2020 was a challenging year for obvious reasons. Our excellent team pulled us through the first pandemic in living memory, helping to keep vital supply chains running as smoothly as possible. Back in December 2020 we wouldn’t have believed you if you’d said that 2021 was going to present an even more challenging working environment – but here we are today!
Well we all knew Brexit was coming, but we didn’t know the details of the deal / no-deal until we were right down to the line!
Still, we had been busy preparing for ISPM 15 regulations for the past 12 months as well as preparing our customers. The challenge of heat treating a vastly increased quantity of pallets was only matched by the frustration of having to heat treat pallets that hadn’t needed treatment just days before. And doing all this in the midst of a pandemic too.
Thankfully there was a short grace-period to help us all adapt, which turned out to be especially important when considering trade between Britain, Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Today we’ve adapted and worked through this challenge together. But Brexit had more in-store for us later in the year, something we – as a country – had less foresight on. But we’ll come to that later.
Brexit had a hand in this too… But timber availability, and as a result timber prices, have been hugely impactful throughout 2021.
We have been battling rising timber prices since 2018, but a pandemic and Brexit red tape sent prices skyrocketing – not just in the UK, but worldwide. Increased competition from Europe who could pay more against a weak Pound meant that getting the timber into the country was an arduous and expensive task alone.
We have been extremely low on stock of all pallet types throughout 2021. Thanks to the efforts of our brilliant team we have kept pallets ticking over for our customers. And for this we also need to thank our customers who really stepped up with increased communications and pallet returns.
HGV Driver Shortage
Many blamed the HGV driver shortage on Brexit and Brexit alone, however that’s far from the full story. The perfect storm of Brexit, Brexit red tape, foreign drivers choosing to be closer to home during a pandemic, low salaries, HMCR legislative changes, and continually poor working conditions have driven (no pun intended) our HGV drivers away.
The driver shortage placed immense pressure on our logistics network at a time when we’d all been under pandemic pressure for 12+ months. Covid contact meant that we frequently had drivers isolating or actually testing positive for Covid, adding to the pressure of the drivers remaining in circulation.
It’s a credit to the country’s HGV drivers who took on more, who came back into the driving profession and who committed to becoming a fully licensed driver during this chaotic period.
Closely related to the HGV driver shortage, the end of the summer brought us a fuel crisis – crisis rather than shortage. Data would reveal there were plenty of occasions in the recent past when fuel supply had dipped lower than September 2021, but media hype and panic buying + the kindling that was the HGV driver shortage created a toxic situation, and fast!
The driver shortage meant that while plenty of fuel was arriving into UK ports, it was more challenging to get that fuel to panic-stripped fuelling stations around the UK. Again, meaning the pressure was on our HGV drivers who were either working longer hours to try and deliver fuel, or struggling to find the fuel to complete their own work.
The fuel crisis goes to show us exactly how much we rely on a well maintained and cared for logistics network.
And Now Omicron?
As we head towards the New Year there is a new threat looming; Omicron. The new covid variant which is more than twice as transmissible.
This will surely amplify our recent struggles to keep the country moving, and we can only hope that the Omicron wave will pass quickly, and mildly, through our population and our industry.
We still have hope that better days are ahead of us, but for now we would like to urge our customers to remain in close contact with our office team on your requirements.
What we have achieved, as a collective industry, in 2021 is nothing short of remarkable. This is without a doubt the most challenging year that logistics has seen in living memory, akin to operating through wartime.
Logistics workers, you have kept the country going when struggle after struggle was stacked upon your shoulders, you have truly achieved amazing things this year and we hope you all look back on 2021 with pride.
Our customers and suppliers deserve our heartfelt thanks for their patience, understanding, communications, generosity and loyalty. Thank you.
Our team of yard workers, driver and office staff; you have worked through the worst and it has brought out the best in us all. Thank you.
Here’s to 2022 and better days ahead.