People speculate Amazon is looking enter the freight industry and to be more specific become a Freight Forwarder. Amazon has conquered the online shopping industry, and now they are seeking to generate innovation and expansion. You may have heard that Amazon is now trailing drones as part of their last-mile delivery system. You might have missed a few announcements which provide evidence that Amazon could be making moves to enter into the freight industry. Amazon may be developing mobile technology so it can schedule and track truck shipments. This technology can be implemented into an Uber-like app for trucks.
What Has Made People Think this?
Amazon has a purchased around 4,000 semi-trucks and 40 cargo planes. They will spend nearly $1.5 billion on their new Air Freight Hub in Kentucky. Amazon has also recently expanded into Ocean freight they have not purchased any ships but it they have acted as a freight forwarder by helping Chinese merchants, last year they helped around 150 containers. Amazon claims that the purpose of these trucks and freight planes is to better their distribution services. Their aim is to not be reliant on companies such as DHL and UPS. However, a few people believe Amazon is just playing their cards close to their chest which is a wise move in the world of business.
With all these trucks Amazon could look to bring a freight forwarder in-house and give it an Amazon technology makeover. The freight forwarder would handle the operational side while selling excess space on Amazon trucks and planes to 3rd parties. As a result, this would trim the costs of their logistics side of the company.
The logistics industry have seen other big tech firms such as Uber looking to enter the freight sector by matching freight to available trucks. It’s not only big tech firms but firms like UPS have entered the freight forwarding industry by purchasing freight forwarding companies.
What is the Macron Law?
The law obliges all international transport companies who transit or have their drivers working in France to pay their drivers the French minimum wage of €9.76 an hour. France introduced this law on the 1st of July 2016. However, it was unclear whether the French would be able to enforce this. The EU started an infringement process in June 2016 against France. The outcome is still unclear as to whether they will be able to overrule this law.
What will the impact be?
European express market will be the most affected. With loads to/from Italy, France, Spain or Portugal, our vans have to travel through France. For example, if a driver spends 9 hours in France this could add an extra €35 to the cost of the shipment as European van drivers do not receive €9.76 an hour. As of 1st January this year, the French police have the right to stop any international driver and request documentation that proves that they are paid the French minimum wage. Hauliers have had to register their drivers online with the French Ministry of Labour and appoint a French fiscal representative.
This could also has an effect on full load rates as many Eastern European hauliers do not pay their drivers 9.76 euros per hour. If they transit France in the future, they will be obliged to pay them this hourly rate for the time spent in France.
Some European Transport Ministers met in Paris in late January to discuss the “unlevel” playing field they believe exists in Europe. They say that Eastern European hauliers have an enormous competitive advantage over most Western European countries who have minimum wage restraints in place.
We will keep you all updated on any changes.
On the 2nd of January the first 200 container train departed from west railway station of Yiwu to start its 12,000Km 16 day journey the route running through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France, before arriving in London.
The Rail link will allow for European freight forwarders and manufactures to deliver their goods between Europe and China for a cheaper price then using air transport and half the time as sea transport.
The China – UK Rail line is a part of China’s ‘New Silk road’ China is looking to connect the east of China to the west of Europe into one market. This covers 60 countries, 60% of GDP and 60% of the population in the world. This Market has the potential to generate $2.2 trillion in trade annually in 10 years.
The new rail link couldn’t come at a better time for Britain especially with Brexit and Theresa May announcing that the UK cannot expect to hold onto the bits of the EU which includes the single market. However, the question has to be asked will China take advantage of the UK’s vulnerability? The ‘New silk road’ will help strengthen China’s economic and political influence in Europe.
The long awaited autumn statement has arrived. After what could be called an ‘Eventful’ year it is very interesting to see how the government will look to tackle the future obstacles brought about by Brexit. The government has promised a few things such as ‘Building an Economy for all’, ‘Investing in infrastructure and innovation to improve long-term productivity’ and ‘Providing Certainty for Business’.
Building an Economy for all
The government has done a few things which will impact the Freight Industry:
• Fuel duty will remain frozen for the seventh year. This is estimated to save £130 for drivers. This is great news for everyone! This will especially benefit everyone our freight industry since the price of fuel has a heavy impact on us. This makes it easier for our prices on our European Freight services
• The government have increased the national living wage those aged 25 and over will increase from £7.20 per hour to £7.50 per hour. That means over £1,400 a year more for a full-time worker previously on the National Minimum Wage. I think everyone supports this especially here at Espace. However it will increase the cost of all businesses which could lead to an increase in inflation.
Investing in infrastructure and innovation to improve long-term productivity
£23 billion of additional spending has been provided to invest in the infrastructure and long-term productivity. Where will this money be spent?
£390 million will be going future transport technology. This will help with the development of driverless cars, implementation of electric cars and hydrogen busses. The implementation of electric cars brings the reality of electric trucks ever closer which would help the freight industry cut emissions significantly.
Major New Investment in Transport Infrastructure As part of the National Productivity Investment Fund, this will cover:
• £1.1 billion to reduce congestion and upgrade local roads and public transport
• £220 million to tackle road safety and congestion on Highways England roads
• £27 million to develop an expressway connecting Oxford and Cambridge
This investment will hopefully have a major impact on congestion of roads which will allow our freight transport to run more efficiently.
Providing certainty for businesses
The government want to make the UK a place where businesses want to come to. They think the best way to do this is by cutting corporate tax from 20% to 17%. This will benefit over 1 million businesses including many in the freight industry.
Just mentioning a few things from the statement you can see that the aim of the conservatives it to make this country really a place for business to come and set up. From a Freight Forwarders perspective the investment of £1.1 billion to reduce congestion seems to be the most appealing in the statement since it will allow us to run our services more efficiently and reduce any delays which could occur.
Interview with Tony Shally. M.D Espace Europe, a European road freight specialist.
Question : How did you feel now 5 months on from the Brexit referendum.
Tony : As the owner of a European road freight company, we rely on the free movement of goods within Europe and a strong Pound to keep our haulage costs down. The 24th June was a very grim day for me, my staff and for the majority of people working in our industry. I feel a bit more positive now. Well I couldn’t feel any worse than I did that day. We have weathered a difficult 5 months and still hit our targets but I know there are tough times ahead.
Question : What’s happened in the European road freight industry since Brexit and how has it affected Espace?
Tony : Our customers have told us that they have been getting more enquiries from their European customers and from new prospective customers. They sent out a lot of quotes and seen some small short term increases in export business.
In the 5 months since Brexit, we have seen a 7% increase in export shipment numbers compared to the 5 months before Brexit. There’s been a very small fall in import shipment numbers for us. We are mostly export driven.
As we pay over half our suppliers in Euros, we have seen our European haulage costs rise dramatically due to the 10% reduction in the value of the Pound against the Euro. We hedged our Euro currency purchases well the day before Brexit, but we have now pretty much used up this pre-bought currency.
Many forwarders did not hedge and within a few weeks had Currency Adjustment charges in place. We currently have a range of CAFs from our suppliers between 6 and 10%. Even though we hedged well, our margin has dropped by over 3% as a result of the weak Pound.
We’ve been speaking to some of our customers to see if they can now pay us in Euros. A few have agreed but most don’t hold an excess of Euros each month so have asked to stay with a Sterling charge from us.
We are now also speaking to some of our customers to try to implement a currency surcharge. Most are sympathetic, but it does not stop some going out on the market to look for cheaper solutions. It’s even worse for our import customers. Their goods are costing them 10% more now to import and we are asking them for increases to cover the increases in our import haulage costs. With import charges approximately double or even triple the export cost, these surcharges can mount into the £100s per import full load.
Question : How optimistic are you about the future for European road freight and how do you think it is going to be affected if we leave the Single market?
Tony : Espace and our competitors are all in the same boat. Companies will still need to get their goods to and from Europe by road. If we lose the free movement of goods, we are all going to get bogged down again in customs issues potentially slowing down the delivery of our customer’s freight. I am concerned about the effect the triggering of Article 50 will have on our industry. We have had nearly 24 years of free movement of goods across European borders. Many European supply chains have been geared up to work on a Just in Time basis.
Drivers haven’t had to stop for long periods of time at border crossings and customs agents. Many exporters and importers now just hold some emergency or minimum stock levels. What they need to keep production going arrives on our trailers when they need it. We could pretty much guarantee this would happen. With 25% of our business now in the European time-critical sector, if we are forced to revert to how it used to be with all goods needing to be customs cleared, there is no way we can provide any guarantees anymore on deliveries. We will be in the hands of the customs agents and border officials as to when our vehicles are released.
Also, the Pound’s volatility is a big concern. With growing concerns about what might happen and no clear Brexit plan 5 months on, I can only see the Pound plummeting further in value. Freight rates will shoot up again, customers who once valued service over price may be forced to buy solely on price, cutting out companies like Espace who sell on value-added. The biggest companies with the biggest buying power will at a considerable advantage, if rate sensitivity becomes a real issue.
I just hope our politicians realise sooner rather than later that Europe won’t let us have our cake and eat it. Free trade and 100% control on immigration will both not be granted to us. We need skilled and unskilled people to come into the UK to help our economy grow. We don’t need bureaucratic customs procedures imposed on us after 24 years of free trade. It will be a disaster for the UK and Europe, after all if they do it to us we will do it to them. I just hope sense prevails and our politicians are ready to make compromises to get us the best deal we can to maintain the status quo, encourage investment and keep our currency stable.
Interview with Tony Shally : M.D Espace Europe Ltd www.espaceglobalfreight.com