The Growing Problem of Road Freight Transport: The Driver's Crisis

The growing problem of highway freight transport is the driver crisis
The growing problem of highway freight transport is the driver crisis

As the world's all over the road transport plays an important role in Turkey's domestic and foreign trade activities. In our country, international road freight transportation takes the second place after international maritime freight transportation on the basis of value and weight, except for the first and last transportation legs, because it enables uninterrupted transportation between the exit and destination points, high percentage of road vehicles are used in the entire transportation operation. In domestic freight transport activities, the highway is preferred at a rate of approximately 90%.

Today, road transport is faced with a crisis that closely concerns the aspects of economic life such as logistics, foreign trade firms, distributors and consumers: the driver crisis. The crisis in the employment of drivers, which is the lifeblood of the highway, is becoming to affect foreign trade activities. Supporting production activities in order to improve the economy and increase exports may not have the expected effect due to possible problems in the delivery of the produced goods to consumers. The most important problem faced by the fleet owner companies today and that will negatively affect their commercial activities in the short term if the necessary precautions are not taken, is to employ drivers. Even in Germany, which is one of the leading countries in the logistics sector, there is a shortage of approximately 40.000 truck drivers every year.

The economic impact of the employment of drivers in the delivery of manufactured goods to the consumer has another dimension that affects the logistics costs. Fleet owner companies resort to economic improvements in order to keep the drivers they will employ in road transport activities at work. logistics costs will increase with the increase of expenses of the Company, and will be forced exporters expected to provide value to the country due to the costs which increased the competitiveness of export products manufactured in Turkey will be negatively affected. An increase in consumer prices is also an expected result.

Actually, it is not difficult to predict the factors that prepared the process leading to the driver crisis. Long waits and delays experienced at border gates, especially in Kapıkule, and these long waits pushing humanitarian conditions are among these factors. The press release made by UTIKAD regarding this problem was widely covered by the public. Ministries made studies and determinations on the subject. Although improvements are being made in this area, the already tired truck drivers have entered a completely difficult process with the pandemic.

As mentioned in the UTIKAD Logistics Sector Report 2020, published at the beginning of this year, “the main measures taken by countries due to the transmission of coronavirus through physical contact were to close and limit border crossings. Due to restrictions such as quarantine and health screening imposed on the drivers, delays were experienced in international freight transportation, and long queues occurred at border gates. Mandatory convoy implementations for vehicles that will transit through countries have also come to the fore as another factor causing these delays. " While these problems related to the load were experienced, how were the conditions of the drivers carrying that load? The drivers had to wait without leaving their vehicles for long hours or even days. While we were living lives restricted by the curfew in our homes, international truck drivers spent their days in the driver's cabin, miles from their homes. They were quarantined in the countries they visited within the scope of COVID-19 measures. In the early days of the epidemic, they had trouble finding masks. Some of the truck drivers working under many adverse conditions in the pre-pandemic period did not choose to work in international freight transportation operations in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The chauffeur profession, which has obligations on both the driver and the employer side, the waiting at the borders, the difficulties of the pandemic, the difficulties in obtaining a visa, the expiration of the visa and the problem of not renewed, the illegal immigrants risking the lives and professional careers of the drivers, the unclean stopover places, suitable for eating. It lost its appeal due to reasons such as the lack of places and the insufficient parking spaces. While it was a profession that had earned good income in the previous periods, offered the opportunity to see different countries and was preferred by the young people, in the current period companies have difficulty in finding drivers. It has become very difficult for companies to find a professional driver quickly, especially instead of drivers caught in the pandemic and in quarantine. Firms seeking reliable, technically and professionally competent / experienced drivers to entrust their loads point to this deficiency as the most important problem they face nowadays. They are more worried about the future.

International truck driver seems to be far from being a preferred profession, especially by young people. Especially those born into a world in the lap of science and technology after the 2000s do not prefer this profession anymore. Although the trucks are equipped with the latest technology and have a wide range of comfort, the living conditions are difficult, the need to stay in the truck for two months or three months depending on the route, the limited social life and of course the other problems we have mentioned above are the 80's and the 90's. It is not enough for this profession, which has been the dream of many children over the years.

This profession, which is not preferred by young people, is also not preferred by women. Although we see examples abroad, female truck drivers are rare enough to be the subject of the news in our country. For women, it would be appropriate to add the security problem to all the stated problems. The fact that only male drivers take part in the chauffeur profession, where women cannot be actively found, and that the profession has the image of a "male profession" restricts the labor market.

As it is seen, many stakeholders need to act in line with the common goal in order for the drivers who need their efforts and experiences to continue this profession and to be preferred among the young people. Working conditions should be improved, problems such as obtaining visas and border crossings should be facilitated, drivers should be accepted as citizens of the world, the situation of recreational and accommodation facilities should be improved, the perception that being a driver is low social status should be changed, special trainings should be organized by institutions for the profession of driving, and women should be encouraged to be truck drivers. Ultimately, this profession has to be made attractive and revitalized again. The driver crisis should be handled with all stakeholders of foreign trade and the action plan to be created should be implemented quickly.

Although the world is on the way of digitalization, the need for human power and human is an undeniable fact. Even if driverless vehicles and autonomous trucks are mentioned on almost every platform, it should not be forgotten that the world is still in the palm of the hands. For this reason, even if driverless vehicles are designed in a world shaped by people, the existence of human should not be ignored. Otherwise, the transported loads will start to be heavy for the sector in the coming period.

Ezgi Demir
UTIKAD Sectoral Relations Specialist

Armin

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