European stock levels are gasping for inventory in what can only be called a clustertruck. Drivers are caught in a game of ‘hurry up and wait’ at ports, warehouses, and borders. Meanwhile, stockouts are a real threat, especially in the UK.
In cases where physical solutions can’t catch up, digitization and centralized data can help overcome speed bumps. Read on to learn more.
Register to join Flexport Chief Economist Phil Levy and guests for The State of Trade: The Trouble with Brexit and Trucking.
Amid a year-plus of supply chain chaos, why is trucking the issue and why now?
Partially, the last legs have always been a little risky. Goods are moving one container at a time, which means batch efficiency can be lost. The holiday season makes things more crucial. Companies depend on seasonal sales to meet annual targets.
In the UK, one fallout of Brexit is a major driver shortage, leaving supply chains struggling for intermodal and direct trucking services. In Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, trucking is close to capacity. Some carriers are unable to accept cross-border shipments or last-minute requests. Advance planning is vital to secure space.
By now, the peril is familiar: Demand for goods and capacity has been crazed for months. Supply signals are twisted. Congestion slows every leg of transport. Inventory management requires steely resilience, both strategically and for your own sanity.
But there’s also a knock-on effect: As sea changes overtake supply chains, in the wake of Covid and other global trends, trucking companies are hit with the weight of downstream impacts.
They cannot physically make up for the turmoil of entire supply chains. It’s not reasonable to expect that they could. Other solutions have to ease the fray.
An injection of whatever is in shortage—labor, space, or equipment—can seem like an obvious solution, but it doesn’t always work.
For instance, in early autumn, ocean carriers increased vessel capacity to Europe. Goods quickly hit a wall, though. Port congestion and inland bottlenecks, like trucking slowdowns, swallowed much of the speed gathered.
Impacts can come from any direction. Throughout Europe, truck capacity is partly tangled by a shift in the type of demand. Spot contracts are replacing long-term ocean contracts, so companies are switching from intermodal solutions to direct truck solutions. As a result, some trucks are tied up for longer to fulfill demand now.
That tells us more isn’t always the answer; more targeted might be. Centralized data can help reveal what is most effective at any given time.
Apps like Transmission, custom-built for Flexport trucking solutions, provide visibility into container availability and reduce friction at pickups and dropoffs. Other tech can extend productivity by eliminating the catch-up pressure of paperwork or by notifying warehouses to prepare for truck arrivals.
By working from a central source of truth, truck drivers are able to align their objectives with logistical realities. For now, a clearer outlook of the road ahead may be the closest the pedal gets to the metal ahead of the winter holidays.
Want to learn more about trucking? Join Flexport experts for a spirited discussion and the chance to submit questions on factors driving trade and trucking in the UK.
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