Closing its most successful year on record with plans for its first acquisition well under way, leading independent logistics operator Europa Worldwide Group is starting 2018 at pace with bold recruitment plans, ambitious sales targets and strengthened partner relationships.
However, Operations Director Dan Cook is keen to plan for the challenges on the road ahead, as well as for success. He forecasts the main obstacles for the year to be the ongoing driver shortage, as well as rising costs.
The UK haulage industry is currently facing a shortage of between 45,000 and 50,000 drivers, while across the continent the shortage is the same. The industry as a whole is working proactively to tackle the problem, but Dan says more can always be done to make younger people in particular see HGV driving as a rewarding career.
He said: “2017 was Europa’s most successful year on record, with consignment growth running at 25% across the business. This was the result of a combination of factors, including how the partner changes we made in Spain, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands all came to fruition and an increase in overseas controlled business as well as our own UK generated growth.
“Our goal is to offer a structured direct service to every country in Europe, with multiple entry points in many cases, and we are fast approaching this benchmark – however there are certainly some challenges at play, particularly the decrease in availability of skilled HGV drivers.
“The problem affects us in the UK, to employ our own drivers performing distribution within the UK, something I believe our whole sector feels. It also affects us via the third parties we contract for international haulage, as well as the European market place for sub contractors.
“Wherever you look, and whatever your business model, there are not enough drivers in Europe for the traffic volumes available. This can only have an upward impact on cost, and in the end prices to the consumer. Customers can tell us they can’t pay more. We understand that conundrum, but in the end, the pressures on cost are real, and are not absorbable by the industry. Multiple legislative changes throughout Europe in recent years also drive up operating costs significantly. The uncertainly surrounding Brexit, also I suspect, makes the UK a less secure place for EU nationals to want to work – a workforce that is also crucial to our sector.
“Whatever the complex reasons for the shortage, we see more opportunities than in previous years, and due to the smaller pool of candidates, costs are on the rise. At Europa, we firmly believe in fair and equal working conditions and the opportunity for progression. We want to see more young people considering logistics as a profession, be it as a driver, branch manager or operations specialist.
“This is how, in the long run, we will tackle the shortage, combined with increased flexibility for drivers in where they want to be based and by investing in our driver facilities. We hope to see more investment across the board in training and apprenticeships going forward.”
In addition, Dan explains that managing rising costs, which are linked in part to the driver shortage and various pieces of European legislation, is a key challenge for Europa this year.
He said: “At Europa our ethos is to offer the very best service at the very best price to all of our customers and we endeavour to maintain this standard even against a backdrop of rising costs. However, it is inevitable that at certain times market conditions will affect what we do and we must plan ahead as much as possible to anticipate these peaks and troughs. 2018 is set to be another very successful year for our business and with our robust strategy already in place for the year we are confident we will meet and exceed our targets.”
Europa Worldwide Group employs 650 people across 12 sites in the UK plus Hong Kong and is represented in 100 countries. Europa also provides specialist air & sea, warehouse and showfreight services alongside its road operations.