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Working for our members – the Logistics Report

By Sarah Watkins, Deputy Director - Policy Information, Logistics UK

Last week we launched The Logistics Report 2024, which is our annual assessment of the trends that have shaped the sector over the past year. The report covers a mixture of the findings from this year’s Logistics Industry Survey, which is a collection of responses from over 500 members on a series of questions ranging from trading conditions and how businesses are faring, to what they think about the key questions and challenges that face the sector.

The survey asks about experiences over the past year for all modes of transport, covering global trade, use of shipping and aviation, as well as domestic rail and road. As well as reflecting on the past year, the survey also looks forward and asks questions about the coming year, for example, expectations around freight rates and activity levels.

 Questions also focus on respondents’ hopes about actions that government will take and that’s particularly relevant this year with the general election approaching. For example, this year’s top suggestions for government were to reduce fuel duty, reduce bureaucracy and improve infrastructure, regulations and support services.

Overall, these topics paint a picture of how the industry is performing, so it’s extremely valuable for us to monitor these trends over the years. We have been producing the report since 2010, so we have been asking these questions in one form or another for 15 years, meaning we have an unparalleled insight into how the sector has fared when experiencing a number of different political and economic landscapes.

Looking back at what the sector has faced since the first report was launched, there have been so many changes, such as multiple changes in government, a pandemic and EU Exit, yet the sector has continued to evolve and has become more resilient, keeping goods on shelves. In addition to data from our survey, the report is shaped by national statistics to allow us to illustrate effectively what is going on across the whole sector.

We represent all of logistics and I’m especially pleased at the breadth and depth this year, as the report takes an ‘all of logistics’ view, covering everything from freight activity data, trading patterns and economic contributions to the UK economy to decarbonisation, skills shortages and connectivity.

To help us complete the report, we work closely with our own, regular advisors and partners who provide bespoke analysis, particularly on subjects like skills and fuels. This year we have also worked with MDS Transmodal which has enabled us to expand our modal coverage and understanding so readers of the report will see a much fuller and truly informative picture of ways in which goods are moved within, and in and out, of the UK.

It's important for us to reflect on the wider picture and reading and writing about the sector and members’ views this year reflect the extent to which we are in unsettled and volatile times. People may believe that the impact of the pandemic is in the past now, but data shows that even last year, companies were still experiencing the aftershocks of it in terms of the realignment of supply chains.

It’s also clear that despite new geopolitical hurdles, industry is striving for greater efficiencies and evermore resilience in its operations. One particular challenge has been the ongoing HGV driver skills shortage. Whilst the peak of the latest shortage may have passed, 2023 was very much about consolidating and putting in measures to deal with the HGV driver skills shortages and establishing a ‘new normal’ in the employment climate.

 As well as skills shortages, other ongoing challenges stem from EU Exit and increased friction at borders. We are seeing some quite significant shifts in the mix of those who are exporting from the UK, with a higher proportion represented by larger businesses than before. The survey results clearly show different expectations in terms of who the UK is trading with and how the nature of trade is changing, given the difficulties in getting trade to happen efficiently.

At a global level, trade was severely disrupted last year, with the attacks in the Red Sea resulting in goods being diverted from the Suez Canal to the Cape of Good Hope, adding at least 10 days to journeys and increasing shipping costs. At the same time, drought has lead to restrictions on maritime trade in the Panama Canal, resulting in reduced crossings and bottlenecks in supply chains.

In addition to these recent challenges, industry is continuing to experience ramifications of the supply chain constraints that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For example, our members are looking to invest in new vehicle technology, but there is evidence that they are still facing constraints in getting the vehicles that they need when they need them, so are facing significantly longer lead times for key products.

Despite industry facing many challenges this past year, a key feature of this year’s report is investment and positively, members’ intention to make greater use of new technology is strong. I think this uplift in logistics businesses investing in new technology links back to how the industry is always aspiring to be more innovative and deliver greater productivity.

It’s important to remember that logistics cuts across every sector. As an industry, we can help the economy and government achieve growth by being even more efficient and resilient. An efficient logistics system enables other sectors to be more productive too, due to gains being passed down supply chains.

One of the key ways to increase productivity is through investment in new technology to enable us to be more resilient in the face of skills shortages and economic shocks, but also to enable us to operate in a way that makes the most of private investment.

The report is full of facts and insights and it’s influential as we know it is read by the key decision makers who want to understand not just where logistics has been but also what the future may hold. I believe it is an absolute ‘must read’ for anyone who is active in the logistics sector. It is a great tool for helping people to upskill as well as calibrate their existing knowledge about the sector.

It's also a great benchmarking tool in terms of comparing what one company might be experiencing versus another, which is always helpful. If members haven’t read it already, I encourage them to take a look at our summary report which can be downloaded from our website. We also sell the full report in our Shop.

We're really grateful to our members for sharing their experiences and recognise the time is takes to complete our surveys. Everything we do is evidence based and a lot of that evidence is provided by our members though these surveys – we wouldn’t be able to produce the report without our members’ engagement.

Those members who completed the survey should have received their own copy of the full logistics report with our thanks. In terms of what’s next, we have ongoing quarterly surveys, with the next one being our Logistics Performance Tracker which we use both to give government and officials up to date insights into how the sector is faring and to inform the many consultations we respond to and policy discussions that we have with government.

Collecting member experiences and being sighted on the biggest concerns and opportunities that industry faces is invaluable in helping us paint that picture of what government’s policies mean for logistics. With the general election coming up next month it’s more important than ever for us to be able to explain and inform and influence policy on our members’ behalf.

Published On: 20/06/2024 14:00:00


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