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Alan McKinnon – Professor of Logistics


Current issues in logistics and transport

Who cares about journal rankings?

In a newly-published paper I return to a debate I first joined five years ago on the ranking of academic journals. On this issue I basically have three concerns. The first is the use of a journal’s ranking as a proxy measure of the quality of all the papers it publishes. This practice is seriously flawed though increasingly underpins assessment of the research performance of academics and institutions. My second concern is about the extent to which journal rankings are now influencing research strategy and funding, staff recruitment and promotion and the behaviour and well-being of academics. I’m also particularly concerned about the negative impact of this obsession with journal rankings on the study of logistics / supply chain management (SCM). This is because most of the specialist journals in the field occupy relatively low positions in the main ranking schemes – quite unfairly in my opinion. As a result, the subject is at risk of being marginalised in the academic business world and those working in the field forced to reorient their research to adhere to the methodologies and paradigms of the top-tier journals.

Any non-academics reading this blog are probably feeling that this has little to do with them. In many circles the term ‘academic’ is used as a synonym for ‘irrelevant’ and, in that sense, this debate must be seem fairly academic. After all, managers very seldom consult journal articles during their working lives. Many only encounter them when doing a university-based course and required to reference an assignment. Even government planners and policy-makers, whose decision-making is supposed to be ‘evidence-based’, rarely pay much attention to the academic literature. So as this literature tends to be the exclusive preserve of ‘scholars’, why should anyone outside academia bother about this or that journal ranking?

In my view the main raison d’etre for university research on logistics / SCM is to provide relevant advice to what might loosely be called the practitioner community. Logistics is surely one of the most pragmatic of all human activities, vital for economic development, social welfare and security. If it were an obscure subject, say the study of irregular verbs in Medieval German poetry, one could accept that research outputs would be confined to academic circles. But what is the point of academic research on logistics / SCM if it does not inform business practice and policy-making? This is significant because higher-rated journals tend to be more theoretical and less accessible to practitioners by virtue of their subject focus, writing style and / or mathematical complexity. The desperate pursuit of a publication in these journals is therefore widening the gap between theory and practice and reducing the importance of business relevance as a criterion of research performance. This is neither in the interest of those running our logistics systems and supply chains nor the academics devoting their lives to studying them.

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Supply Chain Naivety in Brexitland

In 2008, the UK Department of Transport published a series of case studies ‘to bring out the full complexity, interaction and diversity of transport chains’. They explained, for example, how a sofa got from China to a home in Newcastle, wine from California to a shop in Manchester and coal from Russia to an English power station. The studies received virtually no publicity at the time and so had no impact on public understanding of supply chains and how they work.

The following year, 2116 UK adults, surveyed by tns-bmrb, were asked how much they knew about the ‘role of logistics in the economy’. Only 14% claimed to have ‘some knowledge’. The Freight Transport Association responded by launching a ‘love logistics’ campaign to inform the public of this vital service they simply take for granted.

There is little evidence that the message is getting across. Consumers pick items from the shop shelf and order goods online without giving any thought to where the stuff actually comes from. When logistics works well nobody notices it. People only become aware of it when things goes wrong, possibly because of a strike, bad weather or an IT failure. This partly explains why the words most commonly linked with ‘logistical’ these days are ‘disaster’ and ‘nightmare’. Regrettably these verbal couplings may become more commonly used once Britain leaves the Single Market and Customs Union.

Supply chains are the very essence of the EU. They bind countries into a continental-sized economy offering huge economies of scale and scope. In a border-less EU, free of tariffs and customs checks, they do this by tightly coupling business processes in disparate locations. Within finely-tuned just-in-time systems transport has become an integral part of companies’ production lines.

Consumers get a sense of this logistical capability when, for example, they order online in the morning for same-day delivery. What they don’t realise is that many of the upstream links in European supply chains are also highly ‘time-compressed’. For much UK-EU trade this will no longer be possible if customs barriers are re-imposed at UK ports and airports. Despite glib reassurances from government Ministers, this will be a major shock to the logistical systems that currently integrate us into what is, overwhelmingly, our main international market for trade in goods.

Many people still harbour Victorian notions of bilateral international trade: raw materials in and manufactured goods out. In practice, the world is now cocooned in a dense web of supply networks within which value is added to products and services incrementally in many different locations. Intermediate trade within these ‘value chains’ comprises around 60% of all global trade. So when politicians talk about reshoring and repatriating manufacturing they typically under-estimate the difficulty of disentangling particular activities from this international nexus of value-adding processes.

If the UK electorate had had a greater appreciation of the immensely complicated systems which supply us with everything we consume and maintain the competitiveness of our economy, at least some of the 52% that voted for Brexit might have had second thoughts.

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Trump climate change and transport

I have just spent a week in Washington DC on the eve of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. At the two transportation conferences I attended there was much dismay about the prospects for government action on climate change during the Trump presidency. Even before he assumes power, however, climate change scepticism, if not outright denial, is deeply entrenched in much of the US electorate and political process. The fossil-fuel industry, the lobbying organizations its funds and the numerous Republican politicians it sponsors have admirably prepared the ground for a climate-change denying president. A Gallup opinion poll found that climate change was rated 12th out of the thirteen most important issues in the 2016 presidential election. Clearly if it had been a major electoral differentiator, the candidate declaring that global warming is ‘bullshit’ and ‘a total, and very expensive, hoax’ would probably not be entering the White House next week.

I found it disconcerting to listen to senior officials from the transportation departments of several States explain how little they could say or do about climate change. The constraint is partly linguistic. One official explained how in promoting transport initiatives to politicians and the public they had to avoid using the words sustainability, environment and climate change. Another claimed that the only way to get carbon-reducing measures accepted in his state was to emphasise the ‘co-benefits’ such as fuel savings, better health and fewer accidents. One even said that he risked being reprimanded if it was discovered he had attended a conference session on climate change!

The fact that the session was on the adaptation aspects of climate change would probably have made it more acceptable. The increasing frequency, duration and intensity of extreme weather events has forced a reluctant acceptance that climate is changing and transportation systems need to adapt. This is clearly acknowledged in the US National Climate Assessments. These four-yearly assessments, however, say very little about the mitigation measures that need to be put in place to protect future generations against much more extreme weather. The US may have signed up to the COP21 climate change agreement, but many transport policy-makers and planners remain hesitant to promote overtly carbon-reducing strategies. This is rather worrying, given that transportation accounts for a third of the country’s total CO2 emissions.

Thankfully, some states are adopting a much more robust approach to the issue. In California, where a target has been set to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% between 1990 and 2030 and where 36% of these emissions come from transport, decarbonisation efforts are more advanced and more explicit. As in other environmental matters, the ‘golden state’ is setting a good example to other states and indeed the Federal government, in its commitment to drive down transport-related GHG emissions.

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Reflections on Chinese Logistics

Few nations are as dependent on logistics as China. As the workshop of the modern world and with by far its largest population, it has to move, store and handle a bewildering amount of stuff. According to my calculations, based on Chinese government data, the country’s transport system moves around 32 tonnes of freight per person per annum. Multiply that figure by the 1.38 billion people who live in China and you get a sense of the country’s logistical challenge. It generates around 25 times more freight movement per $ of GDP than the UK, reflecting both its much greater size and very different economic structure. Given this high level of freight transport intensity, it is hardly surprising that logistics expenditure accounts for around 16% of China’s GDP, roughly twice the equivalent US figure.

On a recent visit to China I gave a speech on logistics skills at a conference organised by the Chinese Federation of Logistics and Purchasing in Nanjing. The CFLP had just published its annual report on logistics education in China. This indicates that in 2015 a total of 979 logistics courses were offered by 785 universities and colleges across the country. A total of 85,438 students were enrolled on these courses! The vocational and higher education systems have clearly geared up to supply the vast number of qualified managers that will be required to run China’s bourgeoning logistics system.

Capacity building in logistics education is paralleled by the growth of Chinese research on supply chain management. In a newly published paper, Prof Xiaohong Liu and I examine the theoretical foundations of this research in a review of 150 articles on Chinese supply chains published in sixteen journals between 2000 and 2014. This revealed a heavy reliance on Western business theories and limited evidence of China-based researchers ‘attempting to customise them to the Chinese context or to construct new ones’.

This is a pity as there are distinct features of Chinese business practice, most notably Guanxi (networks of personal relationship and social influence), which differentiate the management of Chinese supply chains from that of Western countries. Guanxi may be conducive to the adoption of new models of collaboration in the logistics sector which will be needed to achieve a step-change in asset utilisation. It has been estimated that 40% of truck-kms in China are run empty, creating a big opportunity to cut the amount of truck traffic generated by the 6 trillion tonne-kms of freight movement on Chinese roads each year. Given the huge scale of Chinese logistics, seizing this opportunity would yield enormous economic and environmental benefit.

This is one of the ambitions of the growing green freight movement in China. From humble beginnings in a World Bank-funded green freight scheme in Guangdong in 2008 a nationwide China Green Freight programme has developed. This is funded by the national government and backed by NGOs, such as Clean Air Asia and the Smart Freight Centre, and by foreign development agencies like GIZ. In its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) statement to the UN COP21 Climate Change conference in 2015, the Chinese government committed to ‘accelerate the development of smart transport and green freight transport’. The pressure is now on to deliver on this promise.

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Life without Lorries – 12 years on

This is National Lorry Week in the UK when the population is urged, by the Road Haulage Association, to ‘love the lorry’. Affection may be too much to expect, but certainly the aim of improving the image of the lorry, and the haulage industry as a whole, is very laudable. People must be reminded just how vital a role they play in supporting our economy and way of life.

Although the RHA calls this the 2nd annual  National Lorry Week, there was one back in December 2004 organised by Commercial Motor magazine.  Back then I was commissioned by CM to write a report predicting what would happen if all the lorries in the UK stopped running.  How long would it take for the economy to collapse?   The resulting report called ‘Life without Lorries’ and a subsequent US journal paper called ‘Life without Trucks’ generated a lot of interest.  The study was subsequently replicated in Sweden and used (or mis-used) several times by UK trade unions to show how devastating a national lorry driver strike could be.

The evidence that I assembled from nine major sectors suggested that severe disruption would occur in only four days. Factoring panic buying into the scenario could cut this figure by a day or more.  My estimate was based on the amounts of inventory in critical supply chains, the positioning and replenishment of that inventory and the relative dependence on road transport.

If I were to conduct a similar analysis today would much have changed? Would the UK today be any less vulnerable to a total dislocation of its road freight system?   I think that, if anything, the situation would be worse.  In many key sectors the ‘just-in-time’ principle is being even more assiduously applied. Inventory has become more centralized and supply lines have lengthened.  This is reflected by an increase in the average distance moved by each tonne of road freight from 87km in 2004 to 92kms in 2015.

Although between 2004 and 2013 (the last year for which we have consistent modal split data) the amount of freight movement in UK-registered trucks actually fell by 7% their share of total tonne-kms increased from 64% to 71%.   This is not to belittle rail’s achievement since 2004 in capturing significant amounts of ‘fast-moving consumer goods’ traffic from companies like Tesco and ASDA.  But this is almost all intermodal traffic dependent on road feeder movements at one or both ends of the railway trunk-haul which would cease in the no-lorries scenario.

The rapid growth of online retailing over the past decade will have had little impact, because the upper links in e-tail supply chains are just as reliant on lorries as those supplying shops.

There are three sectors in which the impact of a road haulage shutdown will have diminished: fuel supply, postal services and banking.

I estimated in 2004 that after five days without trucks 40% of the nation’s car fleet would have run out of fuel.   The total annual distance travelled by cars in the UK in 2014 was almost exactly the same as in 2004, but average fuel efficiency substantially improved. Over this period the average mpg of new cars rose by 38% for petrol vehicles and 31% for diesel ones.  If the road-based fuel supply system were paralysed, the fuel already in car tanks would support more motoring today than in 2004.

The internet has substantially reduced our dependence on road-freighted postal services. Between 2005 and 2014/15 the number of letters handled annually by the Royal Mail dropped by a third from 19.7 to 12.6 billion. The growth of online banking and credit card use will also have reduced the physical movement of money by road across the so-called ‘cash in transit’ network.  The postal and banking sectors, however, generate only a tiny fraction of truck traffic and are unusual in handling products that can easily be ‘dematerialised’ for electronic distribution.

For almost all other products there is at least one link in the supply chain that requires physical movement by a lorry. We may not love it, but we should recognize the central role of the lorry in the life of the nation.

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A global carbon reduction target for freight transport?

The so-called ‘science-based’ approach to setting carbon reduction targets for business is gaining traction. In my opinion, it should really be called the ‘climate science-based’ approach as its origins lie in climate modelling, in particular calculations of the maximum amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) that we can emit to stay within a 2o C temperature increase by 2100. Other aspects of the target-setting process are more in the realms of social science and require much higher levels of subjective judgement.

The Science Based Targets (SBT) initiative is nevertheless to be welcomed as it aims to bridge the gap between corporate efforts to reduce carbon intensity and the planetary imperative of cutting total emissions. Even quite large reductions in carbon intensity can be wiped out by increases in the level of activity. So companies must accept that absolute reductions will be needed, possibly enforced by regulation at some point. This presents major analytical, commercial, managerial and political challenges.

Arguably these challenges will be greater for freight transport than for many other sectors. The SBT initiative could find ‘no activity information’ for freight in the two main reports, by the IPCC and IEA, on which its sectoral analyses are based. It therefore used monetary surrogates and treated freight as a residual sector whose emissions were calculated by subtracting those of other forms of transport – a somewhat crude method of emission target-setting.

Data limitations also frustrate efforts to conduct a ‘marginal abatement cost’ analysis for freight transport to measure the relative cost of saving a tonne of GHG in this sector. This too is problematic as MAC estimates help to determine how big each sector’s contribution to total GHG should be. Available evidence suggests inter-sectoral variations in decarbonisation costs will be large and freight will be at the upper end.

The close inter-dependence between freight transport and many other sectors further complicates target-setting. For example, geographical patterns of production and trade are likely to change over the next 35 years to reflect spatial variations in the rate at which electricity decarbonizes, the climate changes, water reserves are depleted, population migrates etc. As the servant of other economic and social activities, freight transport will have to adjust to these external forces. It is possible that to help other sectors meet their carbon targets and adapt to climate change, freight volumes will have to rise, even more than predicted.

So setting an absolute carbon reduction target for freight transport in isolation would seem very questionable. Indeed it could be counter-productive if it resulted in quantitative controls being imposed on logistical activity which prevented other sectors from attaining their GHG reduction or climate adaptation goals. It is not yet possible to estimate by how much meeting these wider goals will inflate the rates of freight traffic growth factored into current forecasting models.

Nor is it clear how the business community will react to the setting of an absolute carbon reduction target for the freight sector. If a consensus emerged that it could be achieved entirely by reductions in carbon intensity, an amplification of current decarbonisation efforts might suffice. ‘Roadmapping’ exercises are underway in some countries, such as the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, to see how far phased deployments of a broad range of technological and operational measures might take us along the decarbonisation pathway.

It may not be far enough. The carbon reductions expected of the freight sector by 2050 may be so deep that the growth of freight movement may have to be suppressed. It is then that absolute targets will bite and new mechanisms will need to be found to allocate the available freight carbon credits among sectors, transport modes, carriers, regions etc. This is still a distant prospect, but setting ‘science-based’ targets for absolute reductions in freight-related GHG emissions puts us on a trajectory that will lead in this direction.

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Truck platooning – niche or norm?

Truck platooning is currently a hot topic in the road freight sector. Last month’s European Truck Platooning Challenge, organised by the Dutch government, generated a good deal of interest and provided more evidence that the concept is at a high level of ‘technological readiness’. It basically involves connecting several trucks electronically into a convoy, thus reducing the gaps between them from 50-60 metres to 15 metres or less.

This, it is claimed, addresses several of the major problems facing the road haulage industry.

By collectively improving aerodynamics it cuts all the vehicles’ fuel consumption, saving money and reducing emissions of CO2 and other pollutants. Fuel savings as high as 10-20% are being quoted.

It could also help to alleviate the current shortage of truck drivers. Although all the vehicles in a platoon would still have drivers, they could take their rest breaks in the cabs of trucks electronically controlled by the lead vehicle in the platoon. By squeezing vehicles more tightly into motorway lanes, platooning would use road space more intensively thereby easing traffic congestion.

One can quibble about the magnitude of these benefits and the offsetting cost and risk factors but that is not the main focus of this blog.

Having read much of the literature on platooning, I am still not clear how it would work in practice. The trials show ready-formed platoons running smoothly along the road between two points. If this becomes that standard operational model, will we need to establish truck parks at strategic motorway intersections where lorries can congregate as part of a platoon-formation process? This will require land and infrastructural investment. It will also interrupt freight journeys and add costly waiting time to delivery operations. Will the platoons then remain intact until they reach the next staging post or will it be possible for individual vehicles to ‘detach’ from the convoy and leave the motorway at an intervening intersection? If the vehicle in question is in the middle of the platoon how will this decoupling actually work and how will it affect the dynamics of the general traffic flow?

More questions arise about the business aspects of platooning. It is not clear who will manage a platoon, decide which should be the lead vehicle and compensate its operator for taking on this responsibility. To incentivise companies to assume the lead vehicle role there will have to be some transfer of benefit from the operators of the other vehicles in the convoy. What mechanism will be used to redistribute the benefits accruing from fuel and labour cost savings across vehicles in the convoy? This issue won’t arise where all the trucks in a convoy belong to a single company. Research in the US has suggested that the first commercial applications of platooning are likely to be of this type. In most countries this will confine platooning to a very small number of big carriers, those with a sufficient density of trips on particular corridors at particular times to make platooning economically viable. If a corridor was sufficiently long and had the right intermodal connections, the carrier might find it preferable to transfer the convoy to the rail network and transform it into a freight train.

At a later stage in the development of platooning one can envisage alliances of hauliers building convoys on heavily-trafficked corridors using online platforms to synchronise vehicle movements. How far would a truck have to travel along one of these corridors, however, to justify the additional effort, time and cost expended in joining a platoon? As the average tonne of freight moved by road in the UK in a heavy goods vehicle travels only 91 kilometres (57 miles) and much of that distance is not run on motorways, I foresee limited uptake of platooning in this country. While it may remain a niche activity for road hauliers in a small country like the UK, it could well become the norm for long-haul trucking in much larger states.

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Adapting Transport Systems to Climate Change: EU-US Symposium

On the 16 and 17 June I had the pleasure of chairing a symposium in Brussels on the adaptation of transport systems to climate change and extreme weather, jointly organised by the European Commission, the US Transportation Research Board (TRB) and US Department for Transportation. This brought together 45 top specialists in this field from the US and Europe for a couple of days of brainstorming and networking.

The scene was set by keynote addresses from two very distinguished speakers.

Professor Don Wuebbles of the University of Illinois, who is currently on assignment to the White House as an advisor to President Obama on climate change, presented a wealth of up-to-date data showing very clearly the extent of global warming and the primary role of human activity in causing it. Climate change is well underway, its pace is accelerating and evidence of its devastating impacts is mounting. Transport systems are highly susceptible to these impacts.

The second keynote was delivered by Jan Hendrik Dronkers, the head of Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch government agency responsible for road and water infrastructure. Protecting the built environment against natural forces is one of the Netherland’s core competences. In the absence of dykes, two-thirds of the country would be under water. So it makes sense to look to this country for advice on how to protect transport infrastructure from extreme weather events.

During the symposium delegates discussed three types of event: rising sea level / storm surges, excess precipitation / river flooding and extreme heat / droughts. With the help of real-world and hypothetical case studies, they examined what can be done before, during and after such events to make transport systems more resilient.

A detailed summary of the symposium discussions will be published by the TRB around the end of the year. I can very briefly mention a few of the key points that arose. One was the need to upgrade methods of risk management in the transport sector. The vulnerability of our transport infrastructure has to be carefully assessed and mapped, taking account of inter-connections with other critical infrastructures, particularly the electricity grid and communication network. As transport becomes more electrified, automated and web-enabled these infrastructures are becoming more tightly coupled.

Vulnerability assessment is only part of a wider process of adaptation planning which is still at a relative early stage in its development. It has been partly constrained by the inability of climate models to furnish transport engineers with data of sufficient spatial granularity to ‘climate-proof’ infrastructure at the local level. Thankfully, significant progress is being made in the so-called ‘down-scaling’ of climate data.

While we were discussing these issues the latest set of global climate data was released indicating that May 2016 was the 13th month in a row of record average global temperature, something which has ‘provoked a stunned reaction from climate scientists’ .  If this continues, the climatic adaptation of our transport systems will have to be accelerated and recalibrated to accommodate more extreme conditions.

The research challenges that this poses demand greater international collaboration. Judging by the comments and commitments made at the Brussels symposium, we can expect closer Trans-Atlantic research co-operation in this rapidly expanding field.

The report of this symposium was published in December 2016

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Globalising Green Freight Transport

Over the past three months I’ve had the pleasure of discussing the ‘greening’ of freight transport with senior people in government and business in many East African and South East Asian countries. I have been greatly heartened by their commitment to the cause of cleaning-up the movement of freight.

There is now wide acceptance that trucks are to blame for much of the air pollution in these countries and that freight transport is going to be one of the toughest sectors to decarbonise. There is also an eagerness to learn lessons from Western countries about how to devise and implement green freight programmes.

Organisations such as the Smart Freight Centre, GIZ, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, UNCTAD and UNEP are doing a good job in disseminating knowledge and best practice and I’ve been doing my bit to help. This experience has made me all too aware of three basic issues.

First, in the ‘green freight world’ there is certainly no one-size-fits-all. Strategies to cut freight emissions have to be tailored to local circumstances: to the level of economic development, the maturity of the logistics market, the state of the transport infrastructure, the quality of the fuel, skill levels, business practices and what, euphemistically, might be called the degree of regulatory compliance. Bribing officials to turn a blind eye to vehicle overloading or the belching of black smoke from truck exhausts is endemic across much of the developing world. In the course of greening freight transport one cannot hope to correct wider societal ills, but a more subtle use of carrots and sticks is required in those countries where corruption is rife.

Second, developing countries whose logistics systems are at an earlier stage in their evolution have the opportunity to avoid some of the environmental pitfalls that now afflict the developed ones. For example, centralising inventory in distribution centres far removed from the nearest railway line or canal can create long-term logistical ‘lock-in’ to road transport. This subsequently constrains one of the most effective of all green freight options – switching transport mode. The relentless pursuit of just-in-time replenishment has also left many logistics systems more environmentally damaging than they need to be. Emerging markets don’t have to follow the same logistics development pathways as Western countries: they can learn from their experience and try to embed environmental sustainability into their logistics planning at an earlier stage.

The third issue relates to the international trade in second-hand trucks. As road transport accounts for the vast majority of the world’s freight movement and related environmental damage, the state of the global truck fleet is critical. Developed countries’ share of that fleet is relatively young, regularly upgraded with the latest technology, subject to the highest emission standards, well maintained and running on high quality fuels and infrastructure. These countries’ trucking sectors partly achieve their relatively high fuel efficiency and environmental performance by off-loading older and dirtier vehicles to carriers in developing countries who lack the capital to buy new ones. This geographical cascading of vehicles diffuses technologies, admittedly at a much slower pace than in the West. In green logistics terms, however, this practice leaves a lot to be desired. The trucks acquired from Europe, North America and Japan are often poorly matched with the delivery ‘duty cycles’ in the importing countries. Maintaining them is impaired by a lack of spare parts and qualified mechanics and they are often ill-equipped for the levels of overloading and poor road pavement conditions they encounter in the developing world. Companies managing this trade in second hand vehicles and the governments that regulate it have important roles to play in the greening of freight transport worldwide.

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EU Referendum: a logistics perspective

The UK’s EU Referendum is now just over a month away and opinion polls suggest that support for the ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ campaigns is quite finely balanced.  As a so-called Brexit is seen as a real possibility, its implications for different sectors of the economy and society are now receiving greater scrutiny.  I would like to reflect briefly on three of the key arguments advanced by the ‘Brexiteers’ from a logistical perspective:

1.  The UK has given up too much control of its economy to the EU:
Much of this control has been transferred by company acquisitions rather than government policy, as is well exemplified by the logistics sector. Much of the ownership and control of logistics systems serving the UK now resides outside the country and this will continue whether we are in the EU or not.  European logistics conglomerates, such as Deutsche Post DHL, DB Schenker, Kuehne+Nagel and Maersk are major players on the global logistics stage, of which the UK is but a small part.  In 2014, the World Bank ranked the UK’s logistics performance 4th in the world, clustered at the top end of the league table, with Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.  Any loss of economic control does not seem to have adversely affected our global standing in logistics.

2. EU regulations are excessively constraining UK business:
The EU ‘subsidiarity’ principle devolves much of the responsibility for freight transport regulation within national borders to individual member states.  EU transport regulations relate mainly to cross-border movements, where international standardisation is clearly important, and to fair competition between domestic and foreign-registered carriers, something that benefits UK logistics companies operating in continental Europe.  Many British hauliers would actually like greater harmonisation with other EU countries on matters such as fuel duty and truck size and weight limits.

3. The free movement of people in the EU is bringing too many migrants to the UK:
Other EU countries, particularly the eastern European states that have joined since 2003, have been a healthy source of labour for the UK logistics sector.  According to the Road Haulage Association, the UK is short of around 45,000 truck drivers.  As Barclays-Moore Stephens [1] point out ‘an EU exit could exacerbate the current driver shortage by putting barriers in the way of UK operators using overseas workers’.  They offer this as a reason for 92.9% of ‘over a hundred senior decision-makers from across the logistics industry’ that they surveyed wanting the UK to remain in the EU.

In a much larger survey of 676 members of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport [2], 65% believed that ‘those activities encompassing logistics, transport and supply chain will have a stronger future if the UK remains in the EU’ with only 16% disagreeing.  This result is hardly surprising.  As 45% of the UK’s trade is with the EU and UK supply chains are densely interwoven with those of our EU partners, the logistical case for ‘staying in’ seems to me to be very solid.

1 Barclays-Moore Stephens (2015) ‘The UK Logistics Confidence Index H2 2015’
2 https://ciltuk.org.uk/News/LatestNews/TabId/235/ArtMID/6887/ArticleID/8801

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© Professor Alan McKinnon 2018

Kuehne Logistics University


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© Professor Alan McKinnon 2018


Kuehne Logistics University




Contact me

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Web design by Wordspree