The road transport sector is one of the most important sectors in Europe, providing millions of people with reliable personal transport, fresh produce, bulk goods, liquids and other basic necessities every day.
It is estimated that more than five million truck and bus drivers are currently working in Europe. The average age of European professional drivers continues to rise year on year, which indicates a problem in attracting new drivers to the industry.
However, it also shows that the industry relies on the experience and skills of well-established and knowledgeable drivers.
The profession continues to be a valued and important role that flies under the radar of many Europeans, and as well as operating a vehicle drivers are often involved in loading and unloading goods, managing customers, managing routes and schedules and maintaining safety standards.
So without question if we didn't have professional drivers we would grind to a halt, but the future of professional driving is in doubt.
The widely publicised testing and development of autonomous vehicles has demonstrated the speed at which technology will change the landscape of the labour market. The introduction of automated vehicle technology is likely to occur in the commercial road transport sector first because it offers clear benefits towards cost reduction and enhanced safety, not to mention improvements in air quality and fuel efficiency.
However, the consequence of introducing this technology will be the likely impact that it will have on the five million plus professional drivers in Europe. Forecasts suggest that by 2035 most journeys made by a large vehicle will be fully automated, which leaves a question over the role of professional drivers of the future. At this stage it just isn’t clear what part they'll play in transporting people or goods, leading to potential mass redundancies and a loss of experience and skills which could otherwise be put to good use.
Therefore we all know that the role of drivers will change significantly over the coming years, and that it's important for transport businesses and professional drivers to be as prepared as possible. But...
WHAT WILL DRIVERS DO NEXT?
ABOUT STEER TO CAREER DRV
The Steer to Career DRV project will focus on developing curricula and professional learning programmes to help companies prepare their professional drivers for a more diverse role within a company. These objectives will focus on areas that are set to become more important as we move into the age of vehicle autonomy, which may include the principles of managing people, basic financial management, emergency responder, customer service and safety management.
The project will also seek to develop guidance; one for managers or company owners and one for professional drivers. The guidance will focus on competences, attitude and social skills, with the aim of helping managers to deploy drivers to alternative positions within a company, and to help drivers to recognise the competences they need to continue to be successful in their professional life.