Overview of the transport and logistics sector in the UK
Investment in the transport network and the growing importance of logistics make this sector a great place to search for your ideal graduate career
What areas of transport and logistics can I work in?
The sector covers freight logistics, passenger transport and transport planning and traffic management.
Passenger transport also includes operations (driver, pilot and air crew), route planning, customer service and safety. This is then split into:
- bus and coach;
- light rail, tram and metro services;
- taxi and private hire;
- water transport.
Logistics/supply chain can be broken down into:
- freight transportation;
- maritime and port operations;
- postal and courier activities;
- warehousing, storage and handling.
Large transport companies also recruit graduates to HR, finance, IT, sales and marketing, communications and procurement positions.
For examples of job roles in this sector, see graduate jobs in transport and logistics.
Who are the main graduate employers?
This sector is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with the majority of businesses employing fewer than 50 people.
The remaining large firms, with more than 100 employees, are the most likely to take on graduates straight out of university. These include...
Rail, coach, bus, private hire:
- Addison Lee;
- Enterprise Rent-A-Car;
- National Express;
- Network Rail;
- Transport for London (TfL).
Logistics and transportation companies:
- Stobart Group;
- P&O Ferrymasters;
- International Airlines Group (which includes British Airways and Iberia);
- Manchester Airports Group (MAG);
- Virgin Atlantic.
- P&O Ferries;
- Peel Ports (six ports including Liverpool and Manchester).
Postal and courier activities:
- Royal Mail Group.
Transport planners work for consultancies, local government or construction companies.
What's it like working in the sector?
Graduates entering the transport and logistics sector can expect:
- a variety of working environments - if you are working in air transport as a pilot or cabin crew you will be travelling and spending time in airports. Managers in transport and logistics work in offices, but they may be located in sea ports, airports or distribution warehouses;
- long working hours - employees often work outside of normal hours including weekends, early mornings and evenings;
- a wide range of salaries - for management roles starting salaries can be relatively low but typically rise considerably at senior levels. Train drivers earn on average £47,000 a year, while pilots can earn more than £100,000.
To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions in your chosen career, see job profiles.
What are the key issues in the transport and logistics sector?
Investment in the UK's railway and airport infrastructure will almost double over the decade to 2025, according to analysis published in October 2015 by PwC and Oxford Economics. Major ongoing and future projects include Crossrail and the high speed rail link HS2, as well as potential airport expansion in London. Investment in roads and sea ports will grow more slowly.
The study raised questions about whether the UK has sufficient skills in areas such as design, engineering, construction and project management - making these potentially rewarding career choices for graduates.
The State of the Nation 2013: Passenger Transport and Travel report found that aviation, taxi and private hire, and rail are all seeing rising employment. Demand for new recruits is likely to continue, especially as the sector currently has an ageing workforce; in 2013 just 15% of employees were under 30. Strategic management, customer service and advanced IT skills are particularly needed.
Logistics is also a growth area, which is often mistakenly thought to offer only technical jobs. There are openings for graduates with an understanding of supply chains and soft skills such as communication and relationship-building with suppliers and customers.