Challenges for the year ahead

The logistics sector is the essential element in delivering the goods and services on which the entire economy relies. Steve Agg views a vision of 2013


DRIVERS: EU regulations require all HGV drivers to complete 35 hours of training every five years. HGV drivers, along with bus drivers, are among only a very few groups of workers required to undertake compulsory continuing professional development in order to retain their “licence to practice” and the first five-year cycle of this requirement will be completed in September 2014. Known as the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence, this compulsory training is designed to ensure that these professional drivers continue to operate safely and efficiently.

INFRASTRUCTURE: The logistics sector’s long-held call for increased infrastructure investment continues as we strive to generate economic growth. Recent announcements for both rail and road projects are welcome, and will certainly help to improve supply-chain efficiency, albeit in the relatively long term. Additional inter-modal freight terminal capacity is essential if more freight traffic is to be moved using rail, especially with the building of HS2 enabling more capacity for freight on the existing rail infrastructure.

The changing face of retail sales presents challenges and opportunities for supply-chain operations

OLYMPIC LEGACY: Commissioner of Transport for London Sir Peter Hendy described freight as “the dog that did not bark” following its gold-medal performance during the London Olympics. Despite the many challenges, including road closures, traffic restrictions and diversions, the industry continued to meet delivery and collection obligations throughout the Games – pubs continued to receive beer, shops had food, banks had money and shortages did not feature. Much was learnt from the once-in-a-lifetime experience and we need to ensure that we take full advantage of the knowledge that has been gained. It was proven, for example, that efficient and quiet, resident-friendly night deliveries can be made consistently if we use the right technology, have the co-operation of everyone involved and the will to make it happen. Wider adoption of this working practice offers benefits for everyone in terms of reduced congestion, better air quality and improved delivery efficiency.

RETAILING: The changing face of retail sales presents challenges and opportunities for supply-chain operations. In recent years the high street has shrunk, shopping habits have changed and the number of home and office, drop-point deliveries continues to rise. Christmas 2012 saw record increases in home deliveries followed by record levels of new orders during the holiday period itself. Astronomical numbers of tablet devices, for example, were received as gifts on Christmas Day, which enabled the lucky recipients to try them out by immediately shopping online.

CARBON EMISSIONS: The movement of goods and services throughout the supply chain requires large amounts of energy which in turn generates significant carbon emissions. However, the sector has been quick to adopt carbon-reduction policies as greener operations invariably lead to improved bottom-line performance: going green reduces costs. IT and telematics have also made major contributions to improved operational efficiency in areas such as routing, scheduling, levels of vehicle utilisation, inventory management and improved customer service.

Steve Agg is chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), the UK’s pre-eminent professional body for individuals associated with logistics, supply chains and transport throughout their careers. Its 18,000 members are engaged in freight and passenger transport operations by road, rail, sea and air.