The role of pallet networks in the haulage industry

The economic landscape can have a large influence on the way that hauliers work, and very heavily impacts the volume of goods being transported to and from the UK.

In this article, we’ll be exploring the role pallet networks play in the UK Haulage market and how hauliers can leverage these networks to inject additional workflows and profits into their businesses.

What is a pallet network?

A pallet network is a cooperative logistics system where haulage and logistics companies collaborate to consolidate and distribute goods on pallets, working together to speed up goods movement process, optimise efficiency and to reduce costs in the transportation process.

How do pallet networks work?

A pallet network is a logistical and distribution organisation that is designed to efficiently transport and distribute palleted goods across a wide geographic area. It involves a network of independent haulage and logistics companies, depots, that work together to facilitate the rapid and cost-effective movement of goods on pallets. Here’s how a pallet network typically works:

  1. Collection: Depots within the network collect palleted goods from various suppliers or customers. These goods are typically loaded onto pallets and labelled for easy identification and tracking.
  2. Consolidation: The collected pallets are brought to a central hub or distribution centre operated by the pallet network. At the hub, the pallets from various depots are consolidated into larger shipments, often based on their destination.
  3. Sorting and routing: The pallet network’s distribution centre uses technology and systems to sort and route the pallets efficiently based on their destination. This includes determining the most cost-effective and time-efficient route for each pallet.
  4. Transport: Once sorted and routed, the pallets are loaded onto delivery vehicles, which can range from smaller vans to larger trucks, depending on the size and weight of the pallets. These vehicles then transport the goods to their intended destinations, which may include other member depots or end customers.
  5. Delivery: At the destination, the goods are offloaded and delivered to the end customers. Pallet networks are known for their efficient delivery services, which often include the use of tail-lift-equipped vehicles and pallet trucks to facilitate unloading at the delivery point.
  6. Reporting and tracking: Pallet networks often provide real-time tracking and reporting tools for customers, allowing them to monitor the status and location of their shipments throughout the delivery process.

Pallet network companies

In the UK, there are several pallet networks, each with its own characteristics and strengths. Some of the pallet networks in the UK include:

1) Palletline

  • Palletline is one of the largest pallet networks in the UK.
  • It operates on a hub-and-spoke model, where regional depots collect and consolidate pallets at a central hub before distribution.
  • Known for its focus on technology and innovation to enhance efficiency.

2) Palletways

  • Palletways is a pan-European pallet distribution network with a significant presence in the UK.
  • It operates a hub-and-spoke system, with regional hubs facilitating the distribution of pallets across the network.
  • Offers a range of services, including economy and premium options.

3) Fortec Distribution Network

  • Fortec is a UK-based pallet network that also operates a hub-and-spoke model.
  • It emphasises a focus on service quality and reliability.

4) Pallex

  • Pallex is another major player in the UK pallet distribution sector.
  • Again, operating as a hub-and-spoke model and is known for its focus on sustainability and environmental initiatives.

5) UPN (United Pallet Network)

  • UPN is a pallet distribution network that operates across the UK and Ireland.
  • It emphasises quick and efficient pallet distribution services.

6) The Pallet Network (TPN)

  • TPN is a network of independent hauliers working together for pallet distribution.
  • It utilises a hub-and-spoke system and places a strong emphasis on customer service.

These networks may differ in terms of their coverage, services offered, technology integration, and the specific regions they serve. It’s essential for businesses to consider factors such as the network’s reputation, reliability, and compatibility with their specific logistical needs when choosing a pallet network. There are also sector specific networks that facilitate the needs of niche sectors like Hazchem.

Benefits of becoming a pallet network member

Joining a pallet network offers a range of benefits, from cost savings and operational efficiency to expanded reach and a supportive community promoting industry best practice. The specific advantages will depend on the individual network and how well it aligns with the needs and goals of the member company. Here are some common advantages:

1) Economies of scale: By joining a pallet network, companies can benefit from economies of scale. The shared infrastructure, including distribution centres, vehicles, and technology, allows members to operate more cost-effectively than if they were managing these resources individually. Not only will it allow them to manage work more cost-effectively, joining a pallet network provides access to a broader customer base beyond the company’s local area. This expanded reach can lead to increased business opportunities and a more diversified customer portfolio.

2) Technology integration: Pallet networks often invest in advanced tracking and management technologies. Members can utilise these systems to streamline their operations, enhance tracking capabilities, and provide customers with real-time visibility into their shipments. Good transport management systems will have the ability to integrate with pallet networks to plan and manage pallet network and general haulage work, all in one place.

3) Service reliability: The hub-and-spoke model of pallet networks is designed for efficiency and reliability. Members can benefit from established processes and infrastructure, contributing to consistent and timely deliveries.

4) Flexibility and customisation: Pallet networks often offer a range of services to meet different customer needs. Members can choose the level of service that aligns with their capabilities and the demands of their customer base, providing greater flexibility in service offerings.

5) Enhanced credibility: Membership in a well-known and reputable pallet network can enhance company’s credibility in the eyes of customers. Customers may associate the company with reliability, professionalism, and adherence to industry standards.

6) Environmental considerations: Some pallet networks prioritise sustainability and eco-friendly practices. Joining an environmentally-savvy network allows companies to align with eco-conscious initiatives, reduce empty miles, and working towards meeting the growing demand for sustainable logistics solutions.

7) Consistent workload: Pallet networks handle a high volume of shipments, providing members with the opportunity to a consistent flow of business. This can be particularly advantageous for smaller companies looking to maintain a steady workload and grow within the industry.

How Transport Management Software can help manage pallet network jobs

A Transport Management System (TMS) streamlines and optimises various aspects of logistics operations, making it a valuable tool for managing both general haulage and pallet network jobs efficiently. Here’s how:

Load planning and consolidation

Functionality within a good TMS will help efficiently plan and optimise the consolidation of pallets at distribution centres or hubs, maximising the use of available transport capacity.

Efficient route planning

Once loads have been entered into the system, the TMS will give the planner the tools to plan routes, with factors and information to hand including traffic, distance, and delivery windows, helping to ensure the most cost-effective and time-efficient routes are selected.

Real-time tracking and visibility

An integrated TMS should provide real-time tracking and visibility into shipments for both general haulage and pallet network jobs. This feature is crucial for keeping customers informed about the status of their deliveries as jobs progress and allows for proactive issue resolution.

Communication and collaboration

Streamlined and standardised communication channels between planners, drivers, and customers to ensure seamless coordination of general haulage and pallet network deliveries, as well as effectively managing and responding promptly to any changes or issues.

Easy documentation management

Streamline the management of consignment documentation, such as shipping labels, invoices, and delivery notes. This ensures accuracy and compliance with regulatory requirements for both general haulage and pallet network jobs. A good TMS should offer the ability to store job documentation in the cloud, for accessible, safe and secure storage.

Warehouse management software integration

For pallet network jobs, TMS can integrate with warehouse management systems (WMS) to coordinate the efficient movement of goods within distribution centres. This includes inventory management, picking, and staging of palleted goods.

Performance analytics and reporting

TMS provides analytical tools and reporting features that enable operators to assess the performance of their general haulage and pallet network operations. This data-driven approach helps in identifying areas for improvement and optimising overall business and process efficiency.

Compliance and regulatory management

Simplify the management of compliance with transport regulations and industry standards. This is critical for both general haulage and pallet network operations to avoid penalties and ensure adherence to legal and industry standards.

Scalability and flexibility

A good TMS will be designed to be scalable and adaptable to the evolving needs of a logistics operation. Whether handling general haulage or pallet network jobs, TMS can grow with the business and accommodate changes in volume, routes, and service offerings.

As the industry evolves, scalability and flexibility become crucial, and a well-designed TMS proves adaptable to changing needs. By embracing pallet networks and leveraging innovative TMS solutions, hauliers can navigate the challenges of the haulage industry with confidence, ensuring reliable, cost-effective, and environmentally conscious transportation of goods.

Read more: The Transport Operator’s TMS Buyer’s Guide