In a major change to the universal service obligation, Royal Mail is reported to be considering dropping Saturday letter delivery and signed-for parcel services.
A review of its services is being undertaken by the company that didn’t benefit from the surge in parcel volumes during the pandemic – it only saw business surge due to government contracts according to recent reports.
At the same time, letter volumes have fallen by almost 20% from pre-pandemic levels and the parcels market has become extremely competitive with the likes of Amazon Logistics taking business from the postal operator.
In the move, that would have to be approved by Parliament, Saturday letter deliveries would be scrapped. This would save Royal Mail as much as £225 million annually, even while it keeps delivering parcels over the weekend.
Regulator Ofcom has lately shown that the axing of Saturday deliveries would not materially impact the customer. It is not known when the results of the internal review will be published.
Hermes UK is to add a further 70 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) HGV hub tractors to its fleet, taking the lower-CO2-emissions vehicles to 50% of its hub tractor fleet.
Each of the new IVECO S-WAY units emits 80% fewer CO2 emissions compared to a Euro-6 vehicle. This will amount to a reduction of emissions of 150 tonnes of CO2 per vehicle and a combined total of 24,000 tonnes annually across the entire fleet of hub tractors.
Hermes UK is also trialling the IVECO Eurocargo, a new 12 tonne vehicle that also runs on CNG. As well as dropping CO2 emissions by 80% this also has 35% less NOx emissions and 95% less particulate matter than a Euro 6 vehicle. With its electric powered delivery vans operating in London, Hermes will then have low-emissions vehicles in all parts of its fleet.
David Landy, Head of Fleet at Hermes UK, said: “Sustainability is a big focus for us at Hermes as we recognise our responsibility as one of the UK’s largest consumer delivery companies.
We are committed to putting ESG at the heart of every aspect of our business, through innovative products and processes. As such we were an early adopter of CNG as an alternative fuel and are continuing to increase its presence in our fleet, significantly reducing our emissions.”
Commenting on the order, IVECO UK’s Heavy Business-line Director, Gareth Lumsdaine added, “An incredibly prominent national operator on our roads, Hermes already run one of the largest IVECO CNG truck fleets. We are therefore honoured that they will continue to grow this with us, taking the new IVECO S-WAY CNG and cementing not just our position as a market-leader in natural gas propulsion, but theirs as pioneers in commercial transport decarbonisation.”
Logistics UK says that the government plan to tackle the UK HGV driver shortage doesn’t go far or fast enough and is unlikely to resolve the issue for a long time.
The industry received reassurance that drivers would have more safer and more secure parking-up facilities more than three years ago and this has not been resolved.
Elizabeth de Jong, Policy Director at Logistics UK said, “The plans revealed by government today only go part of the way to addressing the crucial problem areas that the industry has been talking with government about for years. After all the incredibly hard work to keep the country stocked with all that it needed throughout the pandemic, it is dispiriting to see that the safety and security of our workforce in the course of doing their jobs is still not being prioritised.”
“The lack of available overnight parking spaces continues to be a huge impediment to attracting more people to join the industry and we need the government to make a far clearer commitment to deliver the 1,500 parking spaces it promised in 2018. Without the safe and secure locations in which to take legally mandated rest stops, it will be impossible to diversify the workforce and attract new employees to the sector.”
As part of the announcement the government committed to work with industry leaders to attract more drivers, simplify training and incentivising more drivers to remain in the sector. Ms de Jong however pointed out that the announcement lacks concrete targets and timelines to recruit more drivers in order to tackle the shortage.
“It is good to see the urgent focus placed by government on increased HGV driver testing with DVSA, as this is currently the biggest blocker to new entrants entering the workforce,” continues Ms de Jong, “but without targets and a workable timeline, this is simply a statement of intent. We need to know how soon the backlog of 25,000 test passes can be cleared more swiftly by the DVSA, as we estimate at current rates this will take 27 weeks (ie until the end of January 2022). We welcome proposals for reform of the vocational driving test process to increase test capacity– but it will take time to make the necessary changes to legislation, and for it to be implemented on the ground, before the full benefit can be felt.
“As always, Logistics UK will continue to work proactively with all areas of government to identify the tangible steps that need to be taken on the route to implementation of this plan, to deliver the support our industry needs as it helps the country to get back on its feet.”
Hermes UK is introducing an API that will integrate its services with the global online marketplace Etsy, which will give Etsy sellers greater choice, convenience, accuracy and cheaper prices for customer deliveries.
From the end of the month, Etsy sellers will no longer have to manually enter data to create individual parcel labels with Hermes UK but can instead download customer data and upload directly in bulk to save time and improve address data accuracy. Hermes UK also offers this to Amazon, eBay and Shopify sellers.
Claire Phelan, Head of E-commerce Partnerships at Hermes UK, said: “There has been significant growth within the small business sector over the past few years and this has continued through the pandemic as many people looked to generate income after being furloughed or losing their jobs. We are making it easier for these small businesses to access the Hermes services whilst helping them to save time and money.”
International freight forwarder The Scarborough Group is to use an artificial intelligence system to automate its accounts payable and customs declarations tasks using AI tech company Vector.ai.
The Vector.ai system is an intuitive, action based operating system that provides a central hub for The Scarborough Group’s customs brokerage and finance teams to collaborate on critical transactions. At the same time it extracts commercial invoice data for customs declarations and building invoices payable for the suppliers of the freight forwarder. This will process more than 5,000 core documents a month.
“We gain so much value as a business when we give our staff more time to share their ideas, skills and experience. Rather than assigning mundane administrative and data entry tasks, we can hand the workload over to capable AI. This means that our team members can channel their energy toward coming up with new ways to provide value for clients, all while meeting the commercial goals of the business,” said Adam Hill, President and COO of The Scarbrough Group.
The system will streamline administrative processes and tackle issues around human error that bog down existing processes, freeing up teams to focus more on customer services and innovation.
“Our partnership with The Scarbrough Group is hugely important to us because it helps the business deliver greater operational efficiency which, for every growing forwarder, is vital. Technology is an enabler for success and our AI platform provides the team with the much-needed headspace to boost its customer service offering,” added James Coombes, CEO of Vector.ai.
Two-person delivery company ArrowXL is to collect used bikes from The Bike Club customers as part of the subscription-based kid’s bike service’s reCycle campaign.
With gyms and leisure facilities being closed during much of the last 18 months, bike sales have rocketed. As such The Bike Club needed a trusted delivery firm to store and deliver their bikes in a safe and secure way. ArrowXL will now handle more than 200 bike movements a week for The Bike Club’s 30,000 customers.
ArrowXL has also looked at how to reduce unnecessary costs incurred in their previous process and have been instrumental in offering a flexible service to the cycle company’s members who wish to exchange their bikes as their children grow.
Allan Pape, Business Development Manager, at ArrowXL, said: “The launch of the Bike Club has been inspiring. It’s a great idea to get young people and adults into cycling in a holistic and affordable way. We are thrilled to be chosen to work with the Bike Club, and we take pride in knowing the products we deliver are improving health and wellbeing. We know how much effort the Bike Club has put into the customer experience, and we pride ourselves in complementing that effort.”
Anna McLaughlin, Operations Director of the Bike Club, said: Providing a hassle-free and flexible service to our members is key to facilitating the circular economy side of our business, so partnering with ArrowXL made perfect sense. They deliver a significant amount of specialist fitness equipment for leading brands in the sector, and we know that our vision to provide a standout customer experience is safe in their hands.”
The Bike Club’s subscription model allows families to exchange their bikes at any time so kids will always have the right sized bike. It also prevents old bikes from going to waste after the children have outgrown them.
Fleet management software specialist FleetCheck is offering a new, Vehicle Replacement Planner service to its clients. This calculates when cars and vans need replacing.
According to MD of FleetCheck, said that the issue had become more difficult for its clients thanks to the pandemic.“Since March of last year, most fleets have found themselves for extended periods either operating in the frontline of the crisis and racking up mileage at a higher rate than usual, or parked at home waiting until physical meetings were possible again.”
“This has made a nonsense of the kind of conventional, static replacement cycles under which most fleets have been operating for decades, shortening or increasing the potential fleet life of vehicles to a quite substantial degree.”
“All of this is being complicated by the current shortage of new cars and vans, which is seeing vehicle order times sometimes stretching 12 months into the future. This is very much a live issue for a large part of our user base. Many of our customers have been asking for assistance in this area and so we have been working on the new Vehicle Replacement Planner in recent months, which we believe provides a comprehensive answer to this problem.”
Key factors affecting replacement including mileage, age, total maintenance costs and finance terms are factored into the decision as to when to replace a vehicle. The parameters can be created by the user and customised to suit an existing vehicle replacement policy. Benchmark settings offered by FleetCheck can be adopted as well.
“The planner can be used in two ways. Firstly, it can help fleets to identify a suitable standard replacement cycle for use across their fleet, or for different vehicle types they operate. Secondly, it can be used in a dynamic manner where there is no standard replacement policy, showing when a vehicle is likely to need replacing based on parameters you have set and its usage pattern over time, which is especially useful because of the pandemic,” added Peter.
“Used in either way, the planner indicates well into the future when replacement is likely to need to happen, so orders can be placed many months in advance, helping to ease the current shortages problem.”
A survey of major UK hauliers by specialist return loads platform Haulage Exchange shows the problems that logistics companies are facing with the perfect storm of red tape, driver shortages as well as other Brexit issues. More than half are planning to move operations to the EU.
Almost a third of the 16 businesses surveyed say that they are avoiding working with the food and drinks industry due to the problems of increased checks and admin on certain products. Other industries include livestock farming, agricultural farming, gardening supplies and retail.
This comes in the face of huge spikes in demand for haulage in the face of the estimated need for an additional 100,000 HGV drivers. Between March and May 2021, the uplift in demand for haulage was more than twice what it was in the same period in 2020, with April seeing a 120% spike in demand compared to 2019.
The results have are from the 2021 Post-Brexit Hauliers Survey, conducted by Haulage Exchange. It shows that a sizeable majority of UK haulage companies have been negatively impacted and are still seeing Brexit aftershocks that are more powerful than anticipated. Close to 70% have lost business after Brexit – before the event, this was at 21%.
“We know more changes are coming, but this is an industry used to adapting and it has proved extraordinarily successful in dealing with the unexpected. It’s encouraging that demand for haulage is stronger than ever, and how well companies have adapted to big changes shows the resilience of our industry,” said Lyall Cresswell, Founder and CEO at Haulage Exchange.
“Companies can use that demand to overcome the challenges ahead and I’m positive about the future of the industry. The issues identified in our survey need to be addressed quickly and decisively. If that happens, I’m confident that the industry will continue to thrive.
“It’s clear that haulage companies will have to continue to be flexible, especially with further Brexit changes around the corner, but this is where platforms like ours can help. Our network helps companies to avoid dead mileage or fleets sitting idle. Instead, they can take advantage of the surging demand.”
Industry body Logistics UK has launched its ‘Route to Net Zero’ campaign where it will encourage its 18,000 member businesses to decarbonising their operations ‘as quickly, effectively and as urgently as possible’ before the UK legal deadline of 2050.
Michelle Gardner, Head of Public Policy at Logistics UK, comments: “Logistics UK and its members understand the urgency of the climate crisis and are working hard to decarbonise logistics operations; we are pleased to launch this campaign today to support and encourage the industry’s journey to Net Zero. A key component of this campaign’s success will be getting the right support from government; Logistics UK will be working in partnership with its members and government to help ensure the right policies, infrastructure, power supply, funding and vehicle markets are in place to realise the logistics industry’s Net Zero ambition.”
Part of the Logistics UK campaign is to launch a comprehensive policy manifesto ahead of COP26 in November, 2021. For more information on Logistics UK’s environmental campaigns and to get involved, please visit logistics.org.uk/environment
Leading global warehouse and logistics provider AMCO has agreed a partnership with customs software specialists Descartes Systems Group.
“Following Brexit, the demand for customs warehousing is growing and operating a bonded warehouse of around 110,000 square feet means that we are in a prime position to support trade with the EU for our customers and avoid double customs duties. By choosing to deploy Descartes’ e-Customs and duty management solutions we will be able to manage vast amounts of stock, improve capabilities to process customs declarations on-site and enhance our customer service offerings,” said Stuart Tooze, Head of Supply Chain, AMCO.
“With the support of the Descartes team, we are integrating the e-Customs system into our existing warehouse management system. Providing the best possible service to our customers is at the heart of what we do, and we are truly benefitting from implementing one system that has everything we need, and our clients need, both now and in the future.”
AMCO is a 3PL, providing freight forwarding, warehousing and customs clearance as part of its business. In the wake of disruptions brought about by Brexit, AMCO has been looking to expand its customs warehousing operations and to still provide high quality customer services to its clients. Descartes e-Customs solution will make this possible, and also has the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) system for Northern Ireland built in for when that becomes necessary.
“AMCO is an exemplary business for continually seeking to deliver the best experience possible to its customers. Since the UK left the EU and the interest in businesses looking for freight forwarders and warehouse providers to support their operations has peaked, it has been critical for warehouse providers to offer the best possible service to their customers in order to avoid disruption,” said Pol Sweeney, VP Sales and Business Manager UK for Descartes.
“It has been a pleasure working with AMCO to support its operations and help develop its offering for customers in an efficient and effective way and we look forward to continuing our work together.”