It’s probably safe to assume that hauliers, like just about everyone else, are now counting the days to the end of 2020.  Admittedly, 2021 looks set to have an interesting start, namely Brexit (and probably COVID19 as well).  Hopefully, however, the worst is now behind us.  With that in mind, here’s a quick recap of 2020 and some thoughts on what 2021 might bring.

April through June saw businesses go into freefall

April, May and June 2020 were truly dire for almost all businesses.  Most businesses were forced to close for at least some of that period.  In fact, some had to shut for all of it.  Even businesses which were allowed to stay open were facing unprecedented challenges.

Firstly, they had to work out how to keep people safe on their premises so they could open them at all.  Secondly, they had to work out how to get the supplies they needed at a time when there was close to total chaos in the global supply chain.

Manufacturers were forced to close.  Even if they could open, they often struggled to get supplies due to the massive disruption in the logistics network.  Container ships had been thrown completely off-schedule and air-freight depended on passenger transport which was largely non-existent.  Road and rail freight were operating but severely backed-up.

July and August saw home shopping save the day

By July, the UK (and many other parts of the world), essentially managed to stabilize into some form of “new normal”.  It might not have been an ideal new normal, but it was a bearable one.  Manufacturers began to reopen and the global supply chain began to readjust.

Businesses were able to restock and restart operations, albeit often purely online.  Consumers, for their part, were often in desperate need of these supplies and therefore only too happy to buy, as long as they could do so safely.  This created hitherto unimaginable growth in online shopping and essentially saved the haulage industry.

Record-breaking demand from the online commerce sector compensated for a continued lack of demand in other key sectors, including construction and fuel distribution.  Some hauliers did still have to scale back their fleets somewhat, but they were saved from disaster.

Christmas looks to be coming early

It is way too soon to say that the haulage sector has reached a safe zone, but there are grounds for cautious optimism.  In particular, UK consumers seem to have got the message about shopping early for Christmas regardless of whether you are doing it online or in person.

Online retailers are anxious to avoid building up stock between now and December only to have a frantic rush in the last few days before the delivery deadline.  High street retailers are anxious to avoid the last-minute Christmas crowds which, in normal years, are key contributors to their profits.

This means that hauliers should have a reasonable expectation of high, but manageable, demand from now until at least early January.  That covers Christmas itself, plus the sales, plus the inevitable returns and exchanges.

Brexit looms but will need to be managed

It is entirely possible that the early days of 2021 will see total carnage at the UK’s borders, wherever they are deemed to be.  It is possible that Brexit will turn out to be like the year 2000.  There was a last-minute rush of frantic activity and when the day itself dawned absolutely nothing happened.

In either case, Brexit will simply have to be managed and another “new normal” found.  If, however, there is one good point to take away from 2020, it’s that businesses which manage to cope with it can almost certainly manage to cope with Brexit!

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