“Nobody wants to be a lorry driver,” says Lazaro Bermejo, a seasoned driver with 24 years on the road. With shortages of drivers being reported across Europe and the UK, the figures suggest that the situation is at its worse.
In Europe, around 400,000 drivers will be needed in the next few years.
In Spain, some 15,000 drivers are needed, while in Germany, that figure rises to around 65,000.
The UK is believed to be around 76,000 drivers short in order to fulfil its logistical needs.
Drivers are blaming the shortages on dire working conditions, from inhospitable service areas, multiple days away from home, loneliness and the mundane routine of miles after mile of grey, monotonous tarmac.
“The worst thing is that you are always away from home,” said Mr Bermejo.
He added: “I haven’t seen my daughters grow up. I was never at their birthdays. You’re married, but it’s as if you’re not… the worse thing is also the loneliness.”
Speaking of how he tries to find company on the roads, Mr Bermejo said: “You look around to see if you’re lucky and find another Spaniard and you snuggle up to him. Lonlieness. You look back and you say to yourself ‘what have you enjoyed about life, about your family, always being here.”
These reasons are why younger people shy away from the career.
A report by the deputy secretary-general of the General Confederation of Freight Transport, (CGTM) blames the lack of drivers on the unattractiveness of the profession.
Another reason for the lack of interest from the younger generations to join the job is a lack of adventure.
Travelling the world, seeing new sites used to be restricted to certain careers, but now, argues Juan Jose Gil, secretary-general of the National Federation of Spanish Transport Associations, (Fenadismer): “Now young people can do it in a different way with cheap flights. We need to find other incentives to make the profession attractive again.”
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ulse Diaz said: “International lorry drivers can earn around 3,00 euros. Those who deliver with vans may earn 1,500 or less, but they prefer it. In addition, the treatment of long-distance drivers is not good. There is insecurity in the service areas, which drives many women out of the job, and in many cases, drivers are forced to unload the goods themselves after 9 hours of driving.”
Speaking of security on the roads, Mr Bermejo says he’s never been a victim of crime but knows of some who have.
He explained: “It’s a self-defence spray. When you’re asleep, in the cabin, they spray you through an open window, and the person inside is stunned. Then they pick the lock and come in. My partner saw them come in, but he was asleep, they stole his mobile phone, his cards, his computer… everything. And he couldn’t do anything about it.”
Average salaries are also widely different across Europe. In France, an HGV driver can expect to earn up to 50,000 euros per year, and in Spain, only 36,000.
Some British firms are offering up to £72,000 per year for new HGV drivers. During the fuel crisis shortage, Britain attempted to bring in 5,000 drivers from Europe on emergency visas.
However, the tactic failed with very little interest, resulting in the Army stepping in to deliver fuel across forecourts in Britain.
Mr Bermejo is reasonably satisfied with his salary, stating that’s why he joined the job 24 years ago.
He concluded: “For me, who didn’t want to study, it was either going to the orchard to pick lemons and earn 1,000 euros or getting on the lorry and earn more. At first, I thought I would do it for a few years and then give up… but you see…”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega