Critical lack of drivers

No driver, no freight

The equation is extremely simple: Without a driver, the truck’s cargo will not reach its destination. We are witnessing this already today. According to the Federal Motor Transport Authority (Kraftfahrtbundesamt) around 67,000 professional drivers retire every year. In contrast to this, there are only 27,000 new professionals starting their career each year. What are the consequences of this trend? And what are conceivable solutions?


In general, the logistics industry is growing. The e-commerce boom has also continued throughout 2019; globalisation has blurred country boundaries in the transportation of goods and lengthened supply chains. These trends are reflected specifically in increasing shipment volumes and in an increase in tonnage. The future looks set for growth. However, within the complex delivery chain, there is one element which is increasingly collapsing. The industry is simply lacking the truck drivers. This hurdle affects goods that are conveyed on the roads in particular. The effects go far beyond overland transport, however. Generally, longer transport operations involve a combination of multi-modal transport, meaning that you come up against a bottleneck on the road for the last mile at any rate.

The situation is getting worse. A lack of cargo space is becoming problematic.

Due to the excellent road infrastructure in Europe, demand is above all increasing for commercial road haulage. This is because it allows transport runs to be implemented more quickly – in contrast to alternative rail or air options – and the runs are considerably more flexible when it comes to planning. This results in increased demand for road haulage, which is putting an increasing strain on this type of transport. But without the required truck drivers, however. The shortage affects consumer goods such as clothing, textiles, furniture and electrical goods in particular, as well as the food industry. Back in 2018, the first transport bottlenecks were already noticeable, and these will get worse in the coming years. An action group comprising transport, logistics, trade and industry is even warning that there will be an imminent collapse in supply in Germany.

In the long term, this means there will be a very high demand for cargo space but an ever-decreasing offer of space for this. This is therefore a real problem that the logistics industry is currently trying to solve. The first attempts are being made, but we are still a long way from finding a real solution. 

Trends and developments

Autonomous driving:

Truck manufacturers have started testing self-driving trucks on the road. As the shortage of drivers is getting worse, this topic is gaining ground. Experts such as those at PricewaterhouseCoopers are therefore sure that by 2030 trucks will be able to do without drivers completely.

Increasing the attractiveness of the job:

There are still eleven years until 2030. As the shortage of drivers is acute, measures have to be brought in now. Sector associations and the industry are therefore working on improving the image and attractiveness of the job of a driver. How? Through targeted marketing, for example, a new pay structure and addressing women.

Digital support:

Despite the shortage of cargo space, there are still too many empty runs being made. Around 20% of trucks on European roads are travelling without a load. Digital solutions such as online freight exchanges or services for trip planning optimisation enable logistics specialists to plan their transportation much more efficiently.

Rail freight:

To relieve some of the strain on the roads, politicians and the transport sector are focusing on the “Masterplan Schienengüterverkehr” (Rail Freight Masterplan). The German government is counting on this solution in the coalition agreement and is making a large contribution through financing to reduce the route prices.

What can we do today? 

Even though initial measures and projects have been introduced, it will take a while until the implementation and, above all, the positive effects are felt by the industry. Companies must therefore act now and plan their transportation more efficiently. Optimised trip planning can help here. Various support tools are available on the market, waiting to change the logistics industry.

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