By Paul Holland, managing director for UK Fuel at Fleetcor
If there was ever a barometer of one sector that could be used to look at the wider UK economy, then the haulage sector is it.
The UK haulage sector, worth an annual £124bn to our economy, is hugely representative of the productivity of other sectors in the UK.
Consumer spending drives the economy, so, if the population is not spending then that reduces the need for the same level of movement of goods, which thereby slows down the haulage market.
With that said, it’s important to explore the impact the pandemic has had on haulage, as well as the clear signs of recovery and how insights from the haulage industry can provide businesses with a clearer picture for the months ahead.
The impact of the pandemic
The lockdown meant that consumer spending that is normally spent on the high street got wiped out overnight. However, with businesses opening up there are encouraging signs to be optimistic.
Furthermore, although construction and manufacturing were put on pause almost immediately, they have both shown a big boost in activities over the last month, recovering by nearly 30% and 15% volumes respectively from the peak of the virus, according to our data.
The next phase of the recovery is already underway as the high streets open up and this is a hugely significant milestone because as ‘non-essential’ sectors such as retail and the ultimately hospitality get back to some sense of normal running and trading it will help the economy gather momentum and fuel recovery.
The 'silent show of strength' of hauliers
The dynamics of the haulage sector are clearly different to other workplaces. Typically, drivers normally share vehicles, but some companies took the necessary steps to ensure some drivers didn’t increase the risk of Covid-19.
Additionally, some companies did have to make use of government schemes by furloughing drivers and some operational staff due to their volumes reducing to almost 50% at the height of lockdown, according to our data.
What’s more, we all saw the early reports of people panic buying certain supplies for fear of running out or shortages, but the reality is that this was never an issue.
Why? It didn’t happen because the haulage industry pumped the lifeblood into the economy at its most vulnerable and ensured the necessities got to every section of the population.
This is a glowing example of how much as a nation we depend on the haulage industry, something not often remembered as other political and economic rhetoric takes the limelight.
More than 2.5m people work in the haulage and logistics industry and they have all shown a silent strength by staying on the road and keeping the nation moving.
How can insights from haulage provide an indicator for economic growth?
Even though haulage was significantly impacted by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, the signs of recovery are very positive.
Although, the future is harder to predict and we won’t know what our economy will look like when the Covid-19 pandemic finally eases.
It’s worth being mindful of the debt the government’s has taken on to help much of the population and businesses through this period.
Those funds will have to be paid back and now businesses are looking at the rest of the year to see how the markets reacts, and what happens with consumer confidence?
No one has a crystal ball but one way to help businesses is by equipping them with our knowledge and insights from the key sectors that act as the view of the wider economy.
Volume at companies, such as Keyfuels, is reflective of the haulage industry.
So, we can help businesses needing such insight to help them get back up and running more efficiently as we head back to a 'new normal'.