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Why HGV drivers are so important to the Nagel-Group

HGV drivers: Delivering with passion

Day in, day out, they represent the Nagel-Group on the roads and to the customer. They are the link to the company and an integral part of it at the same time. Without our HGV drivers, the Nagel-Group could not supply people with food every day throughout Europe.

It is 5 am. Benjamin Rossow is sorting out shipping documents and planning his route for the day. He is an HGV driver on local routes at the Nagel-Group’s Osterrönfeld branch. After loading the goods, he sets off on his tour to the first customer in his 16-tonne truck.

“Our HGV drivers are the backbone of the company”, says Raik Spengler, Head of the Nagel-Group Driving Academy. “They are equivalent to Key Account Managers, as they see customers the most often during the year. They listen carefully to customers.” HGV drivers have to have a strong sense of responsibility, both for the load and also the truck which they steer through the traffic day in, day out. They also have to master the complex vehicle technology, be able to react quickly in different situations and be communicative - with their team and customer. When HGV drivers have a fixed route, trust is built up with the customer over the course of years. “They expect me to be punctual and reliable”, says Czeslaw Bruhn, who has been an HGV driver at the Hanover branch of the Nagel-Group for 17 years, and over time has built up his own network of contacts. His customers appreciate him - and trust him.

Increasing satisfaction

The satisfaction of our drivers is just as important to the Nagel-Group as customer satisfaction. This is a fundamental criterion for working together successfully. Ulrike Mix, Managing Partner of LIMES Solutions GmbH says: “If employees feel good, they have no reason to move companies. The important aspects in this respect are not just monetary rewards, but feeling appreciated, having well-functioning working resources and a good working atmosphere. Particularly due to the shortage of qualified people, appreciating drivers is enormously important.”

LIMES Solutions GmbH has been successfully supporting the Nagel-Group for over a year in recruiting HGV drivers and other specialists throughout Germany. Thanks to the fully digitised service, the appointment process in the Nagel-Group’s branches can be reduced to one week, or even less.

Enjoyment of driving

“We are the people who bring food to the supermarkets. Without us, the supermarkets would be in a crisis,” says Rossow. He still sometimes notices in his daily work that HGV drivers have a poor image - but he’s still a passionately enthusiastic truck driver. Many drivers love driving, and the freedom it brings - new places and faces every day, and the chance to work independently make it an at- tractive job. “The job has a lot of variety in it, our colleagues are very nice and we have a lot of responsibility.” Ultimately the whole economic system can only work if raw materials and goods are brought to the place they are needed. HGV drivers make a major contribution to guaranteeing this reliability of supply. Raik Spengler: “Amongst the general population there is a relatively widespread preconception that HGV drivers basically only drive from A to B. Most people don’t realise that they have to fulfil lots of different requirements and challenges.” And for years the range of tasks has been getting ever bigger and more complex.

More traffic, more tasks

Through digitisation, processes have changed over the past few years - which has advantages and disadvantages. The digital network does make some tasks easier, for instance. Time spent on admin has reduced, and the processing of data and information has become faster and more transparent. “Young people in particular expect to be properly networked, and to have technical resources which reduce paperwork. Many of them would also like closer communication with their colleagues and managers, which is becoming much easier now with digitisation,” says Mix.

HGV driver Benjamin Rossow has meanwhile unloaded the goods at his first customer, and is now on the way to the next one. The digital driver’s card documents his route accurately, including his driving time and waiting time. This means less writing-up for the driver. But digitisation does also have drawbacks, says Rossow. Time pressure has increased, for instance, with very precise planning and control of the route. Break times and rest times also have to be observed, which can likewise lead to problems with too few HGV parking spaces at service stations. Coupled with the increasing volume of traffic on the roads, and a shortage of young, well-trained drivers, the stress factor for HGV drivers has continued to increase.

The next generation is missing

Whereas many drivers will be taking retirement over the next few years, there are hardly any new drivers to take their place: according to DEKRA, over the next ten years Germany will have a shortage of 150,000 HGV drivers. Almost one in ten drivers is due to retire. “The constantly rising growth in goods, and demographic challenges, means that logistics companies need to put immense resources into recruitment management both now and in the future: Throughout Germany, more than 20,000 new HGV drivers will have to be recruited every year to manage requirements in the transport of goods,” says Mix. In addition to drivers leaving due to their age, and the training of new HGV drivers, a further problem has emerged due to increasing fluctuation within the logistics industry: many HGV drivers change employer, often within a short space of time, and therefore make it difficult to build up a stable staffing level.

To encourage loyalty amongst employees, it is important in times of change to offer opportunities for professional development - particularly for long-serving HGV drivers like Czeslaw Bruhn, who have direct experience of the process of change throughout their careers. But digitization has also made an impact here already: according to Spengler, it has long since ceased to be essential for professional development to take place in situ. The content can easily be made available online. This is why the Nagel-Group is currently creating its own Driving Academy in Germany. It will look after the company’s drivers at all stages - from their appointment, through induction in the job to professional development and further training, support and follow-up care. When HGV drivers join the company, the Nagel-Group currently provides a central induction course for them, for instance. This will gradually take place in a practical test environment. Commercial and industrial employees will also get the same time for induction. “Everyone should first become familiar with the Nagel-Group and its DNA. This is how we intend to make the strengths of the Nagel-Group more widely known, and to expand them,” says Spengler.

Future-proof training

To attract young drivers to the profession as well, and counteract the shortage of drivers, the Nagel-Group offers high-quality training. The food logistics firm trains the next generation of HGV drivers within three years, and pays particular attention to high quality standards in doing so. The pan-European structure of the Group makes a wide variety of job and development opportunities possible. At the same time, however, attention must be paid to understanding that a significant shift in values has taken place amongst the younger generation. For many, personal development has migrated from the professional to the private sphere. The expectation of young drivers that they will have fixed and regulated working hours, as well as a high quality of life, does not always fit with the daily business of many companies. It is important for companies to recognise this, and react to it their organisations. At the same time, the next generation represent an enormous opportunity for companies: “Young employees have grown up in the digital age, and move around in it completely independently. They will be a massive support to companies in their journey to digitisation.”

HGV drivers have traditionally been highly valued in the Nagel-Group. And in future the food logistics company will continue to work on further expanding a mutual exchange of ideas. “We would like to consider together with our HGV drivers where and how we can change things to their benefit,” says Spengler. The intention is also to take drivers’ individual needs even more strongly into account, for instance whether they prefer to drive on local routes or long-distance, and to work out driver-friendly concepts for doing so. This is the reason why Czeslaw Bruhn is satisfied with his job: “If I have something on my mind, I can talk to my boss about it, and we come up with a solution together.”

In dialogue with drivers

The Nagel-Group is already developing flexible shift and individual working time models. In this way it should be possible for every driver often to be at home overnight. Family-friendly solutions should enable drivers to achieve a work/life balance. At the same time, the company is working on structuring and simplifying the many new requirements placed on drivers. Reducing waiting times, for instance, so that drivers can again increasingly concentrate on their essential job: driving. Because: not everything should be pushed onto the job description of HGV drivers like Benjamin Rossow.

It’s afternoon now. Rossow is on the return leg of his daily route and - contrary to all preconceived ideas - can spend the rest of the day with his family.

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