Andrew Baxter (pictured), MD of Europa Worldwide Group, has revealed the pressures transport and logistics companies are facing in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Reports last week claimed staff at a Scunthorpe DHL depot were struggling to comply with new government social distancing rules and putting workers at risk – a situation Baxter agreed was difficult for companies to manage.
"The issue for all companies which remain open is to ensure the business and all staff within it are following the government’s guidelines in relation to health and safety regulations for COVID19," he told Commercial Motor.
"This can be challenging – we, for example, are operating sites where there are a number of employees picking and packing in the same open space. This is the same for any warehouse business and I think the government are aware of the challenges here but are also keen to keep warehouses open to keep the supply chain moving."
The Dartford-based company is still functioning "largely as normal", Baxter said, with all international groupage lines still operational, along with domestic trunking, warehouses and the European network.
"Understandably there has been some disruption as there are a number of customers who have had to temporarily close their businesses. We are concentrating on moving shipments to those that remain open, so we can continue to deliver our services and support our customers across all divisions."
However, he admitted that Europa had so far seen volumes decrease by 25% and that "they may continue to decline depending on how the pandemic develops".
He also revealed that the Europa warehouse division had been disrupted by the "increased numbers of staff who are unwell or have symptoms of the virus".
"We are seeing spikes in online and some other business and are working closely with these customers to supply beds for care homes and hospitals, as well as other essential products required during the crisis," he said.
"Within our various divisions, we’ve been concentrating on supplying and bringing these items in to the country - toilet roll, latex gloves, hand sanitisers, anti-bacterial wipes etc.
"With some other customers, again due to closures, we are seeing a drop in volume. There has also been an increase in enquiries for space, for customers who have imported goods which they are not now able to sell.
"It feels like a pretty live environment and a busy and complicated time for most areas of our business. Ultimately, no doubt there will be some financial losses but here at Europa we will be able to fund the business through this difficult period."
However, Baxter said pressure from staff shortages in the group's European network has largely been offset by reduced volume. This has allowed the company to largely deliver services as normal.
Referring to the government's advice on working from home, Baxter said Europa "adjusted very quickly".
"Following the announcement from Boris Johnson, we immediately instigated the process and encouraged all staff who could work from home to do so. Two days after Boris’ announcement, 80-90% of all office-based staff were working from home. Physical operations are still functioning as normal and will continue to do so as the nature of the work means these employees must be on site or on the road, and it is important for us to continue to drive this work forward and contribute to the economy.
"We will continue to provide our logistics service for our customers," Baxter concluded, "working with those who have businesses they can keep open during this time, and require our support and services to navigate through this difficult and uncertain time."
Meanwhile, Europa Worldwide division Europa Road has announced a new partnership with Plymouth-based pallet specialist Gardner Distribution.
Based close to the A38 and three miles off the M5 junction in Exeter, Gardner is strategically placed to allow easy access to all major routes in the South West, to the national motorway network and port of Plymouth.
Commented Dionne Redpath, sales director, Europa Worldwide Group: “Gardner has a strong history and is a reliable and trusted name in the South West, with excellent transport connections. We’re excited to work with them and know the partnership will strengthen our offering and services across the region.
“As always, our priority is to consistently deliver a high-quality logistic service across the UK and Europe. Regularly reviewing current and new partnership opportunities allows us to continually improve our offering and most importantly keep our promise of providing an excellent service to our customers.”
Kevin Gardner, MD, Gardner Distribution said: “The operation is running smoothly so far - we’re working directly with the team at its Dartford 1Hub to transport goods from Europe and the UK out to the South West region.”