• Qualified drivers are becoming a rarity; according to one expert: “It is easier to find a lawyer than a driver”
  • The Continental Mobility Study proves that the job profile is changing as requirements become more stringent
  • Drivers complain of inadequate numbers and quality of parking spaces and rest areas
  • Automated driving at the bottom of wishlists

Hanover, Autumn 2016. Freedom, independence, being the kings of the road – these are things that continue to appeal to professional drivers. In the Continental Mobility Study 2016 on the future of logistics, 75% of truckers surveyed say that they enjoy driving. Only 15% say that they chose their job because of a lack of alternatives. As drivers, 55% want the freedom to make decisions and have control. Some 67% would be reluctant to accept limitations on their freedom, even in exchange for greater safety through technology. Accordingly, they harbor little desire for automated driving. But 72% of drivers with more than 30 years of job experience want more driver assistance systems.

The majority of professional drivers are satisfied with their break and rest times (64%) and their working hours (51%). At the same time, however, it is this very subject that is the source of most irritation: more than three quarters of drivers are dissatisfied with the number of truck parking spaces in parking lots and rest areas. More than half (56%) criticize the condition of parking spaces. Only around a quarter of truckers are content with the shower and bathroom facilities at rest areas. Contact with colleagues is popular among more than half of respondents (54%). Only 10% are satisfied with the state of the roads. A total of 64% indicate that they are dissatisfied or even very dissatisfied with their salaries.

At the same time, well-trained drivers are highly sought-after. The suggestion that competition for drivers is intensifying is confirmed by 91% of German logistics experts surveyed in the study. “It is easier to find a lawyer than a driver,” as one expert puts it in the study. Consequently, drivers’ everyday working lives need to be improved, the cockpit made more attractive as a workplace, and drivers given continuing training. The experts are also observing a split in the market between better-trained domestic drivers and somewhat more poorly trained foreign drivers. Respondents in China are likewise seeing growing competition for well-trained drivers. However, only 74% attest to this competition.

Meanwhile, the requirements of the profession are increasing all the time. According to the study, more than 90% of drivers expect to face considerable challenges in the future when it comes to professional qualifications. Actually controlling the truck will become more and more of a minor issue as the digital transformation progresses, from GPS-assisted tracking and ongoing development of software all the way through to automated driving. As connectivity gets better, drivers will increasingly take on logistics planning tasks, as well as goods inspection, coordination, and scheduling responsibilities.

At least in delivery transport, professional drivers currently often provide the only personal contact and thus act as business cards to customers when they receive their goods. “Logistics also has a human face, which is why we are investing in training – not just training in technical skills, but also behavioral training, which we see as something that should be done in the future,” stresses a logistics expert in the study.

According to those who know the industry, numerous business models are still based on “unrestricted driver working hours.” One academic warns: “Self-exploitation of drivers cannot be the business model of the future.” In fact, price pressure is passed on, which ends up affecting working conditions. “Two thirds of our sales are handled via subcontractors. We have quality problems with external drivers, sometimes owing to price pressure.”

Truckers are consistently satisfied with their vehicles themselves: only 7% of those surveyed complain of poor reliability. Yet a fifth are still dissatisfied with the levels of comfort and convenience in the driver’s cabs, and a quarter with the communication technology in their vehicles. It is noticeable that the poorest ratings are assigned by drivers of trucks weighing up to 7.5 metric tons – in other words, truckers active largely in local and regional transport.

Logistics companies are thoroughly satisfied with the performance of their drivers. More than two thirds of respondents praise the dependability of drivers, although 14% are more negative on this aspect. However, this applies mainly to the companies’ own drivers; employees of subcontractors are viewed somewhat more critically. “There is a wide margin [in terms of quality] between our own company drivers paid according to collective bargaining agreements and the drivers used by subcontractors,” says a fleet expert.

With the “Mobility Study 2016 – The Connected Truck,” the leading technology company Continental is presenting what is now its fourth mobility study. The Market and social research institute (infas) surveyed logisticians, forwarding agents, fleet operators, and long-haul drivers in Germany and China. The focus was on the challenges faced by the logistics sector as a result of digitalization and connectivity.

This article originally appeared on Continental Press Portal.

Continental develops intelligent technologies for transporting people and their goods. As a reliable partner, the international automotive supplier, tire manufacturer, and industrial partner provides sustainable, safe, comfortable, individual, and affordable solutions. In 2015, the corporation generated sales of €39.2 billion with its five divisions, Chassis & Safety, Interior, Powertrain, Tires, and ContiTech. Continental currently employs more than 218,000 people in 55 countries.

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Enno Pigge
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Continental AG
Tel.: +49-511-938-1622
E-mail: Enno.Pigge@conti.de