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HealthWill the British scenario be repeated in Germany?

Will the British scenario be repeated in Germany?

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“Sooner or later this will happen in Germany in the next five years. Because society does not give any recognition to our work,” says driver Udo Lautenschlager.

He is addicted to his truck. 60-year-old Udo Lautenschlager loves to drive the big machine loaded with containers. But it darkens him when he looks to the future. He fears that the same thing could happen in Germany as in Great Britain: empty shelves in supermarkets and closed gas stations, Deutsche Welle writes.

“Sooner or later this will happen in our country in Germany within the next five years. Because society does not give any recognition to our work,” says Udo. According to him, people in Germany widely believe that heavy trucks are “stinkers that ruin nature”, and therefore do not feel any respect for drivers. The bad image of the profession leads to the fact that there are no longer enough young recruits, Udo believes.

Germany lacks tens of thousands of drivers

Germany already lacks tens of thousands of truck drivers, with an estimated 45,000 to 80,000. But by the end of the decade, the shortage could exceed 185,000, according to a study by the German Ministry of Transport.

Trade unions and branch organizations share the same explanations as to why this has happened: wages are below average, working hours are unregulated, and working conditions are difficult. Because of all this, the industry depends a lot on the labor force that comes from other European countries. During the pandemic in some places in Germany, for example in the border regions of Bavaria, supermarkets were on the verge of a crisis similar to the British one with empty shelves, says Manuel Lorenz of the Regensburg Chamber of Commerce.

Freight forwarders in Eastern Bavaria recruit 60% of their employees from the neighboring Czech Republic. When the border was closed due to the pandemic, Lorenz did not know at all whether Czech drivers would be able to continue working. “And because I know how supply chains work, to be honest, I’ve already imagined how mass stockpiling will begin,” he said.

Low pay and exploitation are widespread

More than three-quarters of truck drivers in Germany are underpaid, criticize unionists from the country’s largest trade union, ver.di. They claim that flour drivers start with salaries of around 1,900 euros a month, and that raising wages is very difficult because there is a tough battle in the industry over who will offer the lowest supply prices.

Not to mention that many drivers are under serious pressure to hurry and often cannot legally meet extremely short deadlines. Thus, they are increasingly forced to give up breaks and even manipulate the waybill in the on-board computer.

Chief Police Commissioner Harald Baigel knows many such cases from his daily practice. The specialist in heavy goods transport and transport of dangerous goods says that regularly desperate truck drivers voluntarily acknowledge the violations. “They come to us more and more often and want us to check them because the companies insisted on driving longer than allowed,” explains Baigel. “This is obviously their last chance to get help from somewhere.”

Drivers will continue to be needed in the future

But in the near future on the roads are supposed to take autonomous trucks without drivers? Most experts do not believe that this will happen so quickly. It is not possible to think about transferring part of the cargo to the railway transport – just the German railways do not have enough capacity. In short: in the future we can not do without the help of professional heavy-duty drivers.

The trade unionists from ver.di are convinced that the problem can be solved with better pay. Both the professional qualification of the drivers and their daily work should receive a higher financial assessment, the trade unionists are categorical.

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