The industry is fighting back from the effects of the pandemic, but a range of challenges are continuing to hamper confidence, according to a major new survey of operators.

The 2022 edition of the Asset Alliance Industry Monitor asked 256 senior leaders from haulage and logistics firms to gauge the health of their businesses and identify the key issues facing the sector over the next 12 months.

The research found 70% plan to add extra trucks this year, up from 45% in 2021, while 84% plan to replace existing vehicles (53%). There was also an 8% increase in goods moved domestically.

However, only 40% of those surveyed believe their businesses will grow this year, down from 53%, with the majority listing rising fuel and operational costs, supply chain disruption and a constrained economy as serious concerns.

International goods movement was also down 11% – 33% lower than the average for the last five years.

The Covid-19 pandemic is continuing to “significantly affect” 22% of firms, although this was down from 43% last year.

However, whether the HGV driver shortage has eased remains unclear, with only 20% of operators listing it as a key concern but 64% saying the situation had worsened in the last year, with another 64% forced to increase driver wages and 27% having to turn away work.

The sector’s transition to alternative fuels has seen limited take-up, the survey found, with fewer than one in five fleets (18%) currently operating such vehicles. However 62% said they expect to be operating them within three years – up from 33% last year.

About one in five is looking at battery-electric vehicles, while biofuel (16%), CNG/LNG (13%) and hybrids (13%) are also contenders. The most commonly used vehicles are biogas (8%), CNG (4%), LNG (5%), battery electric (6%) and hybrids (5%).

Most of those surveyed called for more government action on the issue, with 61% demanding a better public refuelling infrastructure. A further 59% listed scrappage schemes and reduced tax as most important, while 19% would like to see operational incentives such as better access to kerbside space.

These figures are similar to last year’s survey, suggesting only limited progress has been made on the road to net zero.

“While many challenges still lie ahead, I believe every challenge brings huge opportunity and I’m encouraged to see this belief shared by several senior industry leaders,” said Willie Paterson, chief executive, Asset Alliance Group. “I’m also pleased to see optimism about growth.”

You can download the full Asset Alliance Industry Monitor report free of charge online.