5 Key Priorities in UK Freight

According to the UK government’s future of freight plan, the UK’s ten largest ports handle more than 300 million tonnes of freight each year. Working to bolster the capacity of the freight network – for example, to anticipate, absorb, resist or avoid disruption and quickly recover from disruption when it does occur – can increase the resilience of supply chains across the country for a wide variety of industries.

The plan sets out a strategy for the government and industry to work closely together to deliver a world-class, seamless flow of freight across the UK’s roads, railways, seas, skies and canals. It also explains how identifying a National Freight Network will help to better understand freight movements and their value to the economy.

In this blog we will look at the 5 key priorities for the UK freight industry, as outlined in the plan.

  1. National Freight Network

The government will work with the freight industry and take steps to identify a National Freight Network. The issue is that currently there is a lack of visibility and understanding of the UK freight network as a cross-modal system either by the freight sector, the government or end user. This lack of understanding limits collaborative decision making between private and public sectors. 

Therefore, the goal is to create a network which is more efficient and reliable. Once more understanding is gained, it will ensure the needs of freight are part of the overall decision making process. This will then lead to better use of existing infrastructure by building upon the UKs strong, existing infrastructure. 

  1. Transitioning to Net Zero

The government is looking to create a Freight Energy Forum as well as support and       promote modal shifts. There will also be an in depth review of the current barriers in moving to a zero-carbon infrastructure. The plan is also looking to maximise the potential of modal shifts through a zero carbon cross – modal freight journey. There are several identified challenges to this priority. The UK does have the opportunity to lead the world in developing a cleaner, greener freight system however continuing to invest in long-life assets can be difficult. 

A collaborative effort between the industry and government would build confidence in order to accelerate the distribution of zero – emission technologies. The overarching goal for this priority is to improve future energy infrastructure planning and to make use of the efficiencies that would come from a cross-modal approach.

  1. Planning

The government has outlined in it’s plan that they will work with the freight sector in engaging with local planning authorities. This will also involve a review of Planning Practice Guidance and any subsequent amendments, with a call for evidence on what is working well and not so well within freight. 

The issue here is that there is a significant disconnect between the industry and the planning process itself. The freight industry is not currently equipped to engage with such planning processes and therefore the local planning authorities are also lacking in information on the changes needed to support an ever changing and innovative freight and logistics sector. 

The current lack of collaboration can lead to unnecessary costs, time inefficiencies and complex issues. The goal is to therefore create a more sound planning system which allows for the needs of the freight and logistics industry whilst also empowering the relevant planning authorities. 

  1. People and Skills

A key component of a successful freight and logistics sector is its people. The government has made this one of their priorities for the plan. This will include ensuring the Transport Employment and Skills Taskforce meets the future skills news in freight and logistics. There will also be support in place for employer engagement along with training to encourage transferable skills and qualifications. Another key priority will be to support any efforts to boost diversity within the workforce

A notable challenge in this area is the shortage of skills across the sector both currently and in the future, which could affect the resilience of UK supply chains. Therefore, it is necessary to produce more skilled workforce across the freight sector which can be achieved through improvements to training and employment options. There is also a need to address awareness of the industry along with any negative outside perceptions by promoting the availability of fulfilling jobs at all levels.  

  1. Data and Technology

The priority for data and technology is to create an innovative sub-group of the existing freight council. This will help to build awareness of the sector to industry innovators and attract innovative solutions which could be available. As announced in early January 2023 there is a £7m freight innovation fund to assist up to 36 small and medium sized businesses access support and innovative new tech which has been dubbed the freight innovation fund (FIF). You can read more about this fun in our recent blog post here.

There is currently insufficient awareness among the freight sector of any innovative solutions, paired with limited awareness of the sector’s needs amongst innovators. Therefore the goal is to build awareness of the sector amongst innovators and support the industry in increasing awareness of innovators available to them. There will also be a focus on accelerating the adoption of readily available solutions within the sector. Whilst there is a good track record of government and industry driving technology and data advancements in freight and logistics, there is always more which can be achieved through a more collaborative relationship and raising awareness of the freight industry.

The transportation of goods has evolved incredibly over the past 10 years and now it has never been more reliable, low cost and fast. However, as outlined in the above priorities, the sector has many challenges to face, both imminently and in the future , if it wishes to ensure it remains cost efficient, resilient and valued. 

If you would like to read the Future of Freight plan in full you can find it here.

16 02 2023
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