Navigating during COVID-19 – Fortec Distribution Network adapts and innovates to keep the country moving


November 2020: Haulage companies throughout the UK and Ireland are pulling together to keep the country moving – with Fortec Distribution Network supporting its members to keep their wheels rolling during this journey through COVID-19.

The UK pallet network, which has 24 years of experience as a leading logistics provider delivering palletised freight, has more than 70 members – transport and logistics specialists across the UK.

With a second national lockdown now in force, Fortec Distribution Network’s Managing Director Adrian Bradley, has thanked and praised his network members – throwing the spotlight on their ability to adapt, innovate and support the economy.

“Our members are resilient and quick-thinking,” said Adrian Bradley. “Many have had to adapt their services, rethink the use of their facilities and seek new opportunities. Others have been busier than ever, keeping our supermarket shelves stocked and stepping in to deliver vital medical equipment, PPE and protective.

“As an essential service, we remained fully operational during the first COVID-19 lockdown and continue to do so during the second. Our number one priority is the health and safety of our customers and team members, and we continue to follow all Government guidelines to promote social distancing and reduce the spread of the coronavirus infection.”

At the start of the first national lockdown the government confirmed that people working in the logistics sector were ‘key workers’, and essential if the UK’s supply chain was to keep moving. To aid this, Fortec members have had to think and work differently – diversifying into new freight, investing in storage facilities, and implementing new COVID-compliant ways of working.

Safety: Many of Fortec Distribution Network’s member companies have been helping keep the country safe – with Evesham-based Superior Freight, OTEC in Witham, Essex, Leicester-based M&H Logistics and Swindon-based Les Smith Haulage all winning contracts to deliver protective screens to supermarkets and stores.

Fortec and its members have also been adapting new working practises. Working together, customers are no longer asked to sign for goods, and the network is prioritising the delivery of essential goods and critical equipment. Strict measures are in place across the network to protect staff and drivers from the risk of coronavirus and to ensure the supply chain can keep moving. These measures include introducing contactless deliveries removing the need to sign for goods, daily deep cleaning, and homeworking processes for administration and support teams.

Changes in freight: Transport and logistics companies have experienced significant changes in their freight since COVID-19, resulting in new processes and a change of approach for many of our Fortec Distribution Network members. Furloughed staff at business premises, shop, restaurant and pub closures, and seasonal spikes have all affected this change.

Debbie Swinscoe, director of Peterborough-based Nexix Services, has created new systems and additional steps in processes to ensure delivery addresses are fully operational and able to receive pallets. She commented: “We now call customers on the day of delivery to give them a two-hour window – there is nothing worse than turning up for a drop when no one is there, and it affects the drivers’ remaining deliveries for that day and can also lead to damage of goods which are left on the vehicle longer than planned. This is an entirely new process for us, and it has been very effective.”

Storage as premium: Dewsbury-based Brocklehurst Transport, a member of Fortec Distribution Network for more than 13 years, was bought by its Managing Director Dave Webster in October 2019 and in August the company expanded its operational capacity.

Its investment in a temporary building, which includes 50m x 20m space for storage and a 18m x 20m open fronted canopy for loading and unloading vehicles no matter the weather conditions, means that the site is future-proofed for an influx of freight that could occur as a bi-product of the Covid-19 pandemic and current lockdown.

Diversifying: Many transport companies have chosen to join Fortec Distribution Network to help them tackle the challenges of COVID-19.

Lakeland Commercial in Cumbria, for example, has been able to add overnight pallet deliveries and smaller shipments to local independent businesses to their list of services since joining Fortec.

Harbour Transport Ltd joined Fortec Distribution Network on the eve of the country’s first lockdown and its owner and Managing Director David Buik says that it is thanks to joining Fortec that the company has been able to diversify and secure an alternative stream of revenue.