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UK pallet network volumes soared above 30 million for the first time in 2021, with networks delivering 13.2% growth over the previous year, according to new figures.

In total, the eight UK pallet networks delivered 31.5m pallets.

The Association of Pallet Networks (APN) said the growth was in contrast to groupage levels for the UK, which declined significantly during 2020 and early 2021, according to government figures.

It said premium delivery pallets increased by 13.4% to 19.9m and accounted for nearly two-thirds of all pallets delivered.

Economy pallets numbered 11.6m, a 12.8% increase against 2020 and 24% when compared to 2019.

Palletised freight within the home delivery market continued to grow and in 2021, 17.4% of all pallets delivered by APN members were delivered to residential addresses, falling only slightly when compared to 2020 (17.9%).

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Paul Sanders, APN chairman, said: “The strong performance of the premium pallet services demonstrates that freight owners and their customers value this priority service.

“The pallet network was devised as a B2B model but, as in so many things, it has shown great resilience and adaptability in servicing the B2C marketplace.”

The APN also said the safety-incident rate at hubs decreased for the fourth year running, at 0.49 per 100,000 pallets.

It said the most common cause was improper use of straps, nets and curtains, which were responsible for almost a quarter of accidents.

Outbound trailer utilisation was higher, year on year, at 75%. APN said pallet networks consistently returned better trailer utilisation figures than Department for Transport figures for the entire industry, saving an estimated 150,000 truck journeys per year.

APN added that its members delivered 11.6 million tonnes of freight, with an average pallet weight of 374kg.