'Britain just a look into future' Germany panic as nation scrambles for 80k lorry drivers

It comes after European leaders – including Olaf Scholz, who looks set to become the new German Chancellor – blamed Brexit for the shortage in the UK. Speaking to AFP on Tuesday, Dirk Engelhardt, chair of the Federal Association of Freight Transport, Logistics and Disposal, issued the stark warning: “Great Britain is just a look into the future.”

In Germany, around 30,000 lorry drivers retire each year, and are only replaced by between 13-17,000 new drivers – meaning the shortage is steadily growing.

It means that if current levels maintain, by next year Germany’s driver shortage could be worse than the UK’s.

In the UK, a Road Haulage Association (RHA) survey of its members estimates there is now a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified drivers.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett, along with the CEOs of several logistics companies, wrote to the Prime Minister in June, calling for an immediate plan to deal with the shortages.

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While Mr Burnett laid the blame for the shortage on a number of factors – including the knock-on effects of the pandemic, retiring drivers and Brexit – the Government has repeatedly said that it was the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic that was fuelling the shortage.

Lorry drivers have also spoken out, saying the conditions of the job was deterring younger drivers from entering the sector.

However, the increased demand in recent months has seen the wage packages for drivers rise.

Mr Engelhardt attributed the crisis to similar factors that were dogging the UK’s haulier industry: pay and conditions.

In 2020, German lorry drivers earned an average of €14.21 (£12.02) an hour, according to the Federal Statistical Office.

Whereas in the wider economy, the average gross hourly earnings for skilled workers was €19.97 (£16.89), and €16.02 (£13.55) for semi-skilled workers.

Lorry drivers received an average of €2,623 gross per month. But employees with comparable training in another industry earned €3,286.

Frank Huster, general manager of the Federal Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics (DSLV), explained: “The wage developments do not follow the general price developments.

In Germany, there is “extreme price pressure, especially from Eastern European transport companies that have a different social and wage structure” which mean “companies cannot make the price jumps that they might want to make in order to pay their drivers better”.

Meanwhile, the UK Government has said that the three-month visas for EU hauliers it is currently offering are a “will not be the long-term solution, and reform within the industry is vital.”

Stefan Thyroke, head of the freight and logistics chapter of union Verdi, suggested that Germany could deal with undercutting from Eastern European workers by charging a minimum amount per freight kilometre.

He said there was “no real prospect” of improving wages for lorry drivers as organisation was “relatively poor”.

In the UK, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in September that the Government was “acting now”, but that “the industries must also play their part with working conditions continuing to improve and the deserved salary increases continuing to be maintained in order for companies to retain new drivers.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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