The latest UK Logistics Confidence Index compiled by Barclays and Moore Stephens found operators are generally still pretty optimistic about the prospects for themselves and the logistics industry – but not as optimistic as they were.

The results of the H2 2015 survey – carried out among 100 logistics professionals by Analytiqa in July and August – put the confidence index at 61.9, which is still pretty positive but represents the third successive fall since the high of 74.9 in H2 2013.

Launching the report, Philip Bird, senior director of corporate finance at financial consultancy Moore Stephens, said the fall was the result of some short term concerns such as fears of an imminent interest rate rise and the slowdown in China, coupled with perennial problems including driver shortages and excess capacity putting pressure on rates and margins.

Almost three quarters (71%) of respondents said business was the same or better than six months ago – again pretty positive but also down on 81% in H1 2015. The biggest concerns were driver shortages, cited by 44% of respondents and pressure on rates, mentioned by 36%. A new concern that appeared for the first time in this survey was a shortage of warehouse space, raised by 10%.

The biggest response to these concerns seems to be defensive – when asked what was the main focus for the next six months more than half (55%) said maintaining their existing customer base was their priority, a percentage that overtook the 33% that wanted to improve margins in H2 2015.

Leigh Pomlett, director of Ceva Group, said that pressure on margins was “relentless”, adding that the logistics industry was poor at negotiating rates with clients, who often “ran rings around” his sales team.

He added that the average age of a Ceva driver was 48, and the industry had to get better at attracting women into the industry. “The days when we can ignore 50% of the workforce are coming to and end,” he said.

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