Logistics News

UK Market Update: Road haulage news and what you can do to protect your cargo

Different factors have led to a shortage of over 100,000 haulage drivers in the UK – resulting in a capacity crunch that has left many businesses short of stock. We update you on the latest situation.

Anna-Sophia Metzel, Curtis Doyle, 06 September 2021

Over the course of this year, the shortage of road haulage drivers in the UK has caused an ongoing challenge to the logistics sector – but in the last few weeks, a series of factors have come together at once to tip the situation over into a crisis that is being felt across all areas of the supply chain.

Few businesses have been able to avoid the impacts – with major brands like McDonald’s, BP and Haribo experiencing shortages and a Bank of England report for the period between April and June stating that transportation delays ‘had resulted in shortages of some items, such as furniture, car parts and electrical goods.

We know that for small businesses the impact is even greater, with cargo deliveries often representing major portions of stock and inventory.

What is causing the UK haulage challenges?

Road haulage is a crucial part of the logistics supply chain – often representing the first and last steps of your cargo’s journey, from warehouses to ports and vice versa. The disruption being experienced right now is causing a capacity crunch in these services and there are a number of factors contributing to it:

  • Brexit Amongst the most impactful factors has been the UK’s exit from the EU (or Brexit as it is popularly known) which has seen a number of drivers leave the UK due to uncertainty and changing regulations. This is reflected in the fact that even pre-pandemic, the UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA) had predicted a shortage of 60,000 drivers.

  • Covid – The impacts of Brexit have been compounded by the unforeseen impacts of Covid. During the pandemic, when lockdowns came into force, some drivers returned to the EU. On top of this, the pause of haulage driving tests during lockdowns has seen a 60% decrease in successful license applications; meaning there is now a backlog to be overcome.

While Brexit and Covid are the main causes for the current haulage situation, other direct and indirect factors are causing issues. For example, the average age of haulage (HGV) drivers is 55 and less than 1% are under 25. As drivers retire, not enough young drivers are being found to take their place. There have also been tax changes which have made working or being employed in the UK more expensive for drivers from Europe.

What are the current road haulage news in the UK?

The worsening crisis as a result of the above factors, unfortunately, means you may be experiencing not only less capacity but higher costs for what capacity is available when booking cargo shipments. This is because there are fewer drivers available in the market and driver wages have increased by around 15%.

All of this means that hauliers are increasing rates anywhere between 2% and 15% in places, depending on the work set and region. The UK government has been stirred into taking action to try and alleviate these pressures – including increasing the number of new HGV licenses processed a week from 1,500 to 2,000; promising greater support for driver training schemes and allowing a temporary extension to driving hours.

How we’re working to keep your cargo moving

While the actions of the UK government and independent hauliers will hopefully begin to improve the situation, certainly in the long term; in the short term, you can expect increases to standard tariffs as the UK peak season approaches.

Amidst all of this we are working hard on your behalf, supercharged by Maersk, to mitigate the impacts of any capacity issues on your cargo – and here’s how:

Maersk UK’s network is built around multimodal solutions and inland hubs – and as part of this, we’re working to position goods as close as possible to their final destination, ensuring that the scarce resources currently available are used smartly and effectively. We have access to a variety of haulage partners – from major nationwide companies to local small operators – which means more options to move your cargo. At Twill, we offer a wide range of logistics solutions, from multimodal transportation to customs and financial services. We ship your cargo from door to door or warehouse to warehouse. Discover our end-to-end services now and get to know our Inland Transportation and Ocean Freight services today.

What you can do today to protect your business from the haulage shortage

As always, at Twill we’re here to help you. Sam Pruden, Twill Area Lead of the UK, outlines the most important things you can do now:

“While a strain on capacity and increase in costs is sadly inevitable given the severity of the current situation, we’re working hard to mitigate them and there are steps you can take to ensure the impacts are not devastating for your business. The most important is understanding your own haulage requirements in the weeks and months ahead and planning in advance; doing this will give you the best platform to keep your cargo flowing and avoid delays before they happen.”

Sam Pruden, Twill Area Lead of the UK

While we keep working to ensure your cargo moves as smoothly as possible, there are some steps that you can take to strengthen your business:

  • Plan ahead – By understanding your haulage needs, planning ahead and booking early you can not only get a better cost, but also give yourself the most time to spot and avoid delays before they happen. Supply chain forecasting might help you better to plan ahead.

  • Be flexible – Being flexible right now is a huge asset in getting your cargo moving. If you’re able to open up wider booking windows, this will help get your cargo to its destination.

  • Talk to suppliers – This is a good idea at any time, but right now in particular if you can keep good lines of communication with your suppliers, you’ll ensure that everyone is fulfilling their roles within your cargo’s journey.

To stay updated on the current situation in logistics, check the latest news on our knowledge hub.

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