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Logistics Report 2021 captures the trends shaping the sector

The 2021 edition of Logistics Report, Logistics UK’s annual review of the events and trends shaping logistics, will be published tomorrow (21 May 2021).

Focusing on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as changes to the UK’s trading relationship with the EU, the report promises to offer a look ahead to developments in the coming months.

To launch the report, Logistics UK will be holding an hour-long webinar, which will be hosted by the business group’s Chief Executive David Wells and Director of Policy Elizabeth de Jong. Members attending the webinar will be invited to put questions to the specialist policy panel.

The report is divided into seven main sections: the logistics sector; competitiveness; international trade; connectivity; labour and skills; sustainability; and safety and innovation.


The UK’s logistics sector forms a tenth of the UK’s non-financial business economy, making it vital to the country’s financial success. The industry has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic well, with the proportion of businesses in the transport and storage sector with cash reserves of more than six months rising after April 2020 before stabilising. While the number of goods vehicle operator licences and new HGV and van registrations declined during 2020, the vaccination rollout and further clarity over Brexit is expected to have a positive impact on businesses.


For every metric in the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Competitiveness Report, the UK ranked in the top 15 countries. While costs rose for all transport modes, the drop in fuel prices potentially offset some of these rises. Looking ahead, the UK’s future competitiveness may depend to a large degree on its ability to adapt to a new regulatory regime following its exit from the EU and the extent to which it deploys emerging policy and regulatory reforms in the wake of the pandemic.


COVID-19 and the uncertainty around the end of the EU Exit transition period combined to disrupt imports into and exports from the UK’s economy in the year under review. Adapting to changes in moving or trading goods after the EU Exit transition period and introduction of the NI Protocol created a difficult beginning to 2021.


While freight operations have undoubtedly been affected by lockdown restrictions, the sector’s ability to adapt led to rail, road and cargo-flight-specific air freight recovering to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2020. The reliability of road and rail increased, although air freight has taken longer to recover and rates remain high owing to limited passenger flights.


COVID-19 dramatically affected working practices over the past year, with furloughing and redundancies impacting every sector. The industry’s ‘key worker’ status and increased demand for online deliveries, however, meant that many businesses were able to continue. Just under half (46%) of respondents to Logistics UK’s Industry Survey indicated that they had increased the gross pay of their staff.


Although undoubtedly disrupted by COVID-19, the logistics sector’s journey towards net zero emissions is picking up again with the introduction of low-emission schemes and developments in sustainable technology. The rise of online retail had a positive effect on warehouse take-up and home deliveries, while lockdown restrictions improved journey times for freight as private vehicles stayed off the road.


Lockdown restrictions have impacted both vehicle and driver testing over the last year. Data indicates that industry compliance may have improved overall, however, and there were fewer fatal accidents involving a commercial vehicle. Developments in technology are expected to lead to a rise in sustainability benefits across all modes.

Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy at Logistics UK, said: “The past year has been one unlike any other,” said, “yet this landmark report shows that the logistics sector has risen to the challenge and delivered despite the most challenging of circumstances. The sector’s resilience and ability to adapt, for which it has long been famed, has helped it weather the perfect storm of the COVID-19 pandemic and the UK’s exit from the EU. I look forward to taking members through the key findings of this important report.”

Logistics UK members can book their place on tomorrow's Logistics Report launch webinar here.


Published On: 20/05/2021 17:00:32


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