Across the Pond: The European Transportation Market (October 2021)

Author’s Note: I was recently asked by Transporeon (a Talking Logistics sponsor) to take a look at what is happening in the European transportation market and they provided me with access to their Transporeon Insights market data for additional insights and perspective. As I did last month, I share my commentary for this month in a brief Transporeon Journal video commentary. Below are my introductory remarks. I encourage you to watch the full commentary for more details on what is happening in the European transportation market.

In the last Transporeon Journal episode, I mentioned that my wife and I were still waiting for our new sofa to arrive, seven months after we first ordered it. Well, I’m happy to report that it finally arrived, and we’ve been enjoying sitting and relaxing on it the past couple of weeks. The sofa is so comfortable, and I’m so relaxed now, that I’ve done away with my jacket and tie from the last episode and I’m going more casual today.

Unfortunately, those of you on the frontlines of supply chain and logistics, there’s no time to kick back and relax, especially as we head into Q4 and the peak holiday season.

A headline from Reuters on September 24th claimed that Britain had only 10 days to save Christmas. As quoted in the article, Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said that “Unless new drivers are found in the next 10 days, it is inevitable that we will see significant disruption in the run-up to Christmas. [Truck] drivers are the glue which hold our supply chains together. Without them, we are unable to move goods from farms to warehouses to shops.”

Meanwhile, gasoline service stations in the UK are running out of petrol due to a shortage of tanker drivers and panic buying. 

Well, nobody wants to be responsible for canceling Christmas and for long lines of angry drivers at gasoline stations, so the UK government has responded by offering temporary visas to 5,000 foreign truck drivers and they sent nearly 1 million letters to all drivers in the UK who hold an Heavy Goods Vehicle license encouraging them back into the industry. The government has also  put British Army tanker drivers on standby to deliver fuel wherever it’s needed.

Are these actions by the UK government a case of too little, too late? Probably, although some relief is better than no relief — assuming foreign drivers, particularly from Eastern Europe, even want to go back to the UK to work (the word on the street, however, is that many of them don’t).

Although the spotlight is on the UK right now, as I noted in the last episode, there is an estimated shortfall of 400,000 drivers across all of Europe, with Poland and Germany also being among the most affected.

This is a big reason why spot rates across many lanes in Europe continue to increase. On the morning I’m recording this episode, I took a look at spot rates on Transporeon Insights. Over the past three months, the top 10 lanes that have experienced the greatest increases in spot rates have seen increases between 15% and 39%, with the Czechia-to-Italy lane topping the list on the morning of this recording.

For more insights, data, and advice related to the European transportation market, please watch the full Transporeon Journal commentary.