Could Germany see a fuel supply crisis like the UK?

Petrol stations have been running dry in the UK due to a supply crisis fuelled by too few truck drivers. As Germany has a worker shortage, could this happen here too?

An empty petrol station in Ferring, the UK, on October 1st. The UK has been battling a fuel shortage due to a lack of tank drivers.
An empty petrol station in Ferring, the UK, on October 1st. The UK has been battling a fuel shortage due to a lack of tank drivers. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/PA Wire | Michael Drummond

Fears of shortages have led to panic buying at petrol stations across the UK, with retailers running out of supplies. 

It’s not down to a worldwide petrol crisis – instead it’s about a lack of truck drivers which mean many petrol stations are not getting supplies through quick enough. 

Part of the reason is Brexit which saw many European drivers return to their home countries, or move somewhere else. It’s also said to be down to the pandemic and older drivers retiring. 

It’s hard to imagine a situation like this in Germany. However, industry experts say it’s not out of the question. 

“It can happen in Germany, too,” Jürgen Ziegner, Managing Director of the Central Association of the Tank Industry, told regional newspaper RP Online last week. 

“If nothing changes, we will have this situation here in four or five years.”

According to Ziegner, there could be supply bottlenecks in Germany, and petrol stations could run out of supplies – because there are too few truck drivers.

“We have a shortage of between 60,000 and 80,000 lorry drivers,” said Martin Bulheller of the Federal Association of Road Haulage, Logistics and Disposal (BGL).

This is a problem across Europe and the world, because the industry is lacking new employees. 

According to Bullheller, the lack of lorry drivers is already leading to trucks standing idle in the yards of haulage companies in Germany. It’s not because there are no goods, but there are no drivers to deliver the goods.

Every year about 30,000 truck drivers retire, and just 15,000 new drivers are taken on. So the crisis, which is already evident, will get bigger if no countermeasures are taken, Bulheller said.

READ ALSO: What Scholz’s Brexit comments tell us about Germany’s next potential leader

What are the reasons for this?

Last week the Social Democrats’ chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz commented on the fuel and supply crisis in the UK after he was asked by a journalist if he would be prepared to send German lorry drivers to fill vacancies. 

Scholz gave a calm and confident response highlighting the benefits of being part of the EU and having freedom of movement, which the UK chose to leave. 

He also added that the UK’s lack of drivers “might have something to do with the question of wages”.

So where does Germany stand on wages?

The BGL’s Bullheller believes the salary for truck drivers in Germany will get better because of the shortage of drivers, and to some extent this has already happened.

“The market economy works here,” he said. Truck drivers in Germany earn about €1,400 to €3,300 gross per month, depending on the tariff area and professional qualifications.

According to the collective bargaining register of North Rhine-Westphalia, drivers in the forwarding, logistics and transport industry earn €13.54 an hour, so with a 40-hour week they get a monthly wage of about €2,166.

The question is whether the pay is enough to combat the shortage.

But there is another big factor – working conditions “are not the best,” said Bulheller.

Truck drivers are often on the road for days at a time apart from their families.

The question is whether the pay is enough to combat the shortage.

Regardless, petrol station representative Ziegner says Germany needs to take action.

“Something has to be done about the driver shortage. But what needs to be done, I can’t tell you,” he said.

The BGL association published a five-point plan. In it, it calls on the new federal government to stipulate certain measures in a coalition agreement. The profession should be classified as system-relevant, and improved trucks that are more comfortable for drivers should be approved.

Other demands include improved recognition of qualifications from abroad.

More than 20 percent of truck drivers in Germany are now people from abroad, the BGL says.

READ ALSO: Germany needs ‘400,000 immigrants a year to fill jobs’

“If we didn’t have foreign truck drivers, we would already have a big problem,” said Bullheller. 

Bullheller also sees the consumer behaviour of Germans as a reason why the driver shortage will continue to worsen: more people are ordering goods online which have to be delivered – but there are a decreasing amount of delivery drivers.

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How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

Lots of foreigners in Germany hope to get a job or climb the career ladder. But are there still opportunities for English speakers who don't have fluent German? We spoke to a careers expert to find out.

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The pandemic turned our lives upside down. As well as having to isolate and be apart from family members, many people found themselves in need of a new job or decided they want a change in career. 

If you’re in Germany or thinking of moving here, job searching is of course easier with German language skills. But many people haven’t had the chance to learn German – or their German isn’t fluent enough to work in a German-only environment.

So how easy is it to find a job in Germany as an English speaker?

We asked Düsseldorf-based career coach Chris Pyak, managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH, who said he’s seen an increase in job offers. 

“The surprising thing about this pandemic is that demand for skilled labour actually got even stronger,” Pyak told The Local.

“Instead of companies being careful, they’ve hired even more than they did before. And the one thing that happened during the pandemic that didn’t happen in the last 10 years I’ve observed the job market was that the number of English offers quadrupled.”

READ ALSO: How to boost your career chances in Germany

Pyak said usually about one percent of German companies hire new starts in English. “Now it’s about four percent,” said Pyak. 

“This happened in the second half of 2021. This is a really positive development that companies are more willing than they used to be. That said it’s still only four percent.”

Pyak said he’s seen a spike in demand for data scientists and analysts as well as project managers. 

So there are some jobs available, but can foreigners do anything else?

Pyak advises non-Germans to sell themselves in a different way than they may be used to. 

A woman works on her CV in Germany.

A woman works on her CV in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

“In your home country you have a network, you have a company you used to work for that people know,” said Pyak. “This might be partly the case in Germany if you worked for an international company. But for most employers you are a blank sheet of paper, they know nothing about you. So unfortunately if they don’t know you or your country, they will assume you are worse (at the job) than Germans. It’s completely unjustified but it’s just how people are. 

“Get the employer to see you as the individual person you are, the professional you are. This requires that you have a conversation with somebody inside the company, ideally the decision maker, meaning the hiring manager or someone in this team.”

Pyak said it’s important to go into details. 

“Don’t think of me as a foreigner, think of me as ‘Mark who has been working in IT for 15 years’,” said Pyak. “Don’t read the job advert (to the manager), ask them what his or her biggest worry is and why is that important? And then dig deeper and offer solutions based on your work experience. Share actual examples where you proved that you can solve this problem.”

READ ALSO: 7 factors that can affect how much you’re getting paid

Pyak says foreigners in Germany can convince managers that they are right for the job – even if their German isn’t great. 

“What I advise clients at the beginning of the interview is to ask very politely if you can ask them (managers) a question. And this question should be: how will you know that I’m successful in this job, what is the most important problem I need to solve for you in order to make myself valuable? And then ask why this problem is so important. And the answer to that achieves a million things for you – first of all you’ve established a measurement by which you should be measured. 

“Then when you get into detailed discussion you can always tie your answer back to the question you can solve, which usually makes up 70 or 80 percent of the job. If you can solve this problem then what does it matter if you do the job in German or English?”

So in answer to our original question – it seems that getting an English-speaking job in Germany can’t be described as easy but it is very possible especially if you have the skills in your chosen field. Plus there are ways to increase your chances. Good luck!