How Have Consumer Habits Changed Logistics?

Our previous blog post explored the rising costs placed on HGV drivers and their employers despite the obvious increase in demand for the services they provide. So not to stray too far from the financial topic on which the piece was centred, the definition of ‘demand’ was brief, and so we felt it necessary to produce a subsequent post that offered greater clarity by exploring such ‘demand’ at a deeper level.

Our lives are heavily influenced by logistics; food, technology, furniture, clothing, vehicles and their structural makeup (fabric, screws, wiring) are firstly manufactured and then passed along the supply chain until it eventually reaches the intended customer. This process has a substantial reliance on freight drivers and without their input, it would not be possible for each of us to have either the basics nor the luxuries that we desire. The supply chain process in many ways falls victim to a ‘behind-the-scenes’ effect; although it is an integral part of procedure, it is all arranged, organised and utilised away from the customer. Unless the end-user is there to sign for a parcel as it arrives, there will often be no interaction with drivers, and so a driver’s contribution (as well as that from other logistical employees) to almost all owned items is largely unknown and unacknowledged. Whilst modest drivers may not fare this a problem, the issue lies in the growing demand for deliveries and its accompanying complaint: ‘there are too many lorries on UK roads’.

A significant aspect of the increased product demand lies in the companies who offer next-day (and in some cases, same-day) delivery, a service that has come to be not only utilised by customers but expected; Amazon have revealed that 100 million people are signed up to their Prime service – a stand out feature of which is next day delivery. It stimulates concerns within us and others within the logistics industry that this want for immediate delivery will only increase in the coming years, and as an industry already in great need of new drivers and with the costs discussed in the previous blog deterring potential new talent, it seems absurd that the very idea of next-day delivery can even be offered to consumers. Supply Chain Digital claims that as a result of the demand, retailer and supply chains alike are being forced to be more agile so as to retain customer satisfaction, but as with most issues in the logistics industry, the idea of increasing ‘agility’ lacks simplicity, as a recent survey by road safety charity Brake revealed that many road users felt unsafe on UK motorways due to the increase in HGV traffic.

Given the size of lorries and the speed at which all road users travel at on the motorway, fears can be appreciated, however, it brings to attention that better education is needed, as research proves road safety levels to be quite the contrary to the given worries. The volume of HGV traffic on motorways has only risen marginally, increasing by 2.6% over the last 11 years, whilst figures recorded over the past six years show a decrease in motorway fatalities and injuries involving a HGV. As Christopher Snelling, head of UK policy at FTA so accurately highlights in reference to these findings: “The driver perceptions Brake has focused on are not reflective of reality”.

It brings to light a vital question; how can supply chains offer greater agility (often through delivery options, thus affecting HGV drivers) when the very presence of lorries making such deliveries are continuously being demonised by both the press and public? So whilst consumer habits are changing the logistics industry, it seems that the public do not understand how; if they did, surely there would be a greater level of knowledge for why there is significant HGV traffic on motorways (we say ‘significant’ with caution – it is significant in the eyes of the public, but not in terms of statistics). To resolve the problem, we believe that education is imperative. If consumers understand where their products are coming from and the intricacies involved in bringing products to their doorsteps, would there be such a demand, such a demonization and would there be more support in reducing the associated costs of HGV driving? We can only hope so.

Let us know your thoughts on how consumer behaviour has affected your experiences by dropping us a tweet.