What is the situation?
For many years, going into decades, the UK has faced a problem with the amount of UK drivers available to operate haulage trucks. The situation has always remained under relative control with the availability of support offered by EU Drivers being on hand to plug in the gaps. A crisis, however, is fast approaching due to a myriad of factors that are revealing what a fragile position the UK is actually in.
- Brexit, a word we are sure we all wish to be done with, is still cascading problems into various sectors, and UK haulage is no exception. When the UK left the EU, it basically cut off EU recruitment, and with it ended a steady stream of EU drivers.
- The sector is failing to attract “new” blood within the UK, down to the job having a reputation of providing long, unsociable hours in tough working conditions for pay that is being perceived as not quite matching what is being asked of the drivers.
- COVID-19 has added its own complications, with the sector seeing a huge backlog of HGV driver tests that were all cancelled. That means that potentially thousands of would-be drivers are not available.
- IR35, a legislation brought in to close a tax loophole, put upon many self-employed drivers an effective pay cut. This has made the prospect of being a truck driver in the UK even less attractive, for both UK and EU drivers alike, and has encouraged EU drivers that may have stayed post-Brexit to leave the UK.
What does this mean, what should we expect and what can we do?
The unfortunate, inescapable truth is that this will, and already is causing issues with the availability of road freight. Until a remedy is implemented, one that requires government intervention, the situation is unlikely to get any better.
With drivers being in short supply, and with it the availability of trucks to transport goods, we would expect to see a rise in cost for road freight.
We are also starting to see hauliers and shipping lines introduce various rules and practices to give themselves some understandable breathing space. For example, it is not uncommon to see a 90-minute acceptance window for deliveries, that if a delivery is running late, but within a 90-minute window, there will be a clause that stipulates you must accept the delivery or incur a wasted haulage charge. It is not desirable, but it is a regrettable T&C becoming more common if you wish to secure a booking in the first place.
Common day to day complications and difficulties we are seeing include
- Serious delays at the ports and inland rail terminals, with Liverpool, Southampton, Felixstowe, and London Gateway being particularly affected.
- Slow working of vessels, where your container does not discharge from the vessel when expected and begins a domino effect that leads to it missing its rail slot or being unable to be collected by the haulier in time.
So what can you do? First and foremost, you want to partner up with a reputable Freight Forwarder who understands the sector and has experience in dealing with Freight “complications” – it is our bread and butter after all. Banks & Lloyd, a long-standing forwarder that has been providing world class service for well over 40 years, is a better place than any to start – in fact if you want to stop reading and start talking, then do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our team by using the below link.
Once you have a freight forwarder on hand, the next thing you will want to do is to prepare to operate with as much flexibility as possible. We all want everything to go exactly as planned, however in a situation where vehicles to transport your goods are in very short supply and very high demand, being flexible will lead to the least amount of disappointment. Even when you have your delivery booked and covered by a driver, day to day complications may arise (this, regrettably, should be expected as something you will inevitably come across at some point, particularly if you regularly ship goods) that lead to late arrivals or a change in date. If your delivery does turn up, albeit later than scheduled, it would be much better to accept the delivery than to turn it away, as turning it away may mean you find yourself in a position of struggling to rebook the delivery and may cause you further delays to receiving your goods. If, however, you have a Forwarder like Banks & Lloyd at your side, these complications are resolved quickly, and we do everything to make sure your freight is straight back on track.
If you have any questions regarding the above, or if you want to start speaking to someone who can help reduce those freight related headaches, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our team.
Like to discuss anything you’ve seen above? Or anything else freight related? then get in touch!