Working as a truck or van driver used to be a reasonably steady way of ensuring a good flow of work for at least five days a week – usually allowing for at least some, if not all, weekends off – today the very fact that logistics needs to be a seven-days-a-week business means that it needs extra manpower to be able to fulfil these round-the-clock demands.
We live in economies where people are becoming increasingly used to being able to shop for just about any product they want 24/7. And while this might not always mean that there is a physical store where they can go and buy it straight off the shelf, people at least expect that, when they browse and shop online for any goods, they can also order them and expect delivery within a reasonable timescale.
Of course, it is this illusion of non-stop shopping, created by the internet, which has also led to the perception that the world really has become smaller, and has, in turn been central to the growth in the 'always on' economy.
But that whole supply chain, which runs from the raw materials being produced and shipped to the factories, the goods being manufactured, and then sent to central distribution hubs in major countries around the world, to them being forwarded from there to all parts of the selling network, depends entirely on efficient transport.
The 'hidden' driving wheels of prosperity
So you could easily think of the modern truck driver as being integral to the smooth running of modern-day life. And indeed he or she is very much at the centre of the need for society to be able to do its shopping where and whenever it wants. After all, shopping used to be strictly a daytime activity, with only an unlucky few having to head to the supermarket on one of their late opening nights which took place usually once a week.
Now though, shopping has to be fitted in around a huge range of other jobs, and especially in situations where both parents are working full-time, and combining this with bringing up children, this means the hours outside what were once considered core for retail operation are increasingly having to be impinged on for shopping.
As a result, we first saw major retailers start to offer extended opening hours at their largest stores, so that people could at least go shopping into the evening, or on Sundays. This in itself meant that backroom operations also needed to be kept running for longer hours, and that deliveries at times needed to be made outside the once rigid schedule of the working week.
But with the advent of the internet, shopping has truly become a 24-hour activity. And while very few retailers can afford the overheads involved in keeping their front-end operations running around the clock, they have increasingly been expected to extend their operating hours in acknowledgement of the new levels of flexibility which customers demand.
Productivity increases can only be finite
At the heart of the demand for extra workers in the logistics sector lies a simple, basic fact. Whereas technology, machinery and advances in human knowledge can all help people work more efficiently within the timescales which they have available to do their jobs, the same is not true of the logistics sector.
There is only a finite degree to which trucks, boats, planes, trains and vans can be made to run more quickly and efficiently, and once they reach their maximum levels of efficiency the only alternative is to deploy more of the types of transport concerned.
And of course, operating those trucks, vans, trains etc is highly labour-intensive, requiring extra drivers.
1. Flexibility the Key Word in the New Logistics Landscape