The big trucks that barrel down Germany’s autobahn are generally driven by highly trained professionals. The trouble is, fewer young people are opting for a life on the open road. “There’s a serious driver shortage in Germany,” says Gerard van Kesteren, chief financial officer of Kuehne & Nagel International, which operates 10,000 trucks and trailers and includes BMW and Airbus as customers. “It means we have to pay somewhat more to get drivers. And because the margins are so thin, we have to pass this additional cost on to clients.”
Forty percent of Germany’s truckers will retire in the next decade, according to a study by car parts supplier ZF Friedrichshafen. The end of compulsory military service has also hurt, since 20 percent of commercial vehicle operators earned their licenses in the army.