“What do I think of this situation? It's serious, it's become impossible to find new recruits”, commented Mario Ambrogi, who explained his view of the problem and what needs to be done.
The current situation has a long history and is now an endemic urgency, common to several European markets.
Ambrogi told us that “in the 1990s, there were young people in Italy who wanted to be part of this profession, who were willing to move and travel, and the military service helped to train new resources. Then, from 2005, we had to start looking for resources in Eastern Europe. However, these countries, especially Romania which was our main basin of reference, are currently undergoing development, so young people have stopped moving, because they have no economic advantage. Therefore, the choices made in the past no longer hold up, because we acted without building a system and now we find that there is no generational change”.
PUTTING PEOPLE BACK AT THE CENTRE
“One of the problems may be the cost of the licence - consider that taking the C and E licences and the Driver's Qualification Card involves an initial investment of around € 6,000 - but this is not the real issue. Many of us hauliers would also be willing to provide licences for young people who want to enter the profession, but the real problem is that there are none to be found”, Ambrogi continues.
“Training is fundamental. Nowadays, being a haulier means tackling a complex profession, being responsible for vehicles worth at least 150,000 euro, vehicles equipped with technology equal - if not superior - to that of a top-level car, and if you don't know how to manage this technology, practically all the advantages that the manufacturer of the vehicle has made available to you are nullified. We have dozens of vehicles in our fleet with assisted driving for safety, but very few drivers actually use it. We need continuous training, given how quickly the vehicles evolve, but we should have twice as many resources: if I reserve resources for attending a course, I need others to drive. But, as I already mentioned, there is a shortage of staff. A lot of training is not possible because of the lack of driver turnover. So, we stay at the base. We recently put the first electric tractor on the road in Italy. In order to drive it and get the mileage return that is guaranteed at purchase, it is necessary for the driver to know what he is doing. And that doesn't just apply to electric, which is a new technology, it applies to all vehicles. On a latest-generation tractor - and not only that - the truck driver's driving ability accounts for 15% of fuel consumption. For those who have large fleets like ours, these are important figures that affect the effectiveness of the business. That's why we need trained resources who can handle the technology”.
“We, as a company, have always invested in innovation and sustainability, choices that over the years have been appreciated by customers who increasingly ask us for sustainable means. But, unfortunately we are now at the point where we decide to buy a new vehicle based on the number of staff we have available”.
THE KEY ROLE OF THE INSTITUTIONS
“We must focus on young people, also through constant collaboration with the institutions, which must concretely and urgently address the problem. We have to find a way of approaching them and telling them what it means to be a truck driver today; this message cannot be passed along among us or in trade magazines, it must have a more widespread impact. No one doubts that being a driver is hard work: it's a job that often takes you far from home, that forces you to live alone, I can't deny that, but it's also a satisfying job, which you can now do on extremely comfortable vehicles with lots of technological support. Prejudice is a big problem. Truckers are a mistreated category, for years the victim of so many negative perceptions. Today, overcoming this requires important choices and investments. For some years now, the industry associations have been trying to do something about the situation, and now the manufacturers and all companies in the sector are moving in tandem, but perhaps it is too late, because the problem is real.
There also needs to be an important political stance, and schools need to be involved. There used to be a military that enabled hundreds of young people to get their HGV licences every year and these young people then came to our companies. Nowadays, we need an alternative to all this, we need a serious programme of support, incentives and investment in infrastructure, because knowing that you have to work on the road and have to make long forced stops where there are no equipped areas is not pleasant or dignified. We have to return to putting people at the centre, talking only about salaries is simplistic. We need to give dignity to a profession, we need to set young people on the path towards an informed choice, and that is the only way to resolve the situation, not with temporary solutions. We can no longer put this off. We must all act together, learn to cooperate more with manufacturers and institutions, because the problem is serious. Let's not forget that in our country, when we talk about large-scale distribution, and especially about food, 80% of goods move by road. This becomes a problem for everyone if we lack drivers”.
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