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European Carriers Face Driver Shortages

TANK TRUCK carriers in Europe face many of the same driver shortages and logistics problems that afflict US companies, according to discussion at the European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting October 21-25, 2000, in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Horst Kubek of LKW Walter International and Luc Haesaerts of Haesaerts Intermodal discussed some of the European issues at a meeting of the European Chemical Transport Association (ECTA) held in conjunction with the EPCA meeting.

Kubek pointed out that drivers must make deliveries during rush hours and have few parking areas for waiting. Shippers and receivers generally refuse to widen the delivery window and demand the fulfillment of rush orders, all of which causes more logistic problems.

In addition, the unification of Europe had led to longer driving distances. Prior to unification, many fleet operations stayed in a fairly compact area. "Everything has changed," he said. "It's a new world for the drivers."

Haesaerts noted that the shortage of drivers is further complicated because there are no technical schools to train future workers as prospective drivers. "It's not a very attractive profession, yet drivers must be highly skilled," he added. He listed the time that must be spent away from home and irregular hours spent on the road as two negative aspects of the job. At the same time, shippers expect drivers to be trained to load product, a responsibility that Haesaerts says should not be required of drivers. "The driver must drive," he said.

Because of the tight labor market, many drivers move from job to job, which makes it difficult for companies to maintain service continuity with customers. "We need long-term relationships," said Haesaerts.

To alleviate some of the problems, Haesaerts and Kubek recommended that the industry analyze the root causes for the logistics complications. "Optimization comes in mutual partnership," said Haesaerts.

He suggested that the industry organize speakers bureaus that could provide information to young people who are still in school. To improve professional driver training, he recommended that safety information be provided by the industry.

Kubek pointed out that ECTA offers guidelines for standardizing delivery performance that companies can use to evaluate their logistics. "Try it," he said. "After one year, you can re-evaluate your performance. It is a good system to identify weaknesses," he said.

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