European road freight facing structural driver & emissions challenges


Alemania, Berlín, Siemensstadt, Dhl

The European truck driver shortage is prompting one leading operator to trial new personnel recruitment and retention methods.

However, with driver shortages set to worsen in the years ahead due to European demographics, Uwe Brinks, CEO of DHL Freight, told Lloyd’s Loading List the only long-term answers to the continent’s road freight structural challenge lie in technological innovation.

According to Brinks, the road freight business in Europe is currently facing two major challenges that will shape the sector in the coming years.

“First, we are experiencing a significant driver shortage in Germany and other European countries,” he said. “Second, the transport sector is facing ever stricter regulations on emissions at the national and European levels. 

“Thus, the industry has to find answers to two crucial questions: Who is going to drive the trucks in the future, and what kind of trucks will be driven?”

DHL mainly suffers driver shortages on the first-mile and last-mile delivery legs, so this is where recruitment innovation efforts have so far been focused. Last summer, trials in Germany to make driving more appealing were started which, if successful, will lead to 500 new jobs across Europe.

“We at DHL Freight have developed a modified job profile offering more varied work,” said Brinks. “The new employees take on driving duties to complement existing transport capacities and, if necessary, also take on other tasks at the branches. 

“Particularly during the peak season, they will be out on the road covering the first-mile and last-mile legs of deliveries for their particular branches. During quieter periods, they will be employed in the transhipment warehouse.”

Resultado de imagen para dhl Credits: Autor:Plymothian Transit Copyright:© did by graham

DHL hopes the modified job profile will help address the image problem driver recruiters face, while also making the position more attractive by enabling the driver to return home to his or her family every night.

“This model is primarily designed for short distances, where we mostly experience the driver shortage,” he said. “We must make the profession more attractive and respected again for young people.”

Brinks said DHL is also striving to attract more women to the profession and admitted that better pay industry-wide would also help.

“In the end, only the entire industry can solve this situation,” he said. “That’s why I said from the start that DHL Freight is open for any kind of industry cooperation.”

DHL is also investing in alternative haulage options for short- and long-distance transportation as part of Deutsche Post DHL Group’s target to reduce all logistics-related emissions to net zero by 2050. “We have recently deployed one of the very first liquefied natural gas or LNG-powered Iveco Stralis long-haul trucks capable of towing a mega trailer,” said Brinks. 

“During a year-long trial period, the truck will operate as a daily shuttle between DHL’s logistics centre and a BMW Group production plant in southern Germany. We have already gained initial experience with LNG trucks in Belgium. Since summer 2018, four of these heavy-duty, long-haul trucks have been part of a sustainable transport solution for one of the world’s largest developers and sellers of athletic footwear and sportswear.”

Resultado de imagen para dhl


Brinks also said that autonomous driving as a supportive add-on for drivers would help ease their daily routines. “Autonomous driving will not displace the driver — at least not in the road freight sector,” he added.

“The job is still very manual and what is even more important, our drivers are the face of our company for our customers. Any company considering replacing a driver with an autonomous truck should also realize that this means giving up a very important part of the customer relationship.”

Instead, he said there were now many assistive technologies for modern trucks available which would help improve the job’s attractiveness and improve overall capacity. 

“But the deployment of new and innovative technologies comes always along with additional costs,” he added. “This is sometimes contradicted by the price customers are willing to pay for logistics and transport solutions.”

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