Much has been said over the past few years about the ongoing driver shortage issue that faces the road transport sector. The issue has been exacerbated by CPC training requirements and an increase in demand during peak periods, like Christmas. On occasion the problem has even made it into the mainstream press, with talk of empty shelves and understocked distribution centres across the country.
However, there have been few tangible solutions put forward to tackle the potential impact on capacity in the UK supply chain within a reasonable time frame, or that don’t require a fundamental change in the perception of the industry by would-be new drivers. Initiatives designed to attract new blood to the sector, even if successful, have not proven to have much impact in the short term. So what are operators expected to do in the meantime to overcome this skills shortfall?
There is certainly no single answer, but improved collaboration within the marketplace has the ability to deliver fast results, by maximising efficiency and utilisation from within the existing fleets of UK road transport operators.
Recent UK Government statistics show that more than 30% of HGV miles are driven without a load, figures that demonstrate a consistent increase over the last decade and a half. In terms of international transport (EU-28 level) the figure is around one-fifth. This suggests that much of the required capacity does exist in the UK, so the challenge is finding an effective means of tapping into this under-utilised resource.
Of course challenges exist and not all empty capacity will be accessible by any means. But companies do have the opportunity to achieve more by having an open mind-set based around collaborative efficiency, as long as they are able to access the necessary mechanisms for sharing information and working together. Freight exchanges have been helping road transport businesses to fill empty vehicles and trailers for a number of years by facilitating a valuable supply of back loads. Recent developments are making interactive co-operation between trusted business partners even more achievable.
Whether through providing access to the general transport marketplace or a more restricted closed user group of known trading partners, a freight exchange platform like Courier Exchange (www.courierexchange.co.uk) can help connect operators to take advantage of back loads and other available resources at any given time in the market. This approach also provides immense scalability to flex activity up and down where required. It encourages users to not just trade together, but act collaboratively by providing the technological, billing and administrative support to develop trusted relationships and share the necessary operational data.
Furthermore, with the ability to integrate with complementary supply chain systems, including vehicle telematics, freight exchanges are increasingly becoming a central hub that connects people, assets and data. By embracing and combining with the latest technology innovations and other essential business and operational tools, it is becoming possible to create trusted networks, boost operational efficiency and increase profitability (through lucrative back loads, for instance) simply by being better connected.
Integrating a freight exchange with vehicle telematics systems provides an effective way of increasing levels of trust, as well as achieving complete confidence that any goods or back loads will be picked up and delivered on-time while meeting expected service levels. By making the live vehicle tracking data viewable directly via the freight trading platform, accurate location and status information of goods in transit can be shared between trading partners and customers in real-time. Meanwhile, it is possible to match precise vehicle locations with already posted back loads, or receive email notifications of new jobs that are suitable based on current or planned positions.
Freight exchanges can offer a highly flexible, responsive and simple to use solution that enables haulage and logistics operators to quickly and effectively share information about back loads, capacity and available work. All of this is making it easier to fill available space, eliminate wasted capacity and maybe just ease some the burden many operators are facing as a result of driver shortages.
There is often a view that the road transport sector is simply not set up to collaborate, but it has been robust enough in the past to adapt to changing market conditions. What is clear is that operators need to find and deploy all of the unused or under-used latent capacity within the market if they are to meet growing demand, so effective collaboration could be the winning ticket.
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