Sustainability overview

As consumers seek quicker, cheaper and more predictable deliveries, the pressure on logistics operators increases and the inevitable impact on people, profit and the planet intensifies.

Collaboration in action

Pallet networks are a relatively new phenomenon in logistics (as we know them today they have only been around for 25 years,) but they have arguably been one of the most important innovations when it comes to minimising mileage and therefore fossil fuel usage. The collaboration which lies at the heart of the pallet network model is a crucial contribution to the sustainability of modern logistics – and could be a blueprint for far more sustainable methods of distribution and delivery going forwards.

Carbon reduction initiatives must also be commercially and operationally valuable in order to succeed and inspire wider change. The collaborative approach of the networks does that – it minimises mileage while giving network members a pay-as-you-go, profitable method for dealing with small freight consignments. It also gives customers an excellent, reliable and rapid method of delivery on the same pay-as-you-go basis.

The most recent figures from APN’s sectoral benchmarking show a 76% trailer utilisation, which is way above the 54% recorded by DfT for the industry as a whole. And all while offering guaranteed next-day delivery.

Hub strategy is also an important part of network’s contribution. It isn’t an easy or straightforward equation and each network has judged its own strategy to fit its freight profile. However, where they are appropriate, regional Hubs can capture freight which originates and is destined for that region, further reducing mileage per pallet. And, if the participating hauliers have the necessary critical mass, it can still offer excellent trailer utilisation.

Consolidation and collaboration are two of the most important factors driving conventional driveline logistics. The pallet networks have innovated, perfected and modelled these principles to the benefit of the whole industry – not least because they have been a key factor in allowing regional hauliers to remain competitive against 3PLs with a national reach.

The networks also give their member companies an opportunity to collaborate outside of the networks by developing strong inter-company relationships. They also provide a place where regional hauliers can learn and share data and experience about new drivelines, trailers or forklifts. For instance, members have been able to learn about and share experience of electric forklifts which offer zero emissions.


Best practice sharing

The 8 major pallet networks in the UK are all members of the Association of Pallet Networks (APN). Established in 2006, the APN provides a forum for members to share best practice. We are now co-ordinating an approach to further develop sustainability in the sector. The APN members already have a strong track record of collaborating with its highly successful health and safety committee.


Beyond carbon reduction

Other sustainability initiatives being considered include: improved vehicle routing, enhanced driver training, fuel efficiency, e-business approaches, warehousing design and operation, alternative fuels (trucks and materials handling equipment) and closed loop systems for equipment and packaging – all of which will have a positive impact on the triple bottom line of the pallet networks and their customers.

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