Extra costs due to significant differences in quality and extra admin
One of the big problems that transport companies experience with white wood is its poor quality. “We often receive broken or lower-quality pallets that various customers subsequently reject”, Manu Opsomer, the logistics manager for the transport company Remitrans , explains. “So we end up footing the repair bill ourselves. In turn, producers can experience problems with their production systems and downtime due to lower-quality pallets, which obviously costs them a lot of money as well.”
What is more, the exchange system entails a huge amount of paperwork for everyone, including transporters. “We keep lists for all our customers who use Euro-pallets, recording the number of pallets sent out and received”, Opsomer tells us. “That means a lot of extra paperwork, extra time and therefore extra costs for us.”
Retailers and hard discounters reject white wood
Retailers are feeling the burden of paperwork as well. Opsomer has noticed, in fact, that hordes of retailers have been giving fines to distributors using Euro-pallets over the last few months and are switching to pooled pallets. Why is that? “Euro-pallets require too much paperwork for retailers. Moreover, retailers want as few different kinds of pallet as possible, so they don’t have to sort them all and free up space in their warehouse or yard.”
Suppliers who don’t make deliveries on pooled pallets can even be penalised by large retailers with fines or the rejection of their goods. Opsomer continues: “One of the most surprising and recent developments in that area is that more and more hard discounters too are rejecting Euro-pallets and consciously shifting to pallet pooling.” Pallet poolers, such as CHEP, supply the required number of pallets and collect them again, which means that retailers and transport companies can outsource their paperwork and don’t have to shell out for repair costs.
Growing number of health complaints among drivers
Next to that, most companies request an empty load compartment to be able to transport as much as possible. That means that in direct exchanges, drivers are obliged to store the exchanged pallets in the pallet container under the load compartment of their trailer. “That is hard, time-consuming work, because it can only be done by hand”, Opsomer explains. “If you consider that a pallet can easily weigh 20 to 25 kilos, and that there are pallet containers that take 33 pallets, you will see why many drivers suffer from back problems.”
Serious shortage of lorry drivers
What is more, drivers have been getting harder to find for years. “The influx of new, young drivers is too low to meet the growing demand for transport”, Opsomer says. “The majority of truck drivers are over 50 years old. It’s not really a job that appeals to young people, because of the long, hard working days.” Moreover, abolishing military service was a disaster for the influx of new drivers. “Lots of people used to get their heavy goods vehicle licence in the army and when they finished their military service, they made a career of it. That doesn’t happen anymore.”
That is why there have been more and more projects starting up recently to familiarise people with the world of transportation. Opsomer continues: “We have got two persons with us now for 13 weeks, as part of a social fund project, with the intention of getting a CE driving licence at the end. We definitely welcome initiatives like this, although recruitment is limited. If we want to keep the same number of drivers, we will have to start looking abroad and recruiting people from other countries into the Belgian wage system.