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Looking Ahead At The Year In Logistics With Mike Smith

With 2021 in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to look ahead at what 2022 has in store for the logistics sector. It’s safe to say the past couple of years have had their fair share of peaks and troughs, landing many industries in limbo. Logistics has been no exception, as we react to ever-changing rules and regulations.

Speedy Freight know these challenges better than most, having traversed this period of uncertainty while supporting everything from testing kit deliveries to same day retail collections. As 2022 revs into life, we’re geared up for another full throttle year.

Mike Smith, Speedy Freights Managing Director, took some time to ponder which innovations and trends will dominate the 2022 logistics landscape. Here, we take a magnifying glass to the logistics sector and paint a picture of what we can expect to see in 2022.

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Brexit 2.0

It doesn’t seem to go away, does it? The full ramifications of Brexit aren’t entirely clear as yet; we only have a year under our belts working with the new regulations. With further procedures relating to imports and exports coming into force from the beginning of this month, we will see further changes to paperwork, customer and driver responsibility.

Our import and export team have worked tirelessly to get clients old and new prepared. We’ve certainly done our best to drum the message home to our teams and clients, but there does appear to have been a distinct lack of coverage, particularly when compared to last year. That’s why the importance of dedicated freight forwarders, like those on our team, can’t be overstated when it comes to preventing mishaps at border control.

The disruption to the supply chain associated with previous regulatory changes is bound to bring some unease. What we don’t want to see is bottlenecks at ports and real detrimental disruption to movement of goods. While the beginning of 2021 has seen compulsory customs declarations on goods moved between the UK and the EU, full border controls are slated to be in place by July 2022. As logistics providers, we will continue to work with clients and ensure that, from our side, everything is done correctly.

Temporary relaxation of cabotage rules came at a welcome time for the industry, amidst a shortage of HGV drivers. These are currently in play, of course, and will be until 30th April 2022. While necessary, they do illuminate a wider need for a recruitment, and training, push for UK native drivers. The measures being in place temporarily is certainly a positive as they provide a buffer for addressing the number of UK native drivers we have on the road without further supply chain disruption.

The estimated shortfall of 100,000 HGV drivers certainly made headlines, but now we have a chance to adapt to the new rules that must live with moving forward. There’s positive noise coming from the transport secretary with regards to bolstering the supply chain and creating a high-pay high-skill infrastructure. Once the cabotage restrictions come back into place, we’ll find out how fruitful this drive has been and where the industry stands moving forwards, particularly as we prepare for 2022’s peak.

The Sustainability Issue

Another major topic that’s likely to dominate much of the landscape of 2022, and rightly so, is how do we make logistics greener and more sustainable. It’s one of those discussions that provokes some pretty strong views, on both sides of the fence. For me, there’s no real black and white solution at present. As logistics providers, we can do our bit when it comes to cutting down journey times, producing less waste etc. But with Cop26 just behind us, this year is the perfect time to really demand some industry-wide change, from top to bottom.

Electric vehicles have been heralded as a potential answer to these issues, and we need to monitor progress on the effectiveness of these vehicles this year. There’s 28,508 public charging points in the UK at time of writing, with 4,551 being rapid chargers. The average electric vehicle travels around 194 miles per charge, and much less if fully loaded. At a glance, electricity doesn’t tally up to efficient logistics in its current iteration.

This year, we need to issue a call to arms for those with influence in the industry to lobby government and vehicle manufacturers to speed up the process of getting electric vans and lorries road ready. We need to push for longer mileage and increased charging points up and down the country. Similarly, there’s no queuing infrastructure in place for electric charging at present, meaning public charging points are currently not fit for industrial demands in comparison with fuel-filling stations. If these vehicles are truly the answer, then let’s have a sensible discussion around timeframes for realistic integrations into fleets.

Greater transparency and understanding of the future of fuelling is needed as well if we, as an industry, are to adapt. For instance, are we better off focusing on hydrogen fuelled trucks or electric? Do both actually reduce carbon emissions, or simply push them upstream, and can they keep vehicles on the road for as long as current fuel sources? Our average journey expectation is over 250 miles in a day which is just not achievable on an electric vehicle at present.

It’s all well and good making grand promises of greener fuel, but until they match up with the daily nationwide logistical demands they won’t be fit for purpose. Again, these are points those at the forefront of logistics need to be pushing if we are to see substantial change made this year.

What I can’t stress enough, however, is that we are committed to doing our bit and trying to incrementally scale back our carbon footprint. From installing electric vehicle charging points at our Support Centre to responsibly disposing of waste, we’re making changes to everyday practice. Moreover, I’d suggest that there’s far too many vehicles on the road which don’t run optimally. Our business model is centred around vehicles not running return legs empty, we always optimise our trips which, in itself, reduces emissions. As such, our staff are trained to recommend load efficiency and run smaller vehicles where we can. While good practice, these are, of course baby steps.

It’s also encouraging to see clean air zones come into place, but there needs to much more robust planning in place. The recent instance of Manchester’s green zone encroaching into the Peak District only serves to highlight this issue. More transparency over the investment into green programs is undoubtedly needed. Where’s the money going? Where’s the demonstrable benefit of these schemes? There’s still a way to go.

Carbon offsetting remains an option, but it’s another where we need greater transparency over its actual benefits. We should have no interest in initiatives unless they have tangible advantages. In 2022 I believe it’s time to get serious around pushing for advancements that can realistically allow the industry to go greener.

Greater Need For Warehousing

As news outlets were keen to point out this year, the supply chain has been stretched. While the extent of the pressure was, arguably, exaggerated, it’ll be interesting to see how industries respond. Particularly in the retail sector, I anticipate a significant increase in demand for temporary warehousing facilities. In fact, I foresee something of a fight for space, with smaller, localised fulfilment centres becoming hot commodities.

What warehousing offers is breathing space. We’ve partnered with some warehousing clients of our own in the past year or so, and look forward to expanding this service further into 2022. It’s more than simply a space to keep your stock, rather a comprehensive service including picking, packing, distribution, and full optimisation of delivery all the way to your end customer. In the current climate, it can also be somewhat daunting to purchase permanent distribution centres when certain industries can be halted at the snap of a finger. I see temporary warehousing solutions as one of the biggest opportunities for growth this year.

Warehousing allows smaller retailers to reel in the big fish of the industry and with an explosion of facilities dotted around the country, it’s become a viable option for SME’s and those just finding their feet. It’s no secret that the modern day consumer has a need for speed which bedroom operations struggle to satisfy. A shift in buying habits further illuminates the importance of a speedy service. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 71% of UK consumers are buying more goods online than before and I’d be fairly certain the majority of those consumers are looking for, as a minimum, next day delivery. Warehousing offers quick and easy storage and distribution solutions which I expect an increased number of retailers to turn to this year.

 

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In a nutshell, 2022 is going to be as exciting, challenging, and busy as ever. Thankfully for us, for many of the reasons outlined previously, I do foresee even more demand for same day delivery. It’s our bread and butter, and a service we offer nationwide on a daily basis. I have no doubt, however, that we will continue to set ourselves apart as a comprehensive end-to-end logistics provider. I, for one, am looking forward to once again working towards growth, expanding our client base, and providing an ever-growing roster of specialist services. Here’s to another successful year.

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