The members of the Association of Pallet Networks (APN) moved more than 17.5 million pallets in the first nine months of 2016.

APN chairman Paul Sanders said this was a 4.5% increase on pallet volumes over the same period in 2015.

He said: “The pallet network model responds well to volume fluctuations and service levels remain high across the year.”

Sanders added that while there had been growth across all service offerings in the sector, the greatest increase had been in the quarter pallet market.

This had seen volumes grow by 7% since 2015, and Sanders suggested the rise could be attributed to a rise of home deliveries.

“Deliveries to home addresses have increased by more than 11% this year – a trend which we see continuing,” said Sanders.

“Competition with the large parcel market is fierce, but the investment our members have made in leading-edge technology and operational processes will further support and enhance this process.”

James Wilson, CEO of APN member Palletways, said that home delivery was the network’s largest area of growth.

He told Motortransport.co.uk: “It’s probably our fastest growing vertical market in terms of the buyer buying the service. I can’t tell you how far it will go, but it never ceases to amaze me the types of products that are being brought online or supplied to home addresses.

“We’re introducing an ETA for home deliveries, so we’ll give customers a two-hour delivery window.

“It’s a big investment; we’re doing it right across the group. In the parcel world it’s been there for a while, but in our industry, I would imagine we’re one of the first, if not the first, to do that.”

Sanders said the effects of the upcoming Brexit could present a challenge for APN.

“The uncertainty surrounding Brexit will undoubtedly present challenges for the sector, and there has been continual coverage in the trade press about the driver shortage," he said.

“The pallet network model can help hauliers to resist, if not totally overcome, the current challenges. We need to remember, however, the driver crisis is not just a seasonal issue; ultimately there will be an unavoidable impact on costs and therefore rates if the industry fails to address this.”