As Europe battles a chronic shortage of lorry drivers, Dirk Engelhardt worries that higher wages alone will not be enough to tempt many back behind the wheel.
He has watched his friends quit the job in recent years, in frustration over low wages. But that was not their only reason – most have pointed to dismal working conditions, too.
“Lots of people simply do not want to do this job anymore,” sighs the German haulier.
His experience is symptomatic of a wider problem gripping the Continent, which is facing an estimated shortfall of 400,000 drivers.
Empty spaces on supermarket shelves have ensued, triggering warnings from retailers that some Christmas products may not be available.
But while observers blame the pandemic – and some in the UK point to Brexit – industry insiders say that the onset of Covid was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“The real problem we have – and you can see this all over Europe and in Great Britain – is that people who can do this job are not willing to do it,” says Frank Moreels, the president of the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETWF).
“That has nothing to do with Covid or Brexit. It goes far deeper – it has to do with the attractiveness of the job.”
He blames historically low wages, unsociable working hours, sub-standard roadside facilities and a general disdain towards truckers shown by some of their employers.
Experts say these problems – allowed to fester for years despite repeated warnings – left the freight industry vulnerable when demand for goods and transport suddenly rebounded from pandemic lows.
It means European countries have consistently failed to recruit more lorry drivers than they are losing. Many drivers also tend to be in their 50s or 60s – underlining the job’s lack of appeal to younger recruits.