Pallet networks are co-operative organisations made up of groups of professional hauliers working together as members, shareholders or licensees, providing cost-effective, nationwide, next-day freight delivery services. That is the description of a pallet network from trade body the Association of Pallet Networks (APN).

Founded in 15 years ago by current chairman Paul Sanders, it has attracted membership from the eight leading pallet networks in the UK: Palletforce, Fortec, Pall-Ex, The Pallet Network, Pallet-Track, Palletline, Palletways and UPN.

Because of the way they operate, pallet networks are the most cost-effective and environmentally efficient forms of road freight transportation.

Forwarders can use a pallet network to benefit from economies of scale in transport, without the need for investment in equipment and IT. Pallet networks offer next-day deliveries to the vast majority of the UK, some offer weekend and Bank Holiday deliveries too. Forwarders have access to the latest track and trace technology ensuring security of their freight and providing high levels of customer service.

Turning to a pallet network, forwarders can enjoy the advantage of allowing relatively small pallet loads to be delivered cost-effectively and quickly, with savings for both the transport operator and forwarder, while also handling large consignments.

Sector performance

In its review of pallet network members’ activities during the unprecedented UK business environment of 2020, APN reveals the poor forecasts and a slow start to the year, pallet volumes remained strong with unexpected growth. APN members delivered 27.8m pallets, a 3.2% growth overall year on year. The average pallet weight in 2020 was 380.5kg.

Many sectors, especially those with urgent freight or delivering to live, just in time sites, require next-day delivery. That is why 63% of all pallets delivered were on a next-day service.

Trailer utilisation increased during the pandemic and in the latter part of 2020. In Q2 it reached 76.2%, and the average between April and December was 75.1%. The improvement of trailer utilisation is crucial to lower emissions and developing a truly environmentally sustainable road transport service. By contrast, according to the DfT, the industry as a whole runs at 54% utilisation for rigid vehicles and 62% for artics.

The inclusions of different pallet sizes has been proven important to UK plc, offering a more flexible service, but also to pallet network members as it offers different opportunities for load fill. 49.4% of pallets were full-sized, with 29.2% half pallets and 21.4% quarter.

News roundup

In December, Palletways partnered with Mates in Mind, a UK charity that helps organisations improve their workforces’ mental health. Mates in Mind was established in 2017 to address mental ill health in the construction sector and more recently, has partnered with an increasing number of logistic and transport companies.  They specialise in providing training and support for staff and employers to raise awareness, improve understanding and address the stigma that surrounds mental health.

Rob Gittins, Palletways’ UK managing director, said: “This year has been incredibly challenging for everyone, and we recognise the impact it has had on our employees. The mental health and wellbeing of our employees is of paramount importance and that is why we are committed to investing in our staff.”

The Pallet Network (TPN) has invested in e-learning platform HebeData, which it is populating with entirely bespoke content to complement the work of onsite trainers at all levels of the operation.

This is a substantial investment in the skills of our workforce and the quality of our operation. Although the platform itself is very cost-effective, we are developing our own modules, videos and learning opportunities which can be completely tailored to the role and to our operation. 

Lynn Statham, Head of HR, TPN  

TPN has role-specific trainers on both day and night shifts, for instance, to teach and refresh fork-lift truck skills. Statham says the new content will provide an additional opportunity for staff to consolidate their learning and prove their understanding through quizzes and online assessments.

 It is very helpful to team members if the terminology in the training material matches their experience of the job. Therefore, generic courses are only of limited use. Our pallet network environment is not a generic logistics environment, either operationally or in the quality standards and safety protocols we have in place. The HebeData learning platform will enable us to teach our teams using the in-house terminology and with reference to our specific standards and protocols. 

Logistics business Pallet-Track has launched a national ‘Hooray for Hauliers’ campaign to celebrate the role of the key worker drivers who kept Britain moving throughout the pandemic, as well as navigating Brexit to deliver for the nation.

The campaign, which is taking the form of ‘#Hooray for Hauliers’ liveries on Pallet-Track member vehicles and a high-profile advertising hoarding campaign at the intersection of the M6 and M5 motorways.

Alan Smith, Editor, FORWARDER magazine