20thousand drivers will be needed in the next 5 years but finding them is becoming increasingly difficult. A new challenge for the sector
It's almost red alert. Simply put, road hauliers are finding increasingly difficult to find the main “raw material”, the most important, let's call it the "human factor": Italian companies are in fact struggling to find qualified drivers, necessary to keep the huge Italian road haulage “machine” running.
Transport is a key sector in terms of employment: according to an estimate in the next 5 years, Italy will need 20,000 drivers, 180,000 throughout Europe. In this scenario, Unrae - the Association of foreign car manufacturers in Italy - through an agreement with the institutional representative of the sector, the Central Committee of the Register of Road hauliers, has signed, along with representatives from other sixteen organizations, a memorandum of understanding to promote and enhance the transport driver profession.
"It is our intention - says a joint note - to make the Italian road haulage sector competitive again and, at the same time, to offer young people concrete opportunities to acquire the necessary qualifications to become professional drivers and it is precisely for this reason that the Register has allocated for the project 4 million euro to provide young people with professional certificates (driving license C and CQC) through qualified professional training courses".
How big are the problems then if both the government and other institutional players, not to mention trade associations, have been pushed to adopt such unprecedented measures? First we must say that as time passes, hundreds of drivers retire and no generational change is taking place: the so-called "old timers" are now ready to hang up the steering wheel but there is no one to replace them, the younger generations are not ready to consider this opportunity which, among other things, guarantees a permanent job position.
According to insiders, young people should be helped to understand that the stereotyped lonely and desperate lorry driver, pictured in a 70s movie, Il Bestione (The Beast) starring Giancarlo Giannini, no longer exists, mainly because modern trucks resemble spacecrafts and are managed by logistic centres that look like space stations. Monitors, control panels and geolocation are able to follow any vehicle at all times throughout the continent. "Of course, sacrifices need to be made – according to the promoters of the initiative – but this applies to all jobs".
At present there is a need for a significant turnover. "The fact is that it is increasingly difficult to find young people available, partly because this job now requires higher qualifications compared to the past” explains Armando Pugliese, logistics director of Italtrans, a company based in North Italy with a fleet of a thousand vehicles. Another factor that plays against the sector is obtaining the appropriate licenses and the CQC (or Certificate of Qualification of the driver): the bureaucratic procedure can cost up to 6/7 thousand euro.
On the other hand, some drivers can be found, but they are unwilling to work for Italian companies due to tax problems. For a while the use of foreign drivers has calmed a market constantly on the look-out for professional figures. "But nowadays, if you are Romanian, Polish, Serbian or Syrian, the first thing you do is look for a job market where the salaries are higher. And outside Italy there are many places where the economic conditions are better, not so much as salaries, because in reality we are second in Europe with about 51 thousand euro a year, but the fact is that at the end of the day less than 30 thousand euro are left in your pocket " according to several business owners.
Therefore, the current scenario depicts a sector that is ready to hire a large number of workers but is facing a serious “vocational” crisis. FILT – the Italian Transport Workers Federation - also spoke on the topic mentioning "unsustainable" working conditions and salaries that "are no longer up to date". Trade union representatives explain that once the driver’s expenses were totally or partially reimbursed by the companies. Expenses related to meals, accommodation and so on. Now working conditions are very, very different. "Of course, some companies still reimburse the expenses of a life spent on the road, but are increasingly fewer and with greater limitations. For this reason, part of a truck driver's salary often ends up having to look after their daily needs while working ", the union denounces.
For this reason, still according to Unrae, the road haulage sector should be placed at the top of the to-do list by institutional decision-makers, who have the task and responsibility to implement a policy that guarantees the efficient, safe and sustainable development of the transport system in our country. There is a need to define, as soon as possible, an industrial and policy for the sector, able to return an important share of international haulage to Italian companies, as well as a development plan that involves integrating the use of various logistics solutions on a quest for a truly sustainable industrial system.
RECLAIMING A PIVOTAL ROLE IN THE SECTOR
The road transport sector plays a major role in Italy, just think that Eurostat data show that in our country 86.5% of all goods travel on our roads (76.4% in Europe). This means that, although not everyone is fully aware of it, this is a strategic sector, one that has a decisive impact on the entire Italian economic system. Therefore, if transport is so strategically important, it should not be entrusted to too many foreign companies, just as Italian transport companies should not be allowed to relocate their business abroad. Obviously they do so to escape the excessive Italian tax burden and unsustainable management costs.
HIGH-TECH DEVELOPMENT A GREAT OPPORTUNITY
Industrial vehicle manufacturers are investing heavily in the technological development of their products, so much so that they are now able to offer vehicles that not only meet the most stringent anti-pollution and safety standards, but are ready for a future in which priority must be given to economic and environmental sustainability as a vital condition for making Italian companies competitive. In a note, Unrae explains how "the world of heavy duty transport is facing an epoch-making transition towards a more sustainable and safer transport mode: in this scenario, digitization and connectivity will play a key role in this transformation. Smart-roads are the perfect example of these developments, an extremely innovative project we are currently working on and that we hope will soon see the light in a country that is showing its desire to innovate and grow, in an extremely competitive European scenario".
To date, however, this technological effort has not been used to the full, partly because the National circulating transport fleet is among the oldest in Europe: vehicles with a capacity greater than or equal to 16t have an average age of 11.3 years, and looking at current replacement rates, it will take 11 years to replace them all. "This implies negative consequences both in terms of sustainability and safety, - concludes the note - only 4.2% of the circulating fleet is equipped with modern advanced safety systems made mandatory in November 2015. In particular AEBS (advanced emergency braking system) and LDW (lane departure warning system)."