The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK (CILT) says that if the swine flu epidemic takes off as predicted then it will inevitably cause major problems for the transport and distribution industry.
The prospect of one person in twelve going down with the bug must impact on a sector which employs over 2.3 million people working for 196,000 operators, and which is responsible for delivering all of the goods and services which are used by the whole of the economy and the population every day of the year. However, the industry is optimistic that, despite the problems, it will cope.
CILT Chief Executive Steve Agg says: Absence levels are growing by the day and logistics operators are increasingly having to reorganise staffing schedules in order to deal with the problems which arise within individual elements of the distribution process including managers, office staff, warehouse workers, vehicle engineers, and drivers.
However, given that the logistics process is necessarily continuous, and that our industry is renowned for its flexibility and innovation, we believe that we will be able to cope.
Here at CILT, Logmark, our regular benchmarking survey which looks at a range of operational factors, reported earlier this month and showed that the majority of participating companies had a disaster recovery plan in place. The businesses concerned have already made preparations for the possibility of difficulties due to loss of labour as a consequence of a major breakout of swine flu.
These measures include the provision of gloves, face-masks and anti-viral drugs, revised plans for the use of agency staff to top-up labour, revised overtime planning, the reorganisation of delivery schedules and general efficiency monitoring.
Our industry delivers the goods for 365 days every year so we understand how to manage the highs and lows of seasonal trends as well as unforeseen operational difficulties. The flu epidemic constitutes the sort of variation in work demand that we frequently see and I believe that the UK public can have confidence in our ability to cope, and to maintain deliveries.