Brexit: Two Years On, One To Go

Ever since the country voted to leave the European Union back in 2017, discussions on the topic has been unsurprisingly pessimistic. With less than a year to go until the big day – 29th March 2019 – in recent days industry bodies have been voicing even more concerns about the Government’s ability to deliver a coherent exit plan.

According to a recent Financial Times report, the sector has ‘lost patience’ with Whitehall, with all from national logistics representatives to individual lorry drivers presenting their dismay at the Government’s lack of action, claiming it is now too late for a frictionless exit from the EU.

Of course, all industries are bracing themselves for the effect that Brexit will have on business – but few will feel the effects as close as ours. Financial services and international businesses will worry about levies and trade, but the logistics industry is the sector which will face physical barriers at borders and as we attempt to run our businesses.

In a previous blog, we highlighted an astonishing figure highlighted by the FTA: that over 90% of all the public eats, drinks, wears and purchases has, at some point, travelled on a HGV. For something which affects such a huge part of everyday life and UK enterprise, surely this should have been made a priority? What is most worrying is reports of the progression of the FTA’s private meetings with the Government: out of the their 8 proposals to keep Britain trading smoothly, none have been implanted yet.

As well as border problems for trade, there is also the issue of EU nationals working in the industry which has, again, yet to be addressed. The driving industry is already facing a serious shortage, with less young people entering the profession and the current drivers facing their well-earned retirement. It is no understatement to say that the industry relies on dedicated workers who come from Europe to fill the skills gap. Until the Government does more to boost and train young people into driving, it would seem that the industry would be taking a double hit if we do address the issue of our need for European workers.

The clock is ticking on the Brexit clock… When will the country’s leaders realise the importance of prioritising logistics?

Is Pollution Polluting the HGV Industry’s Image?

In recent months, there has been one issue at the forefront of the media attention on the HGV driving industry; vehicle emissions. Heavy Goods Vehicles, namely lorries and buses, are positioned by the media as the prominent (if not the sole) cause of the growing pollution problem across both the UK and Europe. Whilst such claims hold some stature – HGVs, due to their size and load weight do cause a higher level of emissions than other fuelled vehicles –  here at Barnes, we fear that the prevalence of news articles that paint lorries in a negative manner is detrimental to the industry’s image despite their importance in a functioning, modern-day society. It seems that the news fails to appreciate the very real, consistent demand for road freight, from both businesses and the public alike, and how this in turn affects emission levels. As a result, we, as an industry, find ourselves caught in a catch 22 situation.

Over the past year, the level of emissions expelled from lorries has not only come to light, but also the ‘cheating’ of emissions has been publicised, whereby lorry drivers and/or freight companies utilise devices that are designed to stop the emissions measuring system from working correctly. To tackle both these problems, numerous methods of resolution have been proposed, from roadside checks, to new levy tax Laws and ‘smart’ traffic lights. Whilst we do not condone neither high emissions level nor the cheating of emissions declaration, we hope that this blog will highlight the knock-on effect of such reports on the freight sector. As a company directly involved with heavy goods vehicles, we see very little effort exerted into maintaining a positive media image of freight transport. To explore why this may be, we firstly need to consider whether the claims on emissions are factual.

Like many others who operate within the transport industry, here at Barnes, we appreciate that given their dimensions, HGVs do release significantly more emissions than their transport counterparts and this is seemingly evidenced with shocking statistics; Reuters report that 65% – 70% of all EU emissions are caused by HGVs. In the UK, the Government claims that lorries produce approximately 20% of emissions of the UK, however, leading industry body, the Road Haulage Association, has challenged such reports with research that finds that lorries and buses to actually only account for 7.6% of NOx emissions – quite a difference in figures. Regardless of the correct figures, the percentage of emissions is too high, and all in the transport industry should commit to reducing these levels immediately to preserve our planet. We’ve brought this to our reader’s attention before in a previous blog, and whilst we still call for action on emission reducing methods, we also ask for clarity for industry operators; this is key in order to correctly tackle the issue at hand. Perhaps if accurate information was clear and readily available, hauliers could make the necessary changes sooner, which in turn, may reduce the negative press.

For all the negative press, there comes a forgotten, but vital, piece of information. The FTA’s Head of UK Policy, Christopher Snelling aptly frames it; “HGVs are an integral part of the economy at both national, regional and local level. Currently, there are no commercially or operationally viable alternatives to diesel in terms of HGV motive power.”

As such, the Road Haulage Association has asked that the Government ‘slows down’ the implementation of emission combat schemes, as currently, it appears that the schemes simply aim to ‘tax lorries out of towns and cities’. By allowing a longer time period of compliance – for many ‘compliance’ refers to the adoption of cleaner trucks – hauliers could allow for relevant charges to be paid whilst also minimising costs on businesses who rely on the vehicles. The turn-around time, the RHA claims, is not flexible enough.

Yet there remains a demand for deliveries within a specific time-frame. Increasing pressure grows for firms to provide a ‘same-day’ delivery service, if not, at the very least a ‘next-day’ delivery option, but are such services sustainable, particularly if hauliers have to replace or modify existing vehicles to comply with results? And if turn-around time is negatively impacted, how will this reflect on the industry in the eyes of the public?

Here at Barnes, we believe that more needs to be done to tackle lorry emissions and those who are cheating emissions. However, we equally feel that more should be done to reshape the perception of the HGV industry and their contribution to emissions; it is a public-serving sector that in recent years has grown considerably and for many, has become a necessity. Therefore, we have become trapped in a catch 22 situation, and in order to comply with emission standards, greater flexibility needs to be provided so not to affect the supply chain of key consumer purchases.

So, we ask, is pollution polluting the HGV industry’s image? Let us know what steps you think need to be taken in order to tackle the emissions crisis by dropping us a tweet.

Digital Driving

It can often be difficult to comprehend the level at which digitalisation infiltrates our daily life; it has become so commonplace that it can be difficult to remember, or for the young amongst us, to imagine a world without electronics, apps or social media. Whilst the transport and warehousing industry is largely built upon electronic and digital foundations, it was inevitable that it would one day follow suit in embracing the rise of digitalisation beyond factory walls. In recent years, vehicles have become increasingly digitalised, with self-park modes, in-car phones and paper tax discs transitioning to an online service only. Our roads have also adapted with smart motorways and lanes that have the capability to charge electric cars as they drive. Now, there are further proposals still; digital driving licenses are being considered, new virtual reality safety apps are being launched and of course, the introduction of autonomous vehicles looms.

The necessity and productivity of each upcoming proposal, in our opinion, varies. Within this piece we shall assess how the sector will be affected by the digitalisations on our horizon, namely the digitalised driving licence, implementation of autonomous vehicles onto British roads and lastly, the launch of the virtual reality app.

Although perhaps only a minor change to the industry, last year saw the first trial of digital driving licenses, allowing motorists to carry their licence with them without having a physical copy to hand. The intention is to offer drivers numerous benefits that do not otherwise exist; from reducing fraud and theft to allowing greater ease in renewing almost-expired licenses. It’s practicality however should be drawn to question with security breaches a potential risk; would drivers be protected in the case of mobile theft? Equally, in the unfortunate event of an accident, will it be more difficult to identify drivers? Here at Barnes, we feel that this concern is particularly pressing; as mobile phones are becoming increasingly reliant on fingerprint technology to unlock the device, if a physical license was not at the scene, would it possible to identify the driver if they were unconscious? To move away from morbidity, we believe that with these points taken into consideration then the digitalised licence could become a useful addition to the digital driving portfolio. This, however, is merely a small-scale change to the world of digitalisation within the driving industry, with one greatly significant change fast approaching; autonomous vehicles.

Ambiguously set to hit our roads ‘later this year’, it seems that driverless vehicles are on the horizon . In countries such as Belgium, tests have already begun, whilst in the US the trials are now a regularity, with some brands advertising public use of their driverless cars. However, following recent reports of a pedestrian death caused by autonomous vehicles, the safety of the autonomous vehicles must be called into question. Although it was the first-known incident of its kind, it was far from the first autonomous vehicle accident; a similar outcome evolved with a Tesla model after it failed to recognise the hazard as it occurred, and so the “the brake was not applied”. It seems that these accidents are becoming a commonality amongst driverless vehicles, and we fear that these accidents would only be accentuated if they were to involve larger vehicles.

The details surrounding the trials and potential launch of autonomous HGVs it seems are less public and are being kept out of the limelight. Yet discussions are underway with officials – this much the public do know. Having spoken in detail about this topic before, we ask once again; are autonomous HGVs really the safest addition to our roads? Here at Barnes, we urge the Government to reconsider their plans; not only would driverless HGVs affect the livelihood of millions of drivers, but as before, we want to reiterate that the skills humans, particularly in cases of sudden, uncontrollable variables, cannot be undermined. For all the positives that come from the digitalisation of various transport systems, we, and others in the industry alike, fear that with driverless vehicles and HGVs, the cons significantly outweigh the pros.

To finish on a positive note, we wanted to reflect on the newly launched app from Highways England that aims to improve driver awareness of blind spots. The smartphone app, used in conjunction with cardboard goggles, aims to accurately recreate a driving environment where the acknowledgement of blind spots are vital, such as, joining a motorway, overtaking and tailgating. Whilst our employees are qualified to the highest standards, we believe that all drivers should have the option of improving their driving skills further and that there is no such thing as too much practice! If you have tried out the app, let us know your thoughts on it using our Twitter feed.

As the digital world continues to evolve, we expect that further changes will be made to the transport industry. Whilst some could be considered pivotal, be this in a positive or negative manner as demonstrated with the new VR app in comparison to driverless vehicles, others are only minor changes. Currently, it seems that most digitalisation movements are simply ‘in discussion’, but, if the safety of all road users are completely considered and used to motivate and shape future necessary additions to the industry, we believe that the transport industry as a whole can benefit.

Encouraging a Female Future

Having just celebrated International Women’s Day this month and following the recent news of the partnership between The Women in Logistics UK group (WiL) and The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), here at Barnes, we felt that it was an appropriate moment to comment on the current gendered state of affairs within the industry. We are, like many other logistic professionals, confident in stating that the industry is male lead – but whilst we are confident on this matter, we are also disheartened by it, and it is in this piece that we hope to not only raise awareness of the gender disproportion but to ask why this disappointing disparity exists.

As the joint venture between The Women in Logistics UK group and The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport was announced, the industry as a whole felt a movement of progression. The partnership, which came into effect on the 1st March, is significant as it allows greater opportunities for women to access support, whilst also allowing them a platform to confidently and safely discuss the issues and challenges that they face in both recruitment and retention. In addition to this, to create an encouraging ambience to the sector, the two bodies hope for it to also be a space to engage, motivate and inspire past, present and future female logistic talents.

Whilst this is a step forward, the road to equality within logistics still stretches ahead, and it is up to us and our industry peers to host conversations that aim to discover how we can continue the journey to a better, and more equal, working environment. In 2013, The Guardian reported that although the transport and logistics sector boasts an employee count of 1.5m, women make up less than a quarter of these numbers. Upon investigation, they offer a plausible proposal as to why; one which we fear may be the reality: poor perceptions.

Despite 2018 being marked as ‘The Year of the Woman’ – a reflection of the progression in the 100 years since women gained the right to vote and a reminder that there is still a way to go – it is thought that many women believe there to be (and have experienced) a glass ceiling within logistics. Whatever gender you may identify as, it is vital to understand and this perspective and the limitations it may pose. On a daily basis, if you deemed the working environment to be overruled by the projection of male stereotype narratives –  “heavy labour is a man’s work” – which lead to suspicions of restrictions in terms of growth, promotions and salaries – why would you enter such an industry?

Jennifer Swain, a logistic and supply chain recruitment expert, offered a thought-provoking piece on LinkedIn, whereby she discussed the reality of female enthusiasm to join the industry in the first instance. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, she had only interviewed three women for logistical positions in seven months; and although this is the experience of a singular company, we suspect that the numbers may not be all that different for other businesses within the industry.

With the key issues identified, the next steps are to tackle them. The WiL and CILT partnership is a fantastic place to start, but we all need to offer the body support by playing our part. To do this, we cannot emphasise the importance of speaking to those affected enough; reach out to your female employees and peers, provide them with a safe space and ask them for an honest conversation on their motivations, challenges, and the ways in which they might feel restricted. Then put these comments into action – address the points raised by continually working together and fighting to improve the working environment for all employees. Once these practices become common place within the logistic and transport industry, the sector will undoubtedly better promote itself – although this is not to say that marketing efforts will not need to be executed in order to reach a greater number of people.

Here at Barnes, we strive for an equal and motivating work space for employees of all genders. As we have commented before, we operate an open-door policy, and we welcome all our colleagues to discuss any matters, regardless of the topic, with us.

If you have any thoughts that you would like to share with us on gender equality within the transport and logistics industry, please get in contact with us via our website or Twitter page.

Beat the Bulge: Fighting the HGV Obesity Crisis

British Summer Time is officially here, promising warmer weather, longer evenings and greener views from the cab seat. Spring also brings more fresh produce into the limelight, with seasonal ingredients making fresh vegetables key players on the plate.

There’s no doubt that life as a HGV driver has its plentiful perks – from the chance to travel the country to the flexible hours – but no career is without its drawbacks, and one would be foolishly naïve to claim any such remark to the contrary.

Over the years, various research and studies have shown that HGV drivers are showing a growing concern for their health in the form of nutrition. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety’s study of long-haul truck drivers classified 69% of respondents as obese – more than 50% higher than rates among other workers. Even more recently, the RAC found that 41% of lorry drivers reported that a lack of healthy foods on the road was one of their biggest frustrations – far more than company car drivers (21%).

Whilst campaigns could be lobbied to force road side shops and eateries to provide healthy options, for us at Barnes we feel the far quicker and more practical method to start drivers on the road to better health is to take full control of what is eaten by preparing one’s own food – and there’s never a better time of the year to start than now.

Obviously, the main obstacle to work around is the hours of shifts – those in the professional lorry driving industry cannot always eat their three square meals a day at the same convenient times. This is where some effort must be placed into preparation – taking half an hour to prepare all necessary meals ahead of when they are needed, so that they can be taken on the road as and when.

For breakfast inspiration, overnight oats are a perfect choice – filled with calcium, slow release energy, fibre and vitamins. A key staple of the modern lifestyle blogger’s ammunition (though this should be no reason to be put off!), overnight oats involve soaking porridge oats in milk (ensure it is skimmed) for at least 5 hours (or overnight) in the fridge. This is your base, and you can add any toppings you wish – berries, bananas, seeds, nuts, honey, spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg – you name it, it can be completely personalised to your tastes. The logistics of transporting (pardon the pun) and eating your overnight oats are key – and investing in a large amount of differently shaped Tupperware and a cool bag is vital to cleanly and easily storing your meals.

As far as lunches go, there is nothing better than a salad. At this point, many will be put off as images of limp, bitter leaves swirls in their mind – but this really does not have to be the case. Using your favourite lettuce, tomato and cucumber as merely a base (try to get fresh, in season and local for maximum flavour), from here you can re-create your favourite meals without the stodge, fat and extra calories, but instead work on hitting your 5-a-day with a range of different colours, vitamins and minerals.

Love Mexican food? Take your spicy chicken breast, onion and pepper mix as a topping and add sweetcorn, black beans and jalapeños. For those looking for refreshing Mediterranean flavours, try a Greek salad with flavoured olives, feta cheese and red onion, topped with a dressing of lemon, olive oil, garlic purée and oregano (store your dressing in a separate small Tupperware box and add just before eating it to prevent your meal from turning soggy), accompany with some shop-bought tzatziki and wholemeal pitta bread. There is no point in preparing a salad knowing that you are less than enthusiastic about it, as you will end up giving in to cravings if you’re not satisfied – you must work with the ingredients and flavours you know you love.

For those who cannot be converted to salads, never fear, there are plenty of other options. Instead of buying a sandwich on the road, make your own so that you can control the amount of butter or mayonnaise, or swap thick sliced white bread for a wrap or pitta. Homemade soups are ideal for a hot meal hit and can be easily be transported in a flask – try classic cream of tomato, carrot and lentil or minestrone, ideal for upping vegetable and protein intake whilst promoting the feeling of fullness for longer.

The key to healthier eating is, as it always has been, balance. Preparing each and every healthy meal ahead of driving may be stretch, so instead focus on smaller changes. Enjoy a hot meal from a roadside café if you have eaten a healthy, lower calorie breakfast; or if a bacon sandwich is your favourite way to start a morning, aim on reducing the number of days you indulge or only treat yourself if you know you will be eating your homemade, healthy meal later on – it’s all about balancing it for you.

We’re hoping these recipes and lifestyle preparation tips will encourage more HGV drivers to make that first step towards a healthier lifestyle and reduce the startling figures quoted at the beginning of this post – if you’ve tried your hand at these, or perhaps have your own creations, we’d love to hear about them on our Twitter page or in the comments below.

Cab-e-oke: The Benefits of Listening to Music

In recent months, we have discussed in length the pressures that many in the HGV driving industry face. Like many other lines of employment, there are increasing expectations for drivers to meet deadlines, reach targets and work long hours, all with the added challenge of uncontrollable variables acting against them: traffic, road works, delays. Whilst we continue to investigate and propose solutions to such issues, here at Barnes, this month we have been reflecting on the more personal, everyday mental health needs of many drivers and how something as seemingly simple as listening to music can help.

Like most drivers, HGV operators regularly enjoy the company of music during the course of their journey. Following discussions with our teams, we found their beliefs on the benefits of listening to music whilst driving reflect that of research; in short: it lifts mood and improves mental health. An extension to our previous comments on mental health – in December, we explored ways in which to overcome the ‘winter blues’ after discovering the shocking statistics surrounding depression and sadness in men at Christmas time – we find it imperative to reiterate that mental health issues can be present throughout the entire year, whilst also reinforcing a key fact: mental health is not untreatable, and there are many methods that experts advise individuals to try in an effort to aid their recovery. We hope that the following not only promotes the benefits of consuming music, but that it also reduces the ‘taboo’ of speaking out about mental health.

Firstly, it is imperative to support the above views with scientific evidence. MIND, the mental health charity, reported a study which concluded that listening to music encourages the release of dopamines in individuals, otherwise known as the ‘feel-good hormone’, finding a 9% increase in dopamine levels whilst listening to music. Additionally, experts encourage individuals to reveal the inner singer from within them, as singing loudly requires greater energy, which generates a greater mental release, slower breathing, and increased muscular activity, which in turn, reduces stress and encourages relaxation.

It should be noted that whilst we encourage all motorists to enjoy the health benefits of listening to music whilst driving, we actively discourage using phones, iPods and auxiliary cords whilst driving to change and search for music. Therefore, in a bid to remain safe on our roads, we strongly recommend that all motorists craft driving playlists prior to beginning journeys. By preparing a playlist pre-journey, the benefits can still be enjoyed, and individual responsibility to maximise road safety is also achieved.

Finally, whilst we by no means assert that music is a permanent cure for mental health issues, we appreciate the positive effects that individuals have experienced. We are optimistic that our drivers and fellow road users will find the above information useful, and may also reap the benefits. At Barnes, we are keen to remain active in supporting conversations surrounding mental health and the support available, and we hope that other industry professionals will also continue to champion this cause.

Do you have a playlist recommendation for ideal on-the-road listening? Let us know what your cab-e-oke playlist looks like by sending us a tweet!

AI: Robots in the Warehouse

 

As the technological world continues to progress in leaps and bounds, there’s no doubt that all sectors and industries have felt the presence of modern automation affecting and shaping the workplace year on year. Arguably one of the most advanced but controversial technologies is Artificial Intelligence – but what price must we pay for this progress?

So what exactly is AI? When asked, many minds spring to the thought of human-like machines with the capacity for human intelligence and logic, but governed ultimately by human restrictions. This, in essence, is AI – but we’re not talking about human-shaped robots here! Artificial Intelligence is a mechanical system created by humans built with certain rules which allow them to perform tasks which normally require human intellect – such as visual perception and decision making through data-driven learning experience. The popular ‘Siri’ feature on iPhones is an excellent example – an intelligent application which interprets and processes spoken language requests.

The next question is how AI can be applied to the logistics industry. Put simply, AI can work in the supply chain sector by becoming a predictor. By analysing data and looking at past patterns and a variety of intelligence-lead processes, the technology can forecast load and demand to highlight the most efficient route in the supply chain for the future. Whether this is looking at stock levels, health and safety investments or warehouse security, the more data that is fed into the self-learning system, the more accurate the predictions will be – meaning that an investment into AI will only become more and more worthwhile as time goes on.

We have already seen the beginnings of the application of AI in our industry with the date set for the trialling of self-driving HGVs. With smart technology that allows trucks to ‘platoon’ one behind the other but brake suddenly in the event of an incident, trained technology allows these vehicles to run their route without the aid of human drivers. Of course, as we have discussed in our previous blogs, such technology is not perfect – the rules of the road are complex, and human intuition is unmatched in preventing (as opposed to responding to) accidents.

Therefore, here at Barnes we cannot help but wonder if there may be some pitfalls to the promises of using AI in the warehouse. The most glaring issues manifest themselves quite simply into two categories: finances and the workforce. Firstly, although AI does promise to bring rewards in the form of increased profits, there is no denying that the technology is a hefty investment. AI specialists must analyse your business to integrate and implement the highly specialist systems – this is not something which comes cheaply. Secondly, we believe when discussing and taking advantage of advancing technology, business leaders must always think of the human impact. Yes, success comes with a flourishing business and growing top lines – but with success comes responsibility. We pride ourselves on providing excellent employment opportunities in the local area, and if any form of AI threatened to make human workers redundant, it should not be a decision made lightly – no matter the potential savings.

In sum, there is no denying that technology must be embraced by logistics businesses in order to move forward and provide the best levels of efficiency and, in turn, customer service. But we must always remember that our roles are more than looking at profit margins – when integrating new technologies, we must ensure that we see the lowest impact on our human workforce as possible. What do you think? If you’d like to share your thoughts on the subject of AI in the warehouse, head over to our Twitter or LinkedIn page and join the debate.

Pay-Per-Mile: The Best Route to Road Maintenance?

With both emissions and road damage becoming a growing problem, the UK Government is keen to implement measures that can tackle these problems head on. To do so, Parliament has proposed that a mileage and emissions fee is introduced, so that the raised money can fund the repair of road damage caused by HGV vehicles. The Department for Transport, on the other hand, claims that there are currently not any solid plans to introduce the scheme, although it has been confirmed that talks are in place to update the 2014 HGV Levy, which applies to vehicles of 12 tonnes or more. With road upkeep and repair costs of approximately £120 million incurred each year, we consider whether a pay-per mile scheme is the best route to road maintenance, or whether additional or alternative plans should be explored.

In a bid to receive ‘contributions’ towards road upkeep, the HGV levy is effective on all heavy goods vehicles operating on UK roads, with international lorries being required to pay relevant fees prior to entering the country – including Northern Ireland. Currently, costs range from as little as £1.70 daily, to an £830 annual rate, variant on bands. Due to the size and weight of heavy goods vehicles, there is evidence to suggest that the substantial number of vehicles travelling on Britain’s roads each day causes a significant amount of wear. Interestingly, the new scheme proposed calculates costs based not only on the potential road damage, but also on the level of emissions that individual HGVs omit.

However, in light of the recent news which found one in 13 lorries to be cheating emissions, we ask whether introducing a pay-per-mile scheme and changing the current levy should be the first port of call in receiving contributions from motorists. In the research conducted, of the 3,735 lorries assessed, 293 of them were found to be incorrectly publishing levels which were within the legal levels, when in reality, the levels were significantly higher and breached legal restrictions. To provide an equal and fair charging system for all HGV drivers, we believe the Government needs to address a greater problem first: the cheating of emissions. It is imperative to consider that with the new fee proposals in place, motorists and businesses may be further motivated to cheat emissions in an effort to avoid the payments. With this research suggesting that emissions are largely being cheated to keep the vehicle on the road for longer, as high emission levels require the vehicle to be repaired. Pivotal to this point is a concern that affects us all as individual road users: safety. It is crucial that we all maintain a vehicle that operates in accordance with our laws, as it allows for everyone to equally and safely use our roads.

Additionally, the proposal of a pay-per-mile scheme invokes a mild irritation within us as a company and within many other HGV drivers alike due to the boom in online shopping, meaning that the population demands more lorries on the road. The scheme, as discussed above, details how the levy and the potential new scheme would fund road damage caused by the significant number of HGVs on UK roads, however, whilst the number of heavy goods vehicles in operation has increased, so has the demand for HGV services. The demand is no longer excessive during seasonal periods, but rather constant, as there are now expectations from consumers for goods to be delivered next day, or in many instances, on the same day. As the industry attempts to meet the demands of online orders, even with an extreme shortage of drivers, further developments in fees are less than ideal when considering other areas of importance, such as attracting new young drivers to the industry.

So whilst we question the priority of some HGV issues in comparison to others, it is of course important to note why a pay-per-mile scheme is in discussion amongst industry leaders. Whilst international drivers are expected to pay a fee prior to entering the country, there is a critical view that the current system exempts international drivers from contributing to road upkeep. As a company who operates both in the UK and further afield, we at Barnes most strongly believe that all must pay their way. A HGV is a HGV, no matter where its company’s origins – it would seem that an element of fairness should be introduced with new laws, with all paying a rate to contribute to the roads they use.

What are your thoughts on the new proposals? Let us know on Twitter!

The Value of Knowing Your Customers

January the 18th was ‘Get To Know Your Customers Day’ – although we’re not one for jumping on the bandwagon of each and every suspiciously sales-motivated national day created, we couldn’t help but reflect on the benefits that lie in a day which actively promotes the value of truly understanding one’s customer base.

The advantages of taking the time to get to know your customers that little bit better should never be undervalued. One cannot truly deliver the personalised service which all business owners and managers should strive for if customers are merely numbers on a sheet: learning more about customer and clients’ businesses themselves will ensure that you are always the go-to-expert for specialised services.

Getting to know your customers better means that both parties benefit – when you know what your customers expect, it makes the delivery of strategy so much easier. This leads to greater productivity in the workplace, meaning your business benefits and employee morale is raised as projects are completed efficiently.

On the subject of workforces, encouraging the development of professional relationships between employees and customers may lead to organic improvement of performance. If employees really know their customers and share a friendly, respectful relationship with customers who they view as more than just email addresses or anonymous voices at the end of the phone, they are far more likely to go that extra mile and go above and beyond for them, which can only serve to improve business activity in the future.

But how can we reach out and get to know our customers better, whilst maintaining the utmost professionalism? If, like us here at Barnes, you work in the logistics industry, it’s not as simple as asking a customer about their day at the checkout or a chat over a coffee. For the majority in our profession, many of our clients are based across the country and the world.

If you already have strong relationships with your customers and want to build on them even further, consider inviting them to any in-house celebrations you may have planned. This could be a yearly motivational party to thank the hard work of your team, a re-brand event, or a special anniversary celebration for your company – any events which encourage professional relationships to flourish provide the ideal environment for customers to get to know you, your business and your employees better in a relaxed environment.

No events planned? No problem – there are plenty of other ways to get to know your customers better. Try to set up at least one meeting a year with your top customers, just to talk through the account and what’s on the cards for the upcoming months. It may seem a pain to take what could be a day to travel and meet your clients, the value of sitting down face to face not only helps to strengthen the relationship, but also helps you, as a business manager, to clarify upcoming plans. If this can’t be done face to face due to time constraints or distance, why not try setting up a video conference?

Finally, we understand that with all the best intentions of getting to know your customers, some clients may not have the time even for a video call! In which case, we would wholeheartedly recommend utilising the power of online surveys. Send a quick email in advance to let your customers know to expect a survey from you and how little of their time you’ll need, and you can create as simple or complex a survey as you need, and email it out to your clients (Survey Monkey are highly recommended). You can find out, anonymously or otherwise, how your customers feel about service, quality, prices, where you can improve and what you excel at.

We’ll be reflecting on the messages and benefits of ‘Get To Know Your Customers Day’ for far longer than a simple 24  hours, and we hope you’ll join us in extending their value throughout 2018.

Barnes Logistics: A Look Back at 2017

2017 is drawing to a close and the New Year is right around the corner, and we’ve been thinking about all that’s happened this year here at Barnes Logistics…

 

After settling in to our new headquarters after expanding both our fleet and team, we set our sights on growing the business even further. Looking to grow Barnes Logistics organically, for many months we were working on expanding through strategic acquisition. In September, we were proud to announce that we had acquired the Nantwich-based haulage firm GA Newsome. The newly acquired business had its own purpose-built premises offering substantial warehouse space, offices, workshop facilities and parking. The acquisition presented a unique opportunity to expand our presence across the UK, to bring our Just In Time logistics services to even more companies.

 

We’ve been inundated with awards this year – in September, we scooped the ‘Best Logistics & Warehouse Company – UK’ award in Industry Insights Monthly. Later on in the year, we were thrilled to have been awarded the title of  ‘Business of the Year’ for businesses with a turnover of more than £5 million in the annual Rochdale Business Awards. We entered way back in the year, and strove to provide the rigorous judging panel with evidence of yearly business growth, outstanding staff welfare and continued community support. We fought off some tough competition at the black tie awards evening at Rochdale town hall in November, and we couldn’t be more pleased with our win – to be recognised as a business leader in the local area is wonderful.

 

2017 has also seen some significant changes to UK road legislation. We welcomed the increased fine and tougher penalties for those caught using their mobile phones whilst driving.  Back in June, it was reported that the latest crackdown caught 6,000 motorists within the first four weeks of the new rules. Later in the year, the focus moved towards HGV drivers, with the DVSA given the ability to give out on the spot fines for any drivers who break proper rest rules within the previous 28 days.  Drivers must now take their legally required breaks in designated rest areas, or risk fines of up to £1,500. These new rules received mixed reviews – although all road users must be protected from the dangers of tired driving, industry leaders pointed out that there were simply not enough legal rest areas available, and that more must be done to invest in these.

 

All in all, we would say that 2017 has been an incredibly positive and successful year for us here at Barnes – we are certainly looking forward to seeing what 2018 will have in store.