In order to provide an efficient, customer-centric logistics service, you need to be able get from ‘A’ to ‘B’. |
Unfortunately, in 21st century UK, that is becoming increasingly more difficult to do – at least without serious delays.
The Latest Statistics
Incredibly, road congestion across the UK is 14% worse than it was five years ago. Yet across Europe as a whole, it went DOWN 3% over the same period of time.
So what’s happening?
The growth of UK congestion in and around the big cities is attributable to a number of factors. These aren’t necessarily disputed, but their individual percentage contribution is often highly controversial and sometimes politicised.
Even so, people would probably argue that the increase in congestion is due to:
• Decades of under-investment in our transport infrastructures. • The frequent absence of any viable alternative to cars for getting to work or taking children to school. • A rapidly rising population. • A relatively energetic economy. • The reluctance of many employers to allow work from home or very flexible hours. This has led to not just the perpetration of the ‘rush hour’, but actually an increase. • The same as above, but with an emphasis on commercial activities and factors such as out-of-hours deliveries.
For all these reasons, the UK’s roads continue to be jammed - and that’s bad news for any logistics service.
What Are the Options?
None of these problems are new.
The same challenges existed 40 years ago and, unfortunately, little of substance has been done since then.
In terms of private road usage, there are indications that the major obstacle to home working today is no longer technology but actually ‘custom and practice’ in organisations. There is little point in having the technology to permit people to work from home or work more flexible hours to help reduce traffic volumes if there are still bosses out there who think that an employee who is not visible at their desk is by definition ‘not pulling their weight’.
Commercially, hauliers and logistics service providers may need to cooperate more. Studies have shown that many commercial vehicles on the road at any given time are only part loaded and some are virtually empty - even outbound. More joint ‘groupage’ and other shared vehicle arrangements may be required and perhaps eventually even made mandatory.
If commercial operators can share vehicles, then so can private motorists. Car sharing schemes are popular and successful in some countries, but in the UK their promotion has lacked vitality. That may need to change.
A Return to Public Transport
Underpinning all these things is a return to sensible and widespread subsidised public transport.
As many towns and villages remain entirely without such (affordable) transport, we can be sure that millions of entirely unnecessary car journeys are being made. Some form of widespread public transport network would be welcomed by many - and result in a huge reduction in cars on the road.
Finally, we may need to think carefully about school hours and an investment in widespread school bus systems. In the major cities, a terrifying percentage of cars on the road at peak times are on ‘the school run’. That must be replaceable with a more sensible and environmentally-friendly alternative.
Unfortunately, despite being very viable solutions to the congestion problem, none of these are likely aid hard-pressed logistics service companies in the immediate future.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides a logistics service for matching delivery work with available vehicles. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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