Northampton – situated in the centre of the ‘golden triangle’ – is one of the most well-connected places in the UK if you’re plotting on the map where to base your logistics and warehousing hub. With easy access to motorway links, rail freight and international airports, it should come as no surprise that many logistics and warehousing providers choose Northamptonshire and its surrounding counties as their home.
As a regional provider of legal services, we are in the fortunate position of acting for some of the county’s best-known providers of logistics and warehousing services, as well as acting for businesses who need to utilise such skills as part of their operations. With a sharp jump in e-commerce operations during the past couple of years, the county has seen significant growth in this sector, with further significant construction projects under way near the M1 junctions serving Milton Keynes and Northampton, and along the A14 in Northamptonshire, to help service an ever-growing industry.
However, it can’t just be natural geographic advantage that gives businesses the edge in this county – it takes an awful lot more to build and maintain a successful logistics business. At Howes Percival, we work hard to understand the key drivers for success in this sector, and we keep track of issues that will be impacting our logistics clients in the future.
We have a team of lawyers in Northampton who can assist you on a variety of topics in this area:
Location is key, as mentioned above. We therefore act for established businesses that obtain planning for and/or lease buildings for logistics and warehousing (if you can find square footage, that is, at the moment!). We also act for landowners and developers who lead on the construction of such sites and have had involvement in acquiring such land for the purposes of this sort of redevelopment.
We have a team of employment lawyers and regulatory lawyers who can deal with particular personnel issues facing the logistics sector – whether that is dealing with working hours queries, disciplinary procedures, grievances, issues with ‘O’ licence compliance, hours of operation and/or tachometer problems, we’ve seen it and advised on it. The logistics industry has some unique challenges when it comes to managing its workforce and the nature of warehouse work naturally results in a high turnover of staff, so finding qualified and experienced drivers in a competitive industry will always be a challenge which, when coupled with seasonal peaks and troughs, requires a degree of staff flexibility not needed in other sectors.
On top of these industry-specific challenges, employment laws are changing all the time. IR35 and employment status is the hot topic at the moment and is certainly a minefield in itself for those who rely heavily on contractors. We advise on employment contracts and self-employed contracts for drivers and alongside your accountants, can ensure we can guide you through the IR35 legislation.
The press has made us acutely aware of the difficulty in sourcing new vehicles, what with a perfect storm caused by Brexit, supply delays due to COVID, raw materials issues, higher production costs and microchip shortages. As such, some of our logistics clients are placing orders for vehicles now, years in advance of when they might be required, just to ensure that deliveries arrive on time and they have futureproofed their business. We therefore advise on terms for contract hire, leasing and hire purchase of fleet vehicles, together with a whole array of financing arrangements both for equipment finance and generally for ‘day-to-day’ business needs.
If there’s one thing the last 18 months has taught us it’s that in business you need to be prepared for the unexpected. For years we have included ‘force majeure’ clauses in contracts which were never needed, but then COVID-19 came along and suddenly they were vital. Whilst industry standard terms and conditions are often implied into contract (such as the RHA Conditions of Carriage or UKWA’s standard T&Cs), they aren’t designed to cover the specific issues in your business. We therefore advise clients on their terms of supply, and their terms of purchase, together with long-term outsourcing agreements and/or IT infrastructure projects.
If any of the above issues resonate with you, maybe we can assist when you next need help! It is an exciting time to be a logistics business in our region. However, geography alone is not a guarantee of success, and so if we can help you with any of the issues raised in this article please get in touch.