Operators feel more optimistic about their business prospects this year with many expecting to see an increase in volumes.

This was one of the main findings from the FTA’s annual Logistics Industry Survey, published in its 2014 Logistics Report.

International road haulage operators in particular feel more positive about business this year than last, which the FTA said is the first time the sector has been optimistic about its prospects since 2010. The report said those in the sector saw business increase in 2013, mainly due to growth in the manufacturing industry and an improved economic outlook.

Fleet investment was also high on logistics firms' agenda last year, the survey found, with more operators investing in their HGV, van or trailer fleets than they had expected in the previous survey.

The FTA, somewhat unsurprisingly, points to introduction of Euro-6 at the beginning of this year, which encouraged many operators to “stockpile” Euro-5 vehicles in 2013. It is because of this, and the view that operators have sufficient fleet capacity available this year, that the majority respondents do not plan significant vehicle investments in 2014, with the exception of van operators.

Business risks

The report, which was compiled with the support of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), also revealed what the association’s members considered to be the main risks to their businesses in 2014.

Fuel prices, fuel duty and world oil prices topped the list as the greatest risks, and FairFuelUK-backer FTA said it would continue to push the government to help stimulate economic growth by cutting fuel duty.

Uncertainty surrounding economic growth along with the likelihood of rising interest rates also sat highly on the list, while cyber security was considered a big issue particularly as the use of IT in logistics operations becomes more prevalent.

Risks also included: public spending cuts, the cost of making urban deliveries, road prices and road tolls, the cost of Euro-6, and changes in cyclist safety standards.

Online retail growth

The report also highlighted the impact the growth in e-commerce is having on transport businesses, with PwC predicting that annual parcel volumes will reach £1bn by 2018. It also expects 25% of non-food item sales and 10% of food sales will be made online in the same time frame.

Despite this, PwC still sees a role for high street stores to play in retail sales as the spread of click and collect continues. PwC's UK transport and logistics leader Coolin Desai said click and collect is currently one of the logistics industry's biggest growth areas, especially as parcel returns are growing at around 10% a year.