oil logistics. For if drivers are in short supply everywhere, the labour market for mineral oil companies also dries up.

They certainly have the advantage of being able to offer regular working hours and generally local employment in comparison to long-distance transport. On the other hand, however, a dangerous goods driver bears a particular responsibility, requires special training and must perform many other duties in addition to merely driving. S/he is ultimately the company’s “visiting card” and the initial contact of a fuel oil or pellet customer for technical questions regarding the product for example. Frequently, s/he is required to process payment directly at the tanker and dragging a 40-metre-long hose through the front garden whatever the weather while avoiding any damage to beloved plants is no mean feat either.
The cab itself is increasingly becoming a high-tech centre with numerous auxiliary and monitoring functions. Those seeking the right personnel for such a mission cannot recruit just anybody.

For the companies, this implies developing long-term concepts for recruiting newcomers, arousing enthusiasm for the sector among young people, creating prospects for the future and offering incentives that are not only material in nature.

During special driving training courses, such as this one at Nordhausen vocational training centre, drivers can safely control their tankers even in extreme situations in order to prevent accidents in real road traffic. // Photo: archive