Most truck drivers reject limitations on their freedom such as automated driving, a study shows.   Picture: ISTOCK
Most truck drivers reject limitations on their freedom such as automated driving, a study shows. Picture: ISTOCK

Freedom, independence, being the kings of the road — these are things that continue to appeal to professional drivers.

In the international Continental Mobility Study 2016 — The Connected Truck, on the future of logistics, 75% of truckers surveyed say they enjoy driving. Only 15% say 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 harbour little desire for automated driving. But 72% of drivers with more than 30 years’ job experience want more driver assistance systems.

For its fourth mobility study, the market and social research institute 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 digitalisation and connectivity.

Most professional drivers are satisfied with their break and rest times (64%) and their working hours (51%).

However, 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%) criticise 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% are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their salaries.

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," one expert put 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. Respondents in China are seeing growing competition for well-trained drivers.

Meanwhile, the requirements of the profession are increasing all the time. More than 90% of drivers expect to face considerable challenges in future when it comes to professional qualifications.

Controlling the truck will increasingly become a minor issue as the digital transformation progresses, from GPS-assisted tracking and ongoing development of software to automated driving. As connectivity improves, drivers will increasingly take on logistics planning tasks, as well as goods inspection, coordination, and scheduling responsibilities.

In delivery transport, professional drivers often provide the only personal contact with customers and thus act as business cards when they deliver goods.

"Logistics also has a human face, which is why we are investing in training — not just training in technical skills, but also behavioural training, which we see as something that should be done in the future," a logistics expert says in the study.

Industry insiders say 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 cab, 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 tonnes — truckers active largely in local and regional transport.

Dependability

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.

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.

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