Pallet networks are continuing to carve out a greater share of the parcels market, delivering record half-pallet volumes and next-day deliveries this year, according to the Association of Pallet Networks (APN).

Latest figures from APN’s members reveal that pallet volumes grew by 6.3% to 19 million pallets in the first three quarters of 2017, with next day services growing by 7.3%.

Half pallet services grew by 8% to more than 5.4 million and quarter pallet services increased 2.8% to just under 4.5 million, compared to the same period last year.

APN chairman Paul Sanders said: “Our members are seeing home delivery volumes increase significantly, and the growth in half and quarter pallet volumes demonstrates the competition with the larger parcels market.”

Speaking to MT he added: “In the last couple of years pallet networks have become a force to be reckoned within the parcels sector. As pallet networks offerings become more sophisticated that is attracting more and more business from the sector.”

The APN also attributed the sector’s strong performance this year to rising demand for next-day deliveries, increasing trust in the sector and the members’ ability to provide operators with a variable cost base from which to respond to their customers’ demands.

Sanders said: “As we approach the festive season, pallet networks are riding the wave of increasing volumes and trust in the market place.

“Our members are working hard to develop and raise the profile of this important sector, and we are seeing unprecedented volumes being delivered.”

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He added: “In such a mature and stable market, to see consistent growth of more than 6.3% on the previous year is phenomenal.

"The reputation of pallet networks has improved significantly in recent years. Perceptions of damage and loss in the sector have been proved inaccurate and the volume and quality of freight being handled demonstrates this.”

Sanders said the strength of the sector will help members cope with the economic challenges resulting from Brexit.

“Undoubtedly there will be implications on the sector from the result of the UK referendum to leave the EU,” Sanders said.

He added: “The pallet network model is a proven model for hauliers to withstand, if not totally overcome, the current challenges, without the need to significantly invest in fleet and/or premises.”

However the APN warned that the driver shortage crisis needs to be tackled ahead of Brexit to prevent rising costs in the sector.

“The driver crisis is not just a seasonal issue, and will be exacerbated by Brexit unless the logistics sector can secure special dispensation for EU migrant workers; ultimately there will be an unavoidable impact on costs and therefore rates if the industry fails to address this issue,” Sanders warned.