Our industry is facing unprecedented difficulties at this time. In addition to the Timber Crisis, the entire UK logistics network is beginning to crumble under the pressure of the ‘perfect storm’ created by shortages, Brexit red tape, HMRC legislation, and the pandemic.
The Timber Crisis
The Timber Crisis is getting worse, unfortunately. Sawmills are genuinely worrying about running out of timber at this time, and with the annual summer shut-down coming up quickly, this situation is becoming more severe.
And it’s not just the UK feeling the strain, it’s a global issue. Most of the UK’s timber is imported from Europe, where the shortage has already halted construction.
Severe Driver & Trailer Shortages
This week the Road Haulage Association (RHA) publicised some sobering statistics, among them:
- There are 16,000 fewer lorry drivers now than at the start of 2021
- 30,000 HGV driver tests were cancelled in the last year because of the pandemic
- 40 of Britain’s biggest haulage firms have a total of 3,654 vacancies, while small and medium haulage firms have approximately 2,600 vacancies
- 58% of the haulage industry have indicated Brexit is the reason for driver shortages
Another leading reason drivers have left the industry is IR35. IR35 is a piece of legislation that has been around since 2000 and it is designed to tackle disguised remuneration – meaning that some ‘self-employed’ individuals are working more like employees but paying less tax.
In April, IR35 reform was introduced across the private sector. This reform requires the engaging company (in this case the haulage company or agency) to determine if the contractor (in this case a self-employed driver) is caught by IR35. If they are ‘caught’ by IR35, their earnings must be taxed the same as any employee, but they will receive no employment benefits like sick pay, pension contributions, or reimbursement for expenses. The engaging company is liable for the decision, and so many choose to ‘play it safe’ by determining their contractors are working inside IR35.
Since many drivers are contract workers, this means they are financially disadvantaged. And so have chosen to leave the profession as a result.
Fewer drivers and trailers = increased demand. And increased demand = price rises and longer delivery times.
“There is an enormous shortage of HGV drivers that we estimate at between 85,000 and 100,000,” said Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association. “We are weeks away from gaps on the shelves, it is as serious as that,” he added.
The RHA have advised the Government of a 12-point plan to tackle the driver shortage, including special emergency visas for drivers.
The long-anticipated lifting of lockdown restrictions, coupled with a summer of Brits staycation means logistics is more busy than ever. This is an especially stark increase due to a lockdown lag effect where certain logistics sectors had been less in-demand at the start of the year, and the falling numbers of drivers hadn’t been as much of an issue.
Brexit Red Tape
Since the end of the transition period the UK has lost 15,000 lorry drivers, who have returned to mainland Europe. Many of these drivers have been refused re-entry for not having enough evidence of settled status in the UK.
Delays Are Inevitable
Unfortunately, all of these factors are leading to delayed delivery times. As you will know, we aim to provide UK-wide delivery with a very quick turnaround time – it’s something we always pride ourselves on. But we are advising all of our online customers that some next day/pre-10am deliveries might be delayed and our usual 2-5 day deliveries are expending to 3-7 working days. This is out of our hands, but everyone is working incredibly hard behind the scenes to prevent as many delays as possible
What Can Universal Pallets Do To Help?
We would like all customers to keep clear communication lines with us, let us know what you need and when well in advance if possible.
We are communicating with & looking after our customers as best we can at this difficult time- Keep an eye on our social media as we continue to keep you informed about the volatility in the logistics, timber & pallet markets
Also we would like to stress that unused pallets should be collected as soon as possible – this will help lift some of the pressure. You can book a collection online with just a few clicks here.
Whilst we are looking after our customer base in terms of providing market information, (as well as not letting them run out of wooden pallets!) we have also sourced a few alternatives to wooden pallets which you may wish to consider too, these are plastic and presswood and plastic pallets. You can find out more about presswood pallets here.
These are available to buy in bulk but are still in short supply. If you think plastic or presswood pallets could be a good solution for you and you’d like to order them in larger quantities, please call us to discuss.