Logistics needs to be driven into the 21st century

What a healthy supply chain needs to remain consistent for the consumer

Earlier this month, a panel of supply chain experts from across the UK examined and debated how the shipping industry could come together to solve the logistics crisis, during an event sponsored by Peel Ports in Liverpool.

Almost 100 guests from shipping lines, cargo owners and freight forwarders attended the Lloyd’s List Panel event in Liverpool’s iconic Liver Building in early October. A panel of experts from across the UK’s supply chain were asked “can the shipping industry save the UK logistics crisis?” with two sides arguing for and against the motion in an Oxford Debating forum

Arguing that the UK’s core infrastructure needed to be fixed before the shipping industry could make any sustained impact was Paul Miller of MSB Supply Chain and formerly Head of Logistics for Shop Direct.

With the logistics industry becoming increasingly multimodal, pulling in various modes of transport to complement traditional road haulage, we’ve undeniably seen greater increases in efficiency. Using sea, rail and canal are great ways to move goods closer to their final destinations, and are for the most part, more sustainable than transporting goods by road.

However, road haulage will always play a massive role in the broader supply chain, which is why the roads we use to move our goods must be up to scratch if we’re expected to continue making the industry smarter and more efficient.

The bottom line is that our roads infrastructure need around £12 billion of spending to bring them up to standard. This dwarfs the UK Government’s £6 billion spending commitment up until 2021, budgeted to fix our major arterial motorways and roads. And it’s not just our road infrastructure, many of the Victorian and in some cases earlier designed rail networks which connect our ports, cities and towns are simply not up to the standard required for modern multimodal freight operations. The World Economic Forum report (Infrastructure) for 2017/2018 ranks the UK as 27th in the world, behind countries such as Azerbaijan and Estonia and 8th in terms of efficiency.

With the UK’s fuel prices being the third most expensive in Europe, we’re also not feeling any flusher when it comes to using our roads to transport goods. We have some of the most efficient refineries in the world producing a litre of fuel at around £0.32p yet some of the most expensive pump prices, only the Netherlands and Italy in Europe are more expensive than the UK. We can’t deny that work isn’t being done to fix the infrastructure problem. New link and trunk roads across the country are indicative of creeping change, but it simply isn’t happening fast enough. With Brexit looming, broader investment is needed to maintain the UK as a major player when it comes to importing and exporting to the rest of the world. With the right infrastructure in place, the entire supply chain will become more efficient in turn helping to attract more global customers and shipping lines to keep our industry ticking.

The panel debate hosted by Peel Ports and Lloyd's List made it clear how different our immediate priorities are for solving the logistics problem in the UK, but it also showed us how similar the entire supply chain is when it comes to driving for more efficiency. It’s my belief that road haulage has a major role to play in the future success of our industry, and that significant investment must happen from Government to support it.

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