Print buyers warned over delivery delays

Haulage issues caused by severe shortage of HGV drivers. Image: RHA
Haulage issues caused by severe shortage of HGV drivers. Image: RHA

Print firms involved with the production of time-sensitive products are warning customers that nationwide haulage issues are resulting in delayed deliveries and the potential for additional costs to meet tight deadlines.

Earlier this month the Road Haulage Association (RHA) sounded the alarm over a growing shortage of HGV drivers, and urged the government to help the industry recruit new talent. It said the current driver shortage “exceeds 60,000”.

The RHA wants HGV drivers to be added to the Home Office UK Shortage Occupation List. 

Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association, also flagged that long-standing issues around driver shortages had been exacerbated by Brexit, which has resulted in an exodus of EU drivers.

Covid-19 restrictions also mean that nearly 30,000 HGV driving tests have been cancelled.   

Telford-based Precision Colour Printing has issued a bulletin to its customers explaining the issues, and what can be done to mitigate the situation. 

Transport manager Chris Evans told Printweek: “We do a lot of next-day timed deliveries using overnight pallet services, and we started getting deliveries not turning up, with no reason given. 

“Eventually we found out it was because of the nationwide shortage of drivers. It seems to be affecting different parts of the country worse than others.”

Evans said that while it was a UK-wide issue affecting every industry, it was important for print buyers to be aware of the situation when planning their jobs. 

“At the moment we’re really having to pick and choose what pallets we put on the overnight service. We are forewarning customers in advance that if the job is really time-critical we will need to use same-day deliveries to really guarantee it,” he explained.

PCP also said that despite some limits to consignment sizes through the pallet networks, the firm was “fortunate that our transport partner can continue to provide larger consignments, via their own fleet”.

Darren Coxon, managing director at Pensord Group, agreed that the haulage system was “under immense strain” with vehicles and drivers at a premium. 

“Dedicated vehicle deliveries now have to be booked many days in advance whereas we have been used to next day availability for as long as I can recall,” he said.

“The pallet network has also cancelled all timed next day deliveries and so ‘next day at some stage’ is now the best on offer. The upshot of this is that planning well in advance is essential, but for us almost impossible as things change hourly with publisher deadlines constantly moving and print production always throwing up challenges!”

In addition, Brexit-related complications with mixed loads being sent to the EU remains an issue. 

“Mixed lorries full of overnight pallets is still a problem delivering to the EU, five pallets from client X and five from Y and X has their paperwork wrong then the whole consignment gets rejected. This obviously get worse when there’s 24 different clients all with one pallet each and one gets the paperwork wrong,” noted one industry boss. 

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett has urged government ministers to do more to help the haulage industry recruit and train a homegrown workforce, in order to reduce the reliance on foreign labour over time.

He warned: “If we do not do something soon the industry will be unable to maintain the integrated supply chains and cope with artificial spikes caused by hot weather and the easing of lockdown, increasing demand for food and drink into supermarkets, pubs and restaurants and goods into retail outlets.”