Deutsche Post DHL Group sends disaster response team to Vanuatu
Deutsche Post DHL Group, the world´s leading logistics provider, has deployed the first Disaster Response Team (DRT) to support relief efforts in Vanuatu devastated by Cyclone Pam.
The cyclone has left tens of thousands of people homeless, without food, water and medicine. DHL’s DRT is currently based at Bauerfield International Airport in Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital, to provide airport logistics support to manage incoming international aid and expedite the distribution to those in need. A second DRT team will be deployed on 27 March.
Christof Ehrhart, Executive Vice President, Corporate Communications and Corporate Responsibility, Deutsche Post DHL Group, said: “With Vanuatu comprising many islands spread over a vast area, the scale of the devastation wreaked by the cyclone has yet to be fully assessed. However, there is a critical need to provide basic necessities to the thousands who have lost their homes and crops.
“Speed is of essence in complex emergencies such as this and the DHL Disaster Response Teams comprise highly trained volunteers who can make a real difference here in helping the people of Vanuatu cope with this disaster.”
Almost 30 times deployed worldwide since 2005
Deutsche Post DHL Group, in cooperation with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), established a global network of Disaster Response Teams to support airports in case of a natural disaster. The DRT network consists of over 400 trained DHL volunteers, who can be deployed within 72 hours. Since 2005, the DRTs have been deployed close to 30 times worldwide.
In Port Vila, a DRT of seven experts will provide logistical support free of charge for the movement of relief supplies, including unloading cargo planes, conducting professional warehousing and inventory management, and the loading of the relief goods for onward transportation to Vanuatu’s many islands.
Chris Weeks, DHL Director of Humanitarian Affairs said: “Our DRT members are well-trained to provide hands-on effective logistics support. In the aftermath of a disaster, airports can become bottlenecks that delay the delivery of emergency relief supplies for victims. In these situations, logistics expertise can make a huge difference in saving lives by ensuring a swift and organized handling and delivery of all aid, from food and water to temporary shelters.”
GoHelp is the disaster management program of Deutsche Post DHL and comprises disaster preparedness with the program “Get Airports Ready for Disaster” (GARD) and natural disaster response via the Disaster Response Teams (DRTs). To date, GARD was implemented to more than 25 local airports in countries like Armenia, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Nepal, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Turkey and Sri Lanka.
Driver shortages: Why the industry needs to be worried
While driver shortages are a global problem, with a recent survey from the International Road Transport Union suggesting that driver shortages are expected to increase by 25% year-on-year across its 23 member countries, the issue has very much made itself felt for UK businesses in recent weeks.
A perfect storm of factors, which many within the industry have been wary of, and warning about, for months, have led to a situation wherein businesses are suddenly facing significant difficulties around transporting goods to shelves on time, as well as inflated operating costs for doing so.
What’s more, the public may also see price rises as a result due to demand outmatching supply for certain product lines, which in turn brings with it the risk of customer dissatisfaction and a hit to brand and stakeholder reputation. Given that this price inflation has been speculated to hit in October, when the extended grace period on Brexit customs checks comes to an end, the worst may be yet to come.
"Steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole"
That said, we have already been hearing reports of service interruption due to lack of driver availability, meaning that volumes aren’t being transported, or delivered, to required schedules and lead times. A real-world example of this occurred on the weekend of 4-6 June with convenience retailer Nisa, with deliveries to Nisa outlets across the UK affected by driver shortages to its logistics provider DHL.
But where has this skills shortage stemmed from?
Supply is the primary issue. Specifically, the number of available EU drivers has decreased by up to 15,000 drivers due to Brexit alone, and this has been further exacerbated by drivers returning to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as changes to foreign exchange rates making UK a less desirable place to live and work. This, alongside the recent need to manage IR35 tax changes, has also led to significant inflation in driver and transport costs.
COVID-19 complications have also meant that there have been no HGV driver tests over the past year, meaning the expected 6,000-7,000 new drivers over the past year have not appeared. With the return of the hospitality sector we understand that this is a significant challenge with, for instance, order delivery lead times being extended.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier this month became the latest in a long line of industry spokespeople to write to the government about the driver shortage for trucks. The letter echoed the view held by much of the industry, that the cause of this issue is both multi-faceted and, at least in some aspects, long-standing.
So, many in the industry are in agreement as to the driving factors behind this crisis. But what can be done?
Simply enough, outside of businesses completely reorganising their supply chain network, external support is needed. In the short-term, the government should consider providing the industry with financial aid, and this can also be supported more widely with legislative change.
Specifically, immigration policy could be updated to place drivers on the shortage occupations list, which would go some way towards easing the burden created by foreign drivers returning to their home countries. Looking elsewhere, government should also look for ways to increase the availability of HGV driver tests after the blockage created by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Looking more long-term, steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole. As it stands, multiple sources suggest that the average age of truck drivers in the UK is 48, with only one in every hundred drivers under the age of 25. We must therefore do more to increase the talent pipeline coming into the industry if we are to offset more significant skills shortages further down the line.
On the back of a turbulent year for the supply chain industry, it has become increasingly clear that the long-foretold shortage of drivers is now having a tangible and, in places, crippling effect on supply chains.
Drivers, and the wider supply chain industry, have rightly been recognised for the seismic role they played in keeping the nation moving and fed over the past year under unprecedented strain. If this level of service is to continue, we must now see Government answer calls to provide the support the sector needs, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to find a solution. If we do not see concrete action to this effect soon, we are likely to be in for a turbulent few months.
Rob Wright is executive director at SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector