UK-based freight technology business Chill-Chain have developed tools to facilitate the management of spot and contract volume, and by aggregating supply, they can lower costs and take lorries off the road. The latter may be an even more pressing point with Brexit, which although delayed again, is still looming around the corner; a fact that Chill-Chain have used to their advantage.
“Because Chill-Chain are intelligent buyers of road transport we have been asked to look at the UK’s imports from Spain in the coming season with the principle of taking some cost out, but also to mitigate the effects of Brexit," explains founder Jack Fleming. "We looked at it in some detail and talked to some of the hauliers and have gained interesting insights that have enabled us to develop some methods to mitigate the risks of a no-deal Brexit.
“What you will see is the large supermarkets’ fresh produce import will tend to go on the large Spanish fleet, but if there is any increase in friction at the borders this will obviously lead to queues and these queues will lead to increased prices in freight costs This is not surprising but it will also lead to a capacity shortfall. For example, a fleet of 1000 trucks could do around 330 trips daily but, if there is any increase in lead time, you would need a much bigger fleet to do the same job.
"What Chill-Chain have done is talk to small and medium sized operators to increase that capacity and therefore reduce the cost.
“If there is a reduction in capacity through vehicles being stuck in ports we need to free up these vehicles to keep things moving. We will put retainers in place with cold stores around French ports and use alternative crossings. The large hauliers all go through Dover-Calais or the Euro Tunnel because they get rebates from the ferry companies to use the main ports and won’t look elsewhere, this is why you need the small/medium sized operators, who can be more flexible. The railways are also looking increasingly attractive as an option. We have data on how many vehicles are coming into the UK via the ports each day, there are around 680 trucks just with salad on board at peak, so that gives you an idea on the amount of traffic.
"At the moment Chill-Chain’s customer base is small but larger firms and small and medium importers who don’t know about them yet, could really benefit from this service and information.
“We need to focus on what is possible to control, we can’t control traffic but we can keep it moving by tracking and getting intelligence from the shipping firms that will let us know how big queues at each of the ports. We can then share this information and if companies want to deal with us we will operate with them in an open, transparent method, showing where and why rates have increased.”