Friday 28th Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

Half of fleets running empty

Some of the UK’s largest non-food retail transport fleets are running at barely 50% of weight capacity and return legs average 21% use. Improvements in efficiency could save the retail supply chain millions of pounds a year, according to Rick Ballard of specialist consultancy The Logistics Business

These are just some of the facts revealed in a Government-backed survey across 23 fleets of well-known retail chains, including Argos, B&Q, Comet, House of Fraser and Woolworths, and their logistics service providers.

The survey of 1,879 vehicles was conducted in 48 hours and Department for Transport by the TransportEnergy Best Practice programme and supply chain consultant The Logistics Business. It showed that overall vehicle use was well below potential and that there were many opportunities to improve energy efficiencies and reduce environmental impact.

Key findings included:

Vehicle fill is using only 54% of available weight capacity, 51% of available cube capacity but a higher, 74% of the available deck length capacity. This is driven by the use of standardized load units, such as roll-cages.

Return journeys are used for supplier collections and waste collection from stores but with 23% of last legs employed for collections from suppliers, there is considerable scope for co-operating to reduce journey overlap.

Return legs are often filled in an ad-hoc way, with decisions left to many individuals. Reverse logistics flows need to be centrally managed to increase efficient use.

An average of 39% of the survey fleet was in use per hour and a minimum of 16% was always in use throughout the audit period. Although there will be external constraints to use there is scope for operators to reduce fllet sizes, and the associated running and management costs.

According to The Logistics Business, companies can implement several measures to improve their use of energy including monitoring actual use of each vehicle and reviewing size of fleet; where unit loads are used, for example roll cages, the merchandise usage of these should be monitored; collaboration – some participants are collaborating competitively, that is delivering on behalf of each other or even third parties; and introducing double or even triple-deck trailers into fleets to ‘double-stack’ roll cages and maintain the benefit of easy and safe loading.

Rick Ballard, director with The Logistics Business, says: “Never before has this supply chain had such a wealth of benchmarking information. The survey highlighted some stimulating facts and the report reveals areas which retailers should be concentrating on to improve their logistics performance. The potential cost savings are in the £Millions, to say nothing of the environmental benefits.”

The Logistics Business says copies of the full benchmarking guide are available from TransportEnergy Best Practice – by calling 0845 602 1425 or by visiting