As the European economy begins to recover from the pandemic, mobility networks and supply chains continue to face an increasingly high shortage of qualified professional drivers, which has been a long standing problem for the road transport sector.
Depending on the country, the causes and solutions are varied. One common way to move forward in many incidences is to attract a more diverse workforce including young people, women and migrants.
In a virtual debate this week, IRU brought together the road transport sector and European Union politicians and institutions to look at one of these aspects: namely, how to encourage, steer and qualify legally residing migrants into professional driver positions.
Speakers included Karima Delli, Chair of the European Parliament’s TRAN Committee (Transport and Tourism) and Clare Daly, Member of the Parliament’s LIBE Committee (Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs), Magdalena Jagiello, Acting Head of Unit, from the European Commission, as well as IRU members Isabelle Maître from FNTR in France and Caroline Blom-De Ruiter from TLN in The Netherlands.
IRU’s EU Advocacy Director, Raluca Marian, kicked off the debate, outlining results achieved so far, such as the IRU led Driver’s Charter, new EU standards and the expected EU funding for safe and secure parking areas, and importantly, the political recognition of the problem by the European Commission in its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.
MEP Karima Delli expressed her support for the industry initiative to reach out to migrants and appreciated it as a timely and practical solution to also help migrants´ integration. MEP Clare Daly presented several concrete initiatives of the European Parliament´s LIBE committee for the integration of migrants in the EU workforce, including a report analysing barriers and potential solutions.
The EU Commission´s representative, Magdalena Jagiello, presented the EU action plan and provided information about available funding opportunities. She also acknowledged that additional work has to be done, whilst remaining open for industry proposals.
FNTR´s Isabelle Maitre and TLN´s Caroline Blom-De Ruiter provided examples of successful integration and recruitment of drivers. Companies such as Transports Main Forte in France and Bentvelzen in the Netherlands have achieved good results and gained an excellent reputation in training and assisting non-EU migrants to become professional drivers.
The concrete examples from France and the Netherlands, but also examples provided by other IRU members, present at the event, have shown the existence of important barriers. These include the recognition of licenses obtained in third countries, high costs of entering the profession, language, religious considerations, cultural barriers, including for women, migrants’ legal status, the long qualification process and the lack of intermediate jobs before obtaining the driver permit.
Despite these difficulties, the positive examples and the political will shown at the event make the industry hopeful that solutions will be found. “Our message to policy decision-makers at a European, national and regional level is loud and clear: help the industry to get the drivers it needs, and help society to integrate legal migrants,” said Raluca Marian. “Millions of road transport companies in the EU are in need of drivers and are willing to help.”