Brexit and Christmas traffic combined in December 2020 to turn Kent and the M20 into an HGV car park. 5-mile standstill traffic halted drivers in their tracks, and things got worse before they got better.
To stem the rising number of Covid cases, France closed its borders and suspended all traffic from the UK. Hundreds of drivers were affected and had to wait out the delay in Kent and other port towns. Kent Police, Highways England and the Port of Dover introduced Operation Stack, and drivers parked their trucks on the M20 to avoid gridlock.
Operation Brock supplemented Operation Stack. But this led to 4,000 lorries parked up on the runway at the disused Manson Airport. Thankfully, once things returned to normal, HGV traffic flowed freely from the UK to France again.
The 2021 HGV driver shortage was a hot topic of conversation all year. Retirement ages, Covid and Brexit all played a part in the lack of available truck drivers, leading to supermarkets scrapping up to 50 tonnes of fresh food each week because there were no resources to deliver.
While thousands of UK trucks were empty, the rest of the industry cracked on, delivering essentials to supermarkets, hospitals, pharmacies and homes - playing a vital role in keeping the country afloat.
The silver lining has been the cold, hard look at the industry and realising the factors that help job retention and satisfaction. Fortunately, the numbers of drivers are on the rise again. Thanks to a range of government initiatives and other solutions, such as closing the gender gap.
Who can forget the great fuel shortage of September and October? UK roads came to a standstill as panic buying motorists queued for miles to refuel their vehicles. The results were skyrocketing prices, fuel limits and closed petrol stations.
Luckily, haulage came to the rescue again and managed to replenish the depleted supplies, allowing everybody to get back on the roads.
The Ever-Given container ship and the Suez Canal blockage was one of the most notable news stories this year. Strong winds led to the stern and bow of the 400-metre-long vessel becoming stuck in the canal banks, stopping all traffic from passing.
At least 369 other ships waited to pass through the canal, preventing an estimated £10.2m-£10.9m worth of freight trade. It took six days, 14 tugboats and a high tide to free the Ever Given and clear the waterway for trading.
Insulate Britain protesters are an environmental activist group who demand that the government insulate all social housing in the UK by 2025 and retrofit all homes with insulation by 2030.
Their road-block campaign repeatedly targeted the M25, Manchester, Birmingham, Dover and London - causing major disruption for road users. Some protesters even glued themselves to roads. But despite their intentions, nine protesters have been imprisoned for breaching an injunction against road blockade protests.
Despite the pandemic and Brexit strains of 2021, it has been a busy year for SNAP too. SNAP Account smart payments are now available in over 60 new locations across the UK and Europe - including nine Roadchef service stations.
Plus, 300,000 drivers are paying with SNAP from over 30 countries across the continent - as far wide as Portugal in the West to Russia in the East.
SNAP Fuel is now available to SNAP customers - helping fleets combine another HGV service into their digital account and saving customers from ratcheting fuel prices.
After a mad year, we are looking forward to the future, and we hope that emerging technologies will streamline the industry and make it easier for everyone. The truck park of the future will look a lot different, and we created a version of what we think it might look like. Find out more about Truck Park 2049 here.
Mark Garner, Managing Director at SNAP says, "The events of 2021 have piled even more pressure on transport professionals. But, we want to thank all the drivers, fleet operators, site managers, and everyone else involved in the haulage industry for their unrelenting efforts this year. Your dedication and unselfishness have made everybody else's lives that bit easier. Thank you, and we look forward to a successful 2022 for all."
Josh Cousens | SNAP.