Confidence levels remain strong in the logistics sector, with 73% of respondents to the recent UK Logistics Confidence Index survey suggesting the outlook for the sector would improve or stay the same and only a quarter suggesting conditions were more difficult now than six months ago.

Commissioned by Barclays and Moore Stephens, the survey showed slightly more caution among 100-plus senior decision-makers in the sector than six months ago, with the index falling from 69.2 to 61.9 – the third successive fall in confidence shown up by the regular report.

However, the index remains above its late mid-2013 level and there still appears to be plenty of optimism overall.

40% of respondents in the latest survey said business conditions had stayed the same in the last half-year; 26% believed they were somewhat more difficult, and 30% said business conditions were somewhat more favourable.

Many respondents suggested that there was still too much capacity in the market, however, leading to significant price pressures and continuing focus on cost control.

Retaining existing customers was identified as a key challenge for logistics firms in the face of fierce competition, found the survey.

Just over half of respondents said they planned to increase their headcount in the next six months, though 20% said they would be cutting numbers. Almost 45% cited driver and skills shortages as the most important issues facing logistics firms over the next six months, meanwhile.

Rob Riddleston, head of transport and logistics at Barclays, said: “Following the feel-good factor we have witnessed in recent surveys, it appears that logistic operators are more cautious this time as the sector returns to a more normal footing.

"Their focus now is very much about finding solutions to longer-term problems such as driver and skills shortages, relentless pressure on margins and the ever-increasing competition to win and retain customers."

“Yet there is still a lot of confidence among operators with high levels of investment, turnover and profitability still being reported,” he added.

Philip Bird, senior director at Moore Stephens, said: “Despite the increased caution reflected in the latest index, optimism remains strong and is evidence of the logistics sector’s resilience in continued uncertain economic times – domestically and globally.”

The report also found a pro-EU membership sentiment amongst hauliers.