Road transport, a profession that needs image

Road freight transport has undergone profound changes in recent years, mainly as a result of competition from Eastern European companies. The sector claims to suffer from a lack of public knowledge, which partially explains the recruitment difficulties.

"The year could have been good for the sector, it will not be that", regrets Florence Berthelot, general deputy of the road transport federation (FNTR). According to the latter, the few weeks of actions related to the relocation of "yellow vests" were sufficient to change the results for 2018 for this sector, with the margin averaging only 1 to 1.5%.

Another obstacle for a very fragile branch, but the head of the FNTR recognizes itself as " resilient "Even the economic crisis of 2008, as in other sectors, would not have led to road closure in terms of numbers. "Employment remained at a relatively stable level between 2008 and 2016, She said.

Average 130 km races

However, goods transport by road has undergone profound changes. First of all, loss of market share in international transport – competition from companies in Eastern Europe. Twenty years ago, French lorry drivers spent half of their activities on international transport, compared with less than 8% today according to the FNTR.

At least in a big way, these journeys that drove drivers away from home for a long time. From now on the average transport distance would be about 130 kilometers. Even the French-French activity has been attacked thanks to the so-called cabotage world, which allows foreign drivers to perform a certain number of races for an international delivery after their arrival in France.

On 3 December, EU Transport Ministers succeeded in finding a compromise that strengthens the fact that a driver is a posted worker abroad and understands the limits of cabotage.

However, MEPs meeting in committee on Thursday 10 January did not succeed in reaching a comprehensive compromise on new social rules in the sector, including those on the posting or rest of directors. This compromises the chances of reforms before the European elections in the spring of 2019.

Other hot issues in the sector concern the threat of increased fuel and environmental impact. Up to now, road freight transport has a maximum of taxes that can not exceed 43.19 cents per liter of diesel, but which is subject to fluctuations in the price of fuel.

European road transport finds a compromise

Moreover, the threat of a heavyweight vignette, which is explicitly called upon by the government to find the necessary means to invest in transport infrastructure, is still threatening. "We have been talking about it for at least eighteen months while road transport largely pays for its part of the infrastructure it uses "Sighs Florence Berthelot, the professionals recall that they pay in particular a specific tax of 4 cents per liter of diesel as compensation for the cancellation of the ecotax in 2014.

Stress at recruitment

"We are being stigmatized while we continue to make huge progress in terms of greening the fleet"says the head of the FNTR that by 2030 about 100,000 trucks on natural gas for vehicles (NGV) would drive, half the fleet of companies that are called "for rent" c. that is, those who are mandated to transport company cargo. "But road transport of goods suffers from ignorance", she emphasizes and calls upon an image that needs image, despite its tendency to technological innovation. It describes a future in which autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence will occupy a prominent place.

This lack of knowledge can partly explain the recruitment pressure that companies face when their needs are significant. According to Florence Berthelot, the sector needs 50,000 people in the year.

Michel Waintrop