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The forgotten industry fights back!

This week, we are celebrating the RHA’s National Lorry Week.

This annual event celebrates the whole of the haulage industry, its employees and the services it provides, which are often overlooked by many in society and government.

In recent months, the spotlight has been cast on the logistics sector, with driver shortages affecting food, medical and even fuel supplies.

As with all transport businesses, Pall-Ex Group has faced challenges as a result of the shortages which have had knock on effects to the rest of the operation.

Freight volumes have increased year on year by approximately 30% since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the impact of the driver shortage further, placing pressure on the entire sector’s operations.

To understand the operational challenges facing our Group, its members and the haulage industry as a whole, we spoke to members of our Operations Team to investigate how they continue to deliver a sector leading, quality service.

To begin with, we spoke to Paul Shrives, Pall-Ex’s General Manager of Hub Operations and asked him, firstly, why he thinks the haulage industry is even more important now than ever.

He said: “We have been through a very difficult period as an industry, with lots of challenges still arising on a daily basis.

“Covid-19 has shown the country and the government that logistics is a key industry, providing vital services to our economy and society as a whole.

“I am proud that we continue to support businesses and services that need logistics solutions most.”

When discussing the Pall-Ex operation and how it continues to deliver quality service levels despite the challenges, Paul explained: “Like all businesses, Pall-Ex has felt the effects of both Covid-19 and the driver shortage, with a shortage of forklift truck (FLT) drivers too.

“To accommodate the increase in freight volume, we have adapted our processes here at the hub to ensure we handle freight efficiently, facilitating premium and economy palletised freight deliveries.

"The operations team here have been exceptional throughout the last two years, and they really deserve so much praise for what they have done and continue to do.”

Operations Director at Pall-Ex, Paul Pegg, has worked in logistics for over 25 years, and has long understood the importance of the transport industry.

Reflecting on the recent focus on the industry, Paul comments: “For far too long, many have overlooked the importance of logistics and have not considered what society would be like if it was no longer operable.

“If there are any positives to come from the last two years or so, it is that our worth is now recognised across the country, with even the Prime Minister acknowledging the industry’s importance.

“National Lorry Week is our chance to celebrate the great work those in the industry carry out on a daily basis, and I am very proud to be a part of it!”

Facing the shortages head on

The challenges facing the industry mean that businesses have to innovate in order to find solutions that will maintain their competitive advantage.

Pall-Ex is no different, investing in multiple projects to strengthen its offering and futureproof the business in uncertain times.

Paul Shrives explains some of the initiatives that have been set in place to ensure the business faces the challenges head on.

He said:

“In response to the ongoing challenges, we introduced our trainee FLT programme, working with a local agency to bring onboard new recruits with no experience in the industry.

"We provide a clear pathway for new drivers to join the business and gain their FLT license, which not only supports them as individuals with their professional development but provides the business with a great source of local talent too."

The FLT trainee scheme is just the first part of Pall-Ex Group’s action plan to bolster its workforce as the industry faces shortages.

Once FLT drivers have been trained and gain experience, they are offered the opportunity to progress to Pall-Ex Group’s Warehouse to Wheels scheme.

Once again, Paul explains the merits of the scheme and why the business places so much importance on the program.

He explained: “The next phase of our process is to transition some of our FLT drivers to HGV roles.

“Warehouse to Wheels sees the business invest approximately £3,000 in each driver, and this pays for their medical assessment, training sessions and of course their test and license.”

Having started the scheme in the summer, there are currently four drivers enrolled, and it is hoped that by early 2022, they will all receive their HGV2 license, and then go on to earn their HGV1 accreditations, meaning they can drive some of the largest trucks on the road.

Innovative recruitment solutions

In addition to the trainee scheme, Pall-Ex Group is also taking an innovative approach to recruitment for HGV and FLT drivers.

Using a variety of digital techniques, the business has seen a substantial increase in the number of application forms completed. Since July, the Group has received 877 applications as a result of the campaigns, with further campaigns driving applications for members across the country.

On the new recruitment techniques, Paul Shrives commented: “We have seen a massive increase in the number of applications thanks to our new recruitment methods.

“It means we are receiving interest from people who really have an interest in the sector and this makes such a difference.”

In addition to this, the Group Marketing Team have worked closely with members to advise them on marketing best practice, with workshops held via Microsoft Teams.

The aim of these sessions is to give members of both of Pall-Ex Group’s networks the tools they need to improve their recruitment in their local area and strengthen their workforce.

Once again, members have seen the benefits of this initiative, and are now employing various techniques to attract new talent to their businesses.

Resource support for the network

Away from driver training, the Group is also working hard to support its network of shareholder members across the UK as volumes continue to increase and driver numbers fall.

In a recent development, the business deploys a fleet of vehicles on standby, every morning. This resource supports members who encounter driver shortages or other shortages.

As Paul explained, this proactive approach towards the ongoing challenges highlights the Group’s resilience and approach to its operation.

He said: “Our members are the beating heart of our operation, so making sure we support them in any way possible is our number one priority here at the hub.

"Providing resource to ensure they can continue to operate at an optimum level, in spite of challenges that occur, means the network as a whole maintains the high standards we are known for.”

With continued investment into its staff and the resources available to its network, Pall-Ex is ensuring it navigates the turbulent climate successfully and in a stronger position, with its network of shareholder members continuing to offer domestic and International palletised freight distribution to businesses and service providers across the UK.

For more information about Pall-Ex’s services, click here.