In recent months, the chemical logistics industry has been confronted with a shortage of truck drivers. This shortage can also be observed within the diisocyanates industry. The origin of this shortage can be explained by different factors. A structural factor relates to the increasing age average of drivers. According to the European Chemical Transport Association (ECTA), “young truck drivers are no longer attracted to the chemical driver job with its special requirements and obligations. Every year more drivers retire than new drivers join.”

In August 2020, Cefic and ECTA launched a new best practice guideline with practical recommendations on how to address these driver shortage issues. In addition to the difficulties and the consequences of the situation in Ukraine, it becomes even more important to act upon these recommendations.

ISOPA, the European Diisocyanates and Polyols Producers Association, observes that the chemical loading and unloading processes for road transport face difficulties. According to ECTA, “about 30% of the chemical shipments exceed a residence time of 3 hours, whereby the residence time is defined as the time difference between truck arrival and truck departure at a specific (un)loading place and includes the time before gate arrival.” This has important consequences for truck drivers who are facing uncertain and longer waiting times at the loading/unloading sites, which becomes a factor for drivers to quit their jobs. Actions must be taken to tackle an issue that is worsening daily, and which has an impact on the drivers’ productivity and more globally on safety, health and the environment.

One only has to think back to what happened in 2021 during Brexit when a lack of drivers disrupted the entire supply chain of certain goods and had dramatic effects on the delivery of products to supermarkets.

In a recent position paper, ECTA shed light on the issues surrounding the overall process: “The “over-optimization” at loading and unloading sites over the past years has happened at the expense of increased driver flexibility. This one-sided process optimization approach is no longer sustainable when it comes to truck drivers’ productivity and job attractiveness. Assuming we can eliminate the current lost driver time, we can retain chemical truck drivers more easily and increase the capacity of chemical drivers by 10%. We should also realize that the chemical driver shortage is worsened by the heavy demands on the labor market. Such driver demands like e-commerce drivers have less strict requirements and do offer a better work-life balance.”

To tackle the issue of driver shortage and improve the loading and unloading processes, ISOPA shares the views of ECTA on the following recommendations:

- Adapt site inventory level requirements  
- Revise opening hours at loading/unloading sites  
- Take responsibility for the outsourcing of site operations  
- Create slot booking flexibility  
- Handle drivers with more respect  
- Support initiatives for digital gate registration  

ISOPA is committed to the continuous increase of standards in the loading, transport, unloading and storage of diisocyanates and polyols. We aim to assure maximum protection of health and safety and a consistent industry-wide approach.