IRU and EU Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit met to discuss key social developments threatening the road transport industry and the broader EU economy.
IRU, together with its member Fédération Luxembourgeoise des Exploitants d’Autobus et d’Autocars (FLEAA), met European Commissioner Nicolas Schmit to discuss current social issues and future developments that are particularly concerning for the EU road transport industry.
The shortage of drivers was highlighted as a real threat to EU mobility and supply chains and, by extension, the economy. Without action to make the driver profession more accessible and attractive, Europe could lack over two million drivers by 2026, impacting half of all freight movements and millions of passenger journeys.
IRU appreciates Commissioner Schmit’s open recognition of the essential nature of professional drivers, as demonstrated by the role that the road transport played during the COVID-19 pandemic.
IRU EU Advocacy Director Raluca Marian said, “It is reassuring to hear Commissioner Schmit emphasise the strategic role of ‘front line workers’, and his full understanding of the dimension of the driver shortage issue and the subsequent problems it causes for the internal market.”
Enlarging the pool of drivers
IRU welcomed Commissioner Schmit’s commitment to use the tools in his portfolio to help reduce driver shortages.
Given the forecasted increase in shortages, the pools of local drivers across the EU will not be enough to fill the gap. In turn, the meeting also focused on the topic of attracting qualified third-country drivers.
“The European Commission is developing a concrete tool to attract third-country talents to the EU market. This started with the 'Pact on Migration' and continues with specific projects involving pools of non-EU workers. We are happy that Commissioner Schmit sees drivers as part of a highly skilled workforce who deserve to be included in a talent pool project,” said Raluca Marian.
IRU and Commissioner Schmit also discussed measures to facilitate young people’s access to the profession through a conscious focus on apprenticeships at a young age. The very low number of young professional drivers is truly a wasted opportunity given that EU youth unemployment was at 14.5% by the end of 2022.
Upgrading drivers’ skills
IRU is also pleased that the Commissioner is focused on driver training, skills shortages and reskilling. Efforts must be maintained to attract new talent to the EU driver pool as well as streamline and modernise training to ensure that professional drivers are adequately trained and up to date with technological developments and eco-driving.
“We are grateful that Commissioner Schmit is determined to work with the EU Commissioner for transport, Adina Valean, and our sector to develop a concrete initiative dedicated to professional drivers in 2023, which is the European Year of Skills,” said Raluca Marian.
On social matters, IRU emphasised the central role of sectoral social dialogue and engagement with social partners at the EU level to promote social cohesion and resilience as well as to shape EU labour legislation, policies and decision-making processes. IRU’s pivotal role as a representative social partner enables it to represent and defend the interests of road transport operators at the EU level.
“We are grateful for meeting and exchanging with Commissioner Schmit and his team. We welcome the commissioner’s invitation to discuss and pursue concrete solutions to tackle the shortage of drivers. The urgency of the situation is clear: we cannot continue down this path without putting EU mobility and supply chains at grave risk,” concluded Raluca Marian.