Beating the Winter Blues

The decorations go up, the glasses get re-filled and the out of office goes on – there’s nothing like a festive break, is there? That is, of course, for those who work office jobs where the whole business can shut down for a week or two and get picked back up again in January. For drivers, the reality can be a little different – whether it’s delivering stock for post-Christmas sales or vital machinery parts for businesses, the world of logistics keeps turning and the roads keep calling, and drivers are often on the road when others are tucked up at home in front of the fire.

 

It is, admittedly, something which can cause drivers to experience some melancholy – which is why, following our previous discussions on mental health and summer driving attitude, we have decided to extend the conversation to a time when many people can often feel at their lowest. A study from the Samaritans in 2014 found that almost half of men felt depressed or sad around Christmas, and with logistics and driving still male-dominated industries (something that we most certainly hope will, and actively work towards, changing), it felt appropriate to look at how those who work in the professional driving sector might be able to help tackle swings of low mood in the run up, and during, the festive period.

 

The first step we would look to take would be one of practicality – countless studies have shown that eating the right foods and treating the body with the respect it deserves has a huge impact on serotonin levels, helping to battle low moods. This doesn’t mean you have to forego the classic Christmas delicacies – the high levels of zinc in walnuts can help in alleviating feelings of anxiety and depression; and sumptuous flavanol-rich dark chocolate helps to regulate mood.

 

Now, we move towards actions which help to engage others – use the time you have, whether it be on or off the road, to bring the merriment to you wherever you are. Make every moment count and ensure time off is filled with activities – drinks at the local with friends, parties hosted with family or, quite simply, sitting down with loved ones to watch a favourite film. There’s no value that can be put on restive quality time. This should not be limited to time away from work – connect with colleagues and other regular road acquaintances and organise some festive fun. Anything as small as organising a round of bacon butties will perk up spirits all round. And the best part of stepping up and leading the charge? You never know how much you might be helping others who are feeling low by reaching out and making that first move.

 

Our final piece of advice begins to move away from the functional and towards the mental – driving over the Christmas period requires a shift in approach and thinking. Embrace the season – avoiding the revelry of December is nearing the impossible, and attempting this will only leave one in misery; so play your family’s favourite festive songs in the cab and take advantage of the opportunity to reflect on one’s blessings. As we speak of reflection, it is worth noting that the increasingly popular act of Mindfulness (the practice of bringing one’s attention to the present moment) may be a useful tool to master – the quiet roads and the beauty of Britain in its wintery glory provide the perfect backdrop to take some time to contemplate and appreciate the state of now. The most important matter to focus on? The visualisation of being back home – after all, as much as we may not be overjoyed working over December, we must focus on the fact that it is all temporary, and soon we will back home in front of the warmth of the fire, with the decorations glittering and our glasses full – Merry Christmas!

Black Friday: Impossible Without Logistics

As Black Friday looms and eager shoppers wait with bated breath to get their hands on the latest deals, the world of logistics is gearing up to work harder than ever. The modern American ‘tradition’ of shops tempting in savvy spenders looking for Christmas bargains with their best deals of the year for one day only has crossed the pond to Britain in the last decade, but what affect does it have on our industry?

 

For the shoppers looking to find purchases in stores on Black Friday, strategic planning is needed by managers in order to ensure that they carry the right amount of stock for the suspected demand. There could be few things worse than losing out on both a sale and customer trust by having to inform them that their desired item is out of stock after hours of queueing. So before the bustling chaos of Black Friday has even begun, logistics professionals will be working closely with retail managers months in advance to deliver the additional stock before the doors open to the public.

 

An emerging trend of recent years, to be expected in this digital age, is that more and more people are taking to the internet to buy their bargains during both Black Friday and its virtual sister Cyber Monday. With online shopping comes another added step in the supply chain. Rather than drivers delivering goods to a store’s warehouse, they must now pick up goods and deliver these directly to the end user.

 

In our previous blog, we explored the pitfalls to the realities of same day delivery, with online retail giants such as Amazon having to pull their same day service. But we must remember that, particularly in times of high demand, that even next day delivery capacity is finite. With so many customers expected to be clicking and adding to carts online, it is not within reason to expect each and every customer to be able to receive their goods the next day.

 

Retailers looking to embrace Cyber Monday must set their delivery targets realistically and handle customer expectations: it is far better to give a customer a longer delivery time slot in the first instance than promise a target which either cannot be achieved, or puts an undue level of pressure on the logistics driver.

 

Which leads us onto our next point: even without next day deliveries, the impact which Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping trends have on the professional drivers of the UK is considerable. Drivers will be expected to work hard to keep up with demand, which is where stringent company Health & Safety regulations and rules are most important. As logistics leaders, we at Barnes Logistics ensure that any increased workload from customers does not lead to an impossibly increased workload on our dedicated drivers – it means investing in more team members. Never do our drivers feel as though they have unattainable delivery targets, leading to illegally long hours on the road.

 

This Black Friday and Cyber Monday, never forget the importance of enlisting the help of qualified, experienced supply chain professionals – they could be the difference between success or failure. If you’d like to find out more about how our teams can help you, get in touch today.

Show Your Truck Some Love

February: the month of love. But put down those flowers and chocolates because here at Barnes we think it’s time to show your truck some love! Not only will taking some time out of your day to ensure your truck’s at its best help with driving efficiency, but it will also hugely increase safety for yourself and other road users.

 

Firstly, always ensure that you have time for a walk around inspection of the vehicle – the best time to do this is just before it’s about to be driven; and is even more important when the vehicle hasn’t been driven for some time. If anything looks out of place, do not take any risks and report it.

 

Brakes are one of the most important safety measures, so check their efficiency with a brake test. Your vehicle should be loaded to ensure that a higher brake force before wheel lock can be tested (you should aim to apply at least 65% of the design axle weight on each axle), and brakes can be tested on a clean and well-gritted roller-brake tester (or RBT). The number of wheels which lock will differ from vehicle to vehicle – but remember that a locked wheel does not always mean a good brake.

 

Refresh your truck and give it an oil change – but might it be time to look at a new oil? There are so many choices out there from the commonly used E7, but consider switching to an oil which can be more fuel efficient such as E4 as E6. Even though many manufacturers have specific oil types, E6 oils meet many E4 and E7 requirements. Whichever oil you choose to use, why not take the time to check and top up or replace your oil to revitalise your HGV.

 

Finally, when was the last time you had a look at your headlights? The days may be getting very marginally brighter, but headlights are still a necessity not only for night time driving but also for driving in adverse weather conditions. But remember, when replacing a headlamp one of the most important factors is aim. Since April 2015, the Government changed that way headlamp aim is measured on MOT tests, aimed at making them more simple to understand and pass.

We hope that these top Barnes tips will persuade you to take just a little time out of your day to show your truck some love this February, and will help make your driving safer and more efficient.

 

HOW TO PREPARE YOUR HGV/LGV FOR WINTER

Winter can really take its toll on all vehicles, particularly HGV’s and LGV’s. We have compiled some hints and tips on how you can keep yourself and your vehicle in check during the colder months and unpredictable weather that is surely ahead of us.

One of the most important aspects of safety when driving in winter is to check the weather forecast regularly for the entire journey and ensure you are leaving enough time to cover any potential disruption to your journey.

While you’re at it you should also be checking your planned route regularly for traffic updates and information about any accidents that may have occurred due to adverse weather conditions or collisions.

Don’t try and get ahead of the Christmas rush by skipping on vital vehicle checks before you are due to begin your journey, it’s not worth it. Check you have all of the necessary equipment with you and thoroughly check your vehicle in advance. Ensure you’ve got appropriate clothing and blankets for extremely cold and dark conditions – your well-being is the main priority here. 

Now that you’re prepped for checking your vehicle no matter the weather, it’s important that you ensure all of your windows, lights, plates and reflective markings, steps and handrails are clear of ice, snow and dirt. You should already be checking your wipers, screen wash and de-misters as part of your everyday check (you’ll also want to avoid jumping down from your cab in wintery weather as there could be an icy trap waiting for you).

Checking the weight of your load is evenly distributed is crucial at this time of year because it can affect your vehicle’s handling. Also remember to adjust your driving after delivering as when your load gets lighter, you could get blown off course with a strong side wind. When your vehicle has a heavier load you have better traction on the road, but too much weight and it will affect your vehicle handling – it’s all about balance in trying weather conditions.

In the case of bad weather conditions, hopefully gritters will will have been out to improve the main A roads but drive with extra care and attention and remember that if your route requires you to take smaller, rural roads you will need to take extra caution as gritters can not always access these locations.

You may be driving one of the biggest vehicles on the road, with lots of sophisticated equipment, but that does not make you invincible – Don’t take risks with your cargo and especially not with your safety.

By sticking to this advice you should be fit to drive in wintery weather conditions as long as you always stay focused and act with extra caution. However, if you don’t feel comfortable driving in the weather conditions, or you feel your vehicle is not prepared for the conditions, find somewhere safe to stop and rest until the conditions improve.