UK Recovery needs a strong Transport Sector
As the lockdown starts to ease and we all contemplate the inevitability of a new normal, it is becoming clear that in the logistics and transport sector we are the early indicator for the UK economy. The fact is the quicker our own industry recovers and returns, the quicker the United Kingdom as a whole can mobilise and regenerate our whole economy. Whether it’s retail, construction, manufacturing, processing, foodstuffs and a multitude of deliveries from ports to high street and everything in between, we must see a strong logistics sector emerge from lockdown. There can be no doubt whatsoever that economic recovery from an impending recession has a complete dependency on our transport sector emerging quickly and strongly. It has never been so obvious.
Government decisions and timing is now critical
In our industry, we are ready to do our part as we have already shown. However, it is clear that we now have a complete reliance on the national and devolved governments getting the release from lockdown right first time. There are diverging opinions to the timing of this. There is some concern about the preparations that are in place in particular around public transport and education. It is imperative that in both these areas, the governments move quickly and effectively and get the timing and detailed communications behind each correct. At the time of writing, many believe we are failing in this. Few would argue that it can’t be a lot better.
Support is in place but questions remain about lockdown management
The UK Government has taken many welcome and positive steps. We have the extended Job Retention Scheme (furlough fund), Small Business Grants and Business Loan schemes. Deferrals in vehicle testing and relaxation in driver rules have all contributed and in general we must feel that conditions to support our industry are in place. However, as an industry, we are still waiting to go because we all need public confidence in going back to work and doing so safely. Phase One about dealing with suppressing the R rate below one appears to be completed. Many will of course argue that our concerted efforts were later than necessary and driven by a lack of preparation. However, we are there now and yet we stand at a crossroads of either lockdown continuity for more weeks, or, easing the restrictions as quickly as we can. Public Safety versus Delayed Economic Recovery dominates the debate right now.
Two big questions remain unanswered
The country is now looking for solutions to the biggest issues relating to social distancing which are undoubtedly a) public transport and b) education and child care. Only when these are delivered in detail and with proven public confidence, can we realistically expect the call from industry and business to ramp-up goods transportation and heavy haulage. Much of course has been achieved. But after almost two months, the complexity of exiting lockdown is only now becoming apparent and with it the irreversible change that we can expect. It is complicated by the new necessity of social distancing as a large part of the way we live, interact and operate at work, in public places, in schools, in transport. We must therefore see more effective government decisions on rolling out social distancing and introducing testing and tracking. This is central to restoring public confidence and economic prosperity if we are to get our trucks and trailers back on the roads in a way that can save the hundreds of thousands of jobs that our industry directly provides.
Transport is the key for our economy
As we continue to pay tribute to the heroes of this pandemic, in particular NHS and Care staff, we also know only too well about the role our own drivers and support staff are making to provide essential services and restore economic recovery and growth. In the weeks and months to come, people will become ever more conscious of the critical aspect of the transport industry and its many facets.
Effective and competent decision-making is now vital
Never has so much depended on the decisions of our governments over the next few weeks. For now, we must continue to be patient and hope that all the expertise involved can guide the decision-making effectively. Our transport industry is ready and eager to respond, but we must wait. We need detail, clear communication and the right exit strategy if we are to play our crucial part in getting the United Kingdom moving again.