The truck runs out of young people at the wheel


Driving trucks is a poison. Either you like it or you can’t stand it “, Evaristo Bastarrica says. He has been behind the wheel since he was 18 years old, earning a living like his father did. He is now 57, and does not even think about retiring. I’ve never done anything else. My family leaves me as impossible, “he jokes. This week he was lucky, he was able to spend a night at home between two trips. The normal thing, even in the national route business, is to live about six days on the road. Where appropriate, loading junk and bulk products. “Big companies want cheap labor. And employees who work like blacks. Professionals? Every time less. Before experience was valued, now you

They put a GPS and that’s it, ”laments Bastarrica, who works as a freelancer. “Drivers are missing and more are going to be missing. We’re fifteen years late. Maybe you didn’t have to demand so much.

The sector has been warning of these shortcomings for months, even years. Without reaching the level of
United Kingdom
, where empty shelves are already seen in supermarkets and gas stations without supply, in Europe there are a total of 400,000 carriers missing, according to the consultancy Transport Intelligence. Another of the most affected countries is also Poland, where more than 120,000 professionals are missing. Britain needs between 60,000 and 76,000; Germany, between 45,000 and 60,000 and Spain, 15,000, according to the consultancy. The International Road Transport Organization (IRU), a European employer’s association, estimates that last year 20 percent of professional driver positions were left unfilled. And the problem will get worse in 2021. In our country, where 95% of national merchandise traffic is carried out by road, according to the Ministry of Transport, the gap could grow up to 150 percent.

«It is a problem common to all
the developed world
. There is a clear lack of vocations that derives from the mismatch between current needs and the scale of values ​​of our society, which prioritizes leisure and work-life balance, something incompatible with a job that requires spending a lot of time away from home. It is something that we have been experiencing for more than a decade, ”says Ramón Valdivia, CEO of Astic (International Road Transport Association). «Before it had the charm that with the truck you knew the world, it was a possibility of travel, now with 20 euros you go by plane. This profession is hard and lonely ”, points out his colleague Juan José Gil, general secretary of Fenadismer (National Federation of Transport Associations of Spain). “In our case, only one in four associates is under the age of 50. We estimate that in five years we are going to lose a third of the workforce in the sector, at a time of boom in online commerce in which demand does not stop growing ”, highlights the Astic spokesperson.

Just take a look at the statistics from the Directorate-General for Traffic to see that aging drivers is a key problem. According to the 2020 yearbook, there are 193,000 drivers with the C license, when only five years ago there were about 226,000. Some 161,000 have a C and C + E card, 30 percent less than in 2015, when 241,000 Spaniards had this permit. In addition, more than 73,600 trailer drivers (C + E) are over 50 years of age. And that last year the Council of Ministers approved lowering the legal minimum age to drive heavy vehicles from 21 to 18 years.

Artur Mizi, in one of his stops
Artur Mizi, in one of his stops – Robert solson

However, remembers Bastarrica, these statistics should not be used to make decisions about the future of the sector, because not everyone who has a truck license is professionally dedicated to it. «We are also required to have the CAP (Certificate of Professional Aptitude), but what are they going to teach me if I’m on the road all day? And if you carry dangerous goods you have to take yourself out too ADR training. Right now a kid who wants to get his truck license has to invest at least 3,000 euros, “says Bastarrica. Aware that this barrier to entry stops many young people and the unemployed, they propose that there be aid or soft loans.

“And most importantly, the salaries are not attractive,” insists the veteran driver. «They ask newbies for experience, and since they don’t have them, they are taken as a ‘tironero’ or second driver, they drive more hours than the owner and earn just over a thousand euros. Simply a replenisher already earns about 1,300 euros and sleeps at home every day working eight hours. Are you going to get on a truck so you don’t come back for the whole week or do it every two or three days? That is the one who does national routes, because on international routes you are away for a month ».

The salary of a good driver, according to the truckers themselves, ranges between 1,800 and 2,200 euros per month. Professional groups explain that personnel costs account for more than a third of the operating cost of a truck, therefore, with the
rise in fuels
, if companies pay more, they would have “little room to compete.” Despite everything, the lack of personnel has forced them to raise some salaries on time to retain drivers: «In the sector there are some 104,000 companies that manage trucks of more than 3,500 kilos. 51 percent have a single vehicle and 80 percent have fewer than 5 trucks. It is a very fragmented market.

In addition, all carriers agree: living for several days in a 3×3 meter cabin cannot be supported by just anyone. In Bastarrica’s truck, at least, some vintage stuffed animals on the dash add a homey touch. He doesn’t complain. «This truck It has two beds, I have an 80-centimeter mattress and more than two meters long. And then here is his cooler, radio and tachograph, “he says. «Many evils are the fault of the latter, it makes us go against the clock. It is fine to avoid atrocities, but if I have a problem in any load then I have to run all day. Or if I reach the limit I cannot take the truck but I can take a van, “says the trucker, who apologizes for the appearance of his workmate. “I didn’t know we were going to take it out, if not, I’ll wash it,” he jokes.

To improve the working conditions of these professionals, Astic and Fendismer point out, it would also be necessary to invest in places of rest. “There are no areas where they can stop safely and comfortably. There should be at least one for every hundred kilometers, and in Spain, with 15,000 kilometers of roads, we barely have thirty. So truckers end up parking at gas stations and industrial parks, ”Valdivia highlights. A study published in 2019 by the European Commission warned that 400,000 safe places are missing in the European Union. 75 percent of cargo offenses occur when vehicles are parked outside these parking lots: “The lack of security is the first reason indicated by women and the third by men to justify the lack of new vocations.” In fact, rare is the trucker whose gasoline has not ever been stolen. As minimum.

Only 2% of truckers

And then “we have half the population off the radar,” insist the unions. “The girls don’t even think about being truck drivers.” IRU statistics show that in Europe there are barely 2% of female drivers. According to the INE, land transport (including passenger transport) employs 557,000 people, of which 74,000 are women, just over 13 percent.

María Rocamora is one of these drivers. He is 55 years old and works for ESP Solutions in international freight transport. «I have worked in kitchens, in hospitality … But I have always liked driving, so five years ago I got my truck license. My husband was a lifelong waiter, but two years ago he decided to come to the truck with me. For me it is better, you have to get along very well to be comfortable on these trips, ”he says from Germany, at one stop.

«There is still a lot of machismo. Some people are surprised that he drives a truck. The other day we were loading into a farm and a woman yelled at me: ‘Olé tus eggs’. Outside it is more normal, but in Spain many do not understand that a woman drives a truck. But they did not give me the permits, and if I drive such a vehicle it is because I am worth it, “he claims.

He does not yet know how many days they will continue on the route. His last international expedition lasted 16 days. «It gets tedious, but it is the job I have chosen. Before, truckers earned close to a million pesetas a month. Now it is not like before. Between the two of us, we did not reach 5,000 euros, “he admits. Rocamora has been able to follow her sacrificial vocation because her children are no longer young, but in their twenties. They don’t even consider driving as a career outing. «I have offered to pay them their license, but they don’t like it», Ditch.

Look outside

For years, they point out from Astic, the Spanish fleet has been maintained thanks to the arrival of foreign workers, especially from Eastern Europe. These organizations are much more critical of the relocation of companies that took place under the protection of the single market to these areas, where social and fiscal costs are lower than in Spain. With these weapons, they explain, national companies cannot compete. «It is surprising that in a country with unemployment close to 14 percent and youth unemployment of 38 percent we have almost 20 percent foreign drivers“Says the Fenadismer spokesperson.

Before putting himself in charge of a truck, Artur Mizi had worked in a factory, on the construction site, as a day laborer … First in Ukraine, where he was born, then Portugal and finally in Spain. «Here you pay a little better and everything is more organized», He raises. He is almost 60 years old, but cannot retire yet. «I have to support my family. The work is hard, your back hurts, but we Ukrainians like to work. Now, in addition, everything is more automated and that helps us to drive, “he adds. This week he is taking merchandise to the United Kingdom, where he is not considering moving despite the Johnson Government’s offer: 5,000 entry visas for a period of three months for those carriers who want to work for Christmas. “I don’t know the language and they treat us worse there.” Customs procedures, he says, have become slow and cumbersome.

More optimistic about the future are driving schools. Talking about hard work is not synonymous with bad work. There is a bubble in the logistics sector that is going to increase. Still maintaining the number of drivers, the offer will grow more and more, so it is necessary to attract more talent», They explain from the Carrier Academy, which also highlights the increase in demand for courses since the beginning of the pandemic. Something common after a crisis.

«There must also be a social awareness, that they understand that it is a essential profession, as we have seen during the pandemic», Valdivia sentence. “It’s a shame, because we have gone from heroes to villains,” says Bastarrica.

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