How France plans to tackle its lorry driver shortage

Like many European countries, France is facing a shortage of skilled professions including lorry drivers, so the Prime Minister has announced a new funding package to address the problem.

France has laid out a plan to recruit more lorry drivers.
France has laid out a plan to recruit more lorry drivers. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

The French transport sector says it has around 40,000 unfilled vaccancies, including for lorry drivers – a shortage of whom is being felt across Europe

In the UK this is is leading to empty shelves in supermarkets and shortages of fuel at petrol stations, and while these issues are not being felt in France, the sector says it is struggling to recruit.

On the other hand French unemployment levels are high – the PM says the solution is better training and has unveiled a €600m training package to ensure that around 1.4 million jobseekers can be retrained to fill vacancies.

The Plan d’investissement dans les compétences (skills investment plan) targets all sectors that are struggling to recruit, including hospitality, which has struggled to attract back workers since bars, cafés and restaurants reopened.

Alexis Degouy, director general of transport union l’Union Transport Logistique France, told FranceInfo: “We have more than 40,000 jobs on offer, and the Prime Minister’s announcements are welcome, because every time we bet on training, we are right.

“I would just add a small caveat, we must not centralise too much and especially leave it open to companies and regions.”

The investment plan as announced is threefold:

  • Small businesses – with between 50 and 300 employees – will be able to benefit from a €600m training fund to recruit and train up 35,000 new employees.
  • A €560m agreement will be created with Pôle emploi (unemployment benefits) offices, so that extra training courses can be available to all job-seekers, whatever their age or previous qualifications.
  • Individual support packages will also be created for young people who are not in employment, education or training.

Degouy added: “In our sector, it’s very clear, we are constantly looking for truck drivers, but also staff in the warehouses.

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“It’s a sector that offers many possibilities, and we’re looking for all profiles. It’s also essential to train the less young, those who are retraining.

“We must make this profession attractive. We often think that the hardest thing is to get employees to come, rather than to keep them. Today, the truck driver who spends several weeks far from his family is no longer really the case.”

He added that the profession had not waited for government action on the issue of wages and was already offering incentives for new drivers and to retain existing drivers.

Drivers in France already enjoy relatively good facilities with a network of stops with free parking, showering facilities and the Les Routiers restaurants that offer good quality but cheap hot food to drivers.

Despite the unfilled roles, deliveries by lorry are continuing in France and the country has so far not seen widespread shortages of food or fuel.

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France says all troops left Mali, ending nine-year military mission

The last soldiers belonging to France's Barkhane operation in Mali have now left the African country, the French chiefs of staff said on Monday.

France says all troops left Mali, ending nine-year military mission

French forces have been supporting Mali against insurgents for nearly a decade, but President Emmanuel Macron decided to pull out after France and the Malian junta fell out in the wake of a military takeover.

“Today at 13H00 Paris time (1100 GMT) the final contingent of the Barkhane force still on Malian territory crossed the border between Mali and Niger,” the statement said.

The army had met the “major military logistics challenge” of the pull-out “in an orderly and safe fashion”, it added.

After ties ruptured between Paris and the junta that took power in Mali in August 2020, France began to withdraw its troops in February, as jihadist violence surged in the Sahel.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Why were French soldiers in Mali?

Friction developed over the junta’s delays in restoring civilian rule and escalated when Mali brought in Russian paramilitaries — personnel described by France as “mercenaries” from the pro-Kremlin Wagner group.

‘Prevented caliphate’

Macron on Monday congratulated the military on its nine years in Mali, saying it had “prevented the establishment of a territorial caliphate, and fought against terrorists that attack local populations and threaten Europe”. 

Most high-ranking members of the “terrorist groups” had been “neutralised”, he said, adding that 59 French soldiers had died in Mali in total.

More than 2,000 civilians have been killed in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso since the start of the year, according to an AFP tally based on the findings of non-governmental organisation ACLED.

In this file photo taken on December 07, 2021 shows the French flag and France-led special operations logo for the new Task Force Takuba, a multinational military mission in sub-Saharan Africa’s troubled Sahel region. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

BACKGROUND: France announces withdrawal of troops from Mali

At its peak, France’s Barkhane mission had 5,100 troops among five Sahel allies, all former French colonies — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The forces have provided key support in air power, troop transport and reconnaissance. France has an air base in Niger’s capital Niamey where it has deployed drones.

After the Malian pullout, the mission will have “around 2,500” troops, Barkhane commander General Laurent Michon said last month.

The reconfigured mission will emphasise “more cooperative operations,” he said.

Frontline Niger

France will keep more than 1,000 men in Niger, where a tactical group will continue to work in partnership with the Nigerien forces.

Niger is a frontline state in the fight against jihadism as the unstable region struggles with a string of military coups.

“The democratic regression in West Africa is extremely worrying,” French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told French MPs ahead of a trip to the region in July. 

“However, in spite of these events (and) the withdrawal from Mali, France will continue to help West African armies fight terrorist groups.”

Niger is one of the biggest recipients of French aid, receiving 143 million euros ($146 million) last year.

READ ALSO: France calls Mali’s exit from defence accords ‘unjustified’

The two sides will sign agreements for a French loan of 50 million euros and a grant of 20 million euros.

Niger, the world’s poorest country by the benchmark of the UN’s Human Development Index, has been badly hit by the jihadist insurgency that began in northern Mali in 2012 and then swept to neighbouring countries.

Niger is facing insurgencies both on its western border with Mali and Burkina Faso and on its south-eastern frontier with Nigeria.

More than a thousand troops will be deployed in Niger, providing air support and training, according to French sources.

French troops are also in Gabon, Ivory Coast and Senegal, as well as in the east of Africa, in Djibouti.

READ ALSO: Macron agrees to return Benin sculptures ‘without delay’

Macron in June asked the government and military chiefs “to rethink our overall presence on the African continent by the autumn.”

He called for “a presence that is less static and less exposed” and “a closer relationship” with African armed forces.