Every year more drivers retire than new drivers join. In August 2020, Cefic-ECTA already published a new best practice guideline with practical recommendations on how to tackle these driver shortage problems.
Because of low engagement from most chemical shippers to act upon these recommendations, the situation has only worsened, especially now with the Ukraine crisis. ECTA, the European Chemical Transport Association, concludes that today, the chemical loading and unloading processes for road transport are broken.
30% of chemical shipments exceed a residence time
Today, about 30% of chemical shipments exceed a residence time of three hours. The residence time is defined as the time difference between truck arrival and truck departure at a specific (un)loading place and includes the time before gate arrival. More specifically, this means that truck drivers get confronted with longer, unreliable waiting times at sites, which becomes the main reason to quit the driver’s job.
This trend is worsening day by day and can no longer be resolved through waiting time demurrages. If no immediate actions are taken, the supply of chemicals will be disrupted even further. Not only do unnecessary waiting hours impact the drivers’ productivity, but they also have negative safety, health and environmental effect.
To envision what such supply chain disruption could mean for the chemical industry, we refer to the 2021 Brexit example where a lack of drivers interrupted the delivery of products, like fuels to fuel stations and food to supermarkets.
The ‘over-optimisation’ at loading and unloading sites over the past years has happened at the expense of increased driver flexibility. This one-sided process optimization approach is no longer sustainable when it comes to truck drivers’ productivity and job attractiveness.
Assuming we can eliminate the current lost driver time, we can retain chemical truck drivers more easily and increase the capacity of chemical drivers by 10%. We should also realise that the chemical driver shortage is worsened by the heavy demands on the labour market.
Such driver demands like e-commerce drivers have less strict requirements and do offer a better work-life balance. Given the above, it is time for change and immediate action to overcome the broken loading and unloading processes.
ECTA recommended areas of opportunities are:
- Adapt site inventory level requirements.
- Revise opening hours at loading/unloading sites.
- Take responsibility for the outsourcing site operations.
- Create slot booking flexibility.
- Handle drivers with more respect.
- Support initiatives for digital gate registration.
- To make this more specific, ECTA wants to give truck drivers a voice by implementing neutral ECTA drivers.
- App scoring for each individual site; safety, waiting time, truck driver treatment, and driver facilities.
- Total residence time spent – (un)loading efficiency.
- This scoring will be done initially for loading/unloading sites and will be extended to cleaning stations, intermodal and port terminals.
Based upon this driver feedback, sites will be ranked with one to five stars on each of the abovementioned topics. The highest and lowest performers will be periodically communicated through the ECTA communication channels.
ECTA reaches out to all stakeholders to join forces to improve the truck driver’s job attractiveness and productivity. We all need to ensure that chemical truck drivers are treated with respect and are considered a very valuable resource to transport chemicals in a sustainable and efficient way.