Will the shortage of truck drivers in France affect supplies like in the UK?

France is experiencing a shortage of 40,000 to 50,000 truck drivers, said a major union in the industry.

However, the situation is not as bad as in the UK, where there are around double the drivers shortage, a logistics expert said.

The Union la Fédération Nationale des Transports Routiers (FNTR) said the road transport sector in France also suffers from a shortage of general staff, including forklift drivers and logistics operators.

However, FNTR representative Florence Berthelot told France Info that the situation in France is “not as bad as in the UK”, where 100,000 drivers are short, according to the Road Haulage Association.

Reported gasoline shortages in the UK due to a shortage of tanker drivers have caused a wave of panic buying, with long queues outside petrol stations, and the military is reportedly ready to help if needed.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has sought to downplay the problem, telling the BBC: “We are starting to see panic buying plummet, with more grades of fuel available at more service stations.”

The BBC reported that 75 military drivers are on standby and calls are being made for priority workers, such as healthcare workers, to be given fuel first.

But despite its own shortages of heavy goods vehicles, France does not yet appear ready to suffer the same fuel shortages as the UK.

Figures from Sagess, which manages oil stocks, indicated that it had a supply slightly larger than the 90-day stocks required by the International Energy Agency.

There are 89 storage sites throughout France, representing 13.9 million tonnes of fuel supply stocks.

Shortage of drivers in France “before the pandemic”

In France, road transport provided 90% of goods transport during the first containment of the Covid health crisis in spring 2020.

But Ms Berthelot said the shortage of heavy truck drivers in France dates back to before the health crisis and was due to existing staff reaching retirement age.

She also said that the five-year training periods for new staff to be fully qualified contributes to delays in recruiting new drivers.

She said low wages were also a problem – although they are higher in France than in some Eastern European countries, she added.

She said: “Candidates are often put off by all the trips. Often, they just think about commuting every week, but today there are jobs for all profiles in the industry, [such as for roles] where you don’t have to travel, like logistics.

“There are jobs where you go in the morning and come back in the evening, and do all the urban deliveries. There are a lot of variations. “

Driver shortages have also been observed not only in the UK and France, but also in Germany, Denmark, Poland, Sweden and Norway, according to the British International Freight Association (BIFA).

A Transport Intelligence report said: “It is safe to assume that similar trends are likely in all Western countries, where the number of drivers has been declining over the past two decades.

“[There are] multiple factors causing driver shortages; the relocation of production to Eastern Europe further aggravated the problem, with nationals of these countries preferring to work in factories [at home] more than being truck drivers.

Government unveils new plan to tackle job shortages

It comes as Prime Minister Jean Castex announced yesterday (September 27) the government’s plans to address labor shortages in France across a range of sectors, including road transport, construction, hospitality and home help services.

Read more: France pledges 240 million euros for home care services for elderly people in difficulty

According to the Banque de France, vacant positions in various sectors have increased to 300,000, the number of registered job seekers being higher today than at the end of 2019.

In response, Mr Castex said that “an additional € 1.4 billion” will be spent on training and qualifying job seekers and existing workers in struggling sectors.

Mr Castex said the funds would come from “emergency credit, budgeted for the management of the health crisis”, with 800 million euros dedicated to training 1.4 million job seekers, especially those who have been unemployed for more than 12 months.

This includes plans to develop a guaranteed employment system after successful completion of certain training courses, and training courses that involve on-the-job learning alongside studies.

The remaining 600 million euros will be allocated to increasing the skills of 350,000 additional workers in sectors under pressure to go digital or to work practices that respect the environment, such as the automobile and aeronautics.

The unions greeted the announcement with a mixed response. Laurent Berger, president of the CFDT union, told Le Monde: “It is a very good thing to invest funds for training and ongoing support for job seekers.

But, he said, the government had to pay attention to “the logic of these plans in different regions of France – which the Prime Minister mentioned – and concrete actions”.

Shortages of goods in France

Many major products have experienced a shortage in France (and beyond) due to the pandemic, including furniture, light bulbs and some fresh foods such as strawberries, raspberries and peas.

Read more: Ravioli rush? Pasta prices rise in France amid global wheat crisis

There was also a shortage of pasta and a subsequent global shortage of durum wheat, due to the fact that 30% of the crop in Canada was scorched by a heat wave.

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