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Shifting it up a Gear: Learner Drivers Take to the Motorway

Statistically, motorways are the safest of UK roads. One could not be judged however, for thinking otherwise – with their high speed, multiple lanes and various exits, they appear more complicated than standard A and B roads. Yet despite this, research has found motorway safety levels to be quite contrary to their aesthetic complexity – Aviva reported that accidents are actually seven times more likely to occur on rural roads than motorways – a figure that is somewhat surprising given the perceived dangers of the motorway.

 

The image of ‘danger’ that surrounds motorway driving could be seen to not only stem from repeated scare stories that have become a common place within our daily media consumption, but also from the demonization of such roads during our learning years. As a learner – the only driver exempt from using the motorway – the thought of using the motorway after qualifying without guidance can be intensely daunting, in fact, it is reported that one in twelve drivers will actively avoid using the motorway for at least six months after qualification. Given that it would do well for such roads to remain the safest to travel on, it seems absurd that until now, learners have been refused the opportunity to extend their experience portfolio to motorways. Until the beginning of June, it was legal for a driver to travel on the motorway having never done so before passing their test, and without guidance. It’s not hard to see how this could lead to dangerous road conditions with new drivers suddenly faced with a more complicated lane system on their own, further emphasised by the fact that these roads previously being ‘off limits’ can lead to nervous drivers behind the wheel – the thought process of ‘these roads must be difficult, because I was not previously allowed on them.’

 

Now however, the laws have been changed to address this. Since the 4th June 2018, learners have been permitted to use UK motorways under the guidance of an approved instructor and in a dual controlled car. Whilst these lessons are not compulsory, it is a significant step forward in bettering the experience of drivers prior to passing their test, and in our professional opinion, it can only help to make motorways safer still.

 

Whilst this is our opinion, it would seem that the general driving population is divided – with only 44% believing that learners should be allowed on the motorway without a full license. 42% supported the new laws, whilst the remaining 14% expressed a frustration in potentially being ‘stuck’ behind a learner who did not reach the speed limit. Although a total of 56% expressing the potential negative effects of the legislation, further research found that 70% wish the law had been changed sooner, as they would have benefited from lessons before they qualified.

 

Here at Barnes, we appreciate that there may be some safety concerns surrounding these new changes for those already qualified, however, as transport professionals in the midst of a skills shortage crisis, we welcome the new legislation and will be respectful of any learners that we may see on the motorway, as it is these drivers who may become the next generation of much-needed HGV operators. We strongly believe that if we can encourage young people to practice using the motorway whilst learning, the misconception that they must be too difficult to attempt will disappear, and improve safety levels on the UK’s roads will improve. And with this, it is entirely possible that such learners may come to enjoy motorway driving and pursue it as a career!

 

Let us know your thoughts on the new legislation by dropping us a tweet.

HGV Levy Changes: Is Tax Our Best Solution?

For those in the logistics industry, news of the new HGV Levy Tax has been unavoidable. In essence, in order to tackle emission levels in our country’s most polluted areas, from 2019 the Government will introduce additional tax rules aimed at HGVs which don’t meet the latest emissions standards.

 

Looking to tackle nitrogen oxide in particular, the Government claims that lorries make up for 5% of the country’s mileage, but produce around 20% of the total emissions in the UK. Those who do not meet the new standards will see a significant 20% added to their tax bill. But there is an upside – those who do meet the standard will be eligible for a 10% reduction in their road tax.

 

Of course, the protection of our planet is of the utmost importance. Here at Barnes Logistics it is a much discussed topicon our blog page, and one which – as a responsible business – we understand we have a significant role to play. There is no denying that HGVs produce larger amounts of emissions and this is a key factor to tackle in the battle for the future of our planet, but is a simple tax the best means of creating a better future for us all?

 

The main issue with the new HGV taxes are very aptly summed up by Christopher Snelling, Head of UK Policy at the FTA: “Over 90% of everything the public eat, drink, wear and build with travels on an HGV at some point in the supply chain.”

 

This poignant statement brings the Government’s previous 5% mileage and 20% emissions claim into a much broader perspective. Of course we must work towards a greener future where lorries are concerned, but the logistics industry is one which is weaved throughout the entire of the UK’s economy – it is not a merely internally benefitting business.

 

Almost every single business across all sectors rely on incoming deliveries of ingredients or parts, and outgoing distributions are necessary for finished products to be shipped to paying customers. So although HGVs may create a fifth of the country’s nitrogen oxide emissions, over 90% of the country benefit from the services provided by logistics experts. So why should drivers and logistics companies be the only ones punished?

 

Of course, we understand that a line must be drawn somewhere, and that taxing businesses for their use of logistics services is somewhat unachievable, and may impact small businesses in particular who may struggle to find the extra funds to cover the costs of their deliveries.

 

So what could be a more sophisticated alternative? Perhaps in the future, the taxes saved and made from these new laws could all be invested into the advancement of more eco-friendly HGV technology, and these technologies could be made more accessible to logistics businesses of all sizes. It would seem to us that the solution lies in creating more advanced possibilities for the logistics industry, as opposed to the relative simplicity of punishing one body for a service that is required by all. If the future of HGVs is lower emissions, more investment must be made into greener technology.

 

What are your thoughts on the new taxes, do you think that there is a better alternative?

HGV Cab Cameras and Media Perception: Is This The Turning Point?

This year, Highways England have harnessed HGVs to help tackle dangerous driving on our roads. Using secret wide angle cameras in unmarked lorries’ dashboards, the inconspicuous trucks have been capturing video records of unsafe driving behaviour.

 

The move follows the success of a trial last year, which saw over 4,000 dangerous drivers caught. By allowing unsuspecting law breakers to be followed by the cab and have their behaviour recorded, police forces could then pull over the offenders and deal with the situation – be it a warning, or a prosecution.

 

What was promising and encouraging to see is the mainstream media’s reaction to these announcements. Rather than berate the ‘spying’ HGVs, the reaction to the police and Highway England’s efforts to increase road safety through immediate intervention has been, on the whole, positive. Although the phrase ‘spy camera’ has a somewhat antagonistic feel, national news outlets reporting about the HGV cameras in a favourable manner.

 

With the exception of a few pieces implying that the new camera systems are an underhand enemy to be loathed, the majority focus instead on what is most important – the driving crimes which are being caught. These cameras aren’t just there to catch out drivers going slightly over the speed limit: they have caught drivers using their mobile phones at the wheel – the dangers of which have never been more prominent than in recent years – a driver writing on a notepad, one eating a meal and even another brushing their teeth!

 

So why is reaction so important? Historically, reporting on HGVs has taken the same one-sided route – sensationalistic pieces reporting lorries’ near misses and irresponsible driving. Although, of course, such behaviour from professional drivers is absolutely abhorrent and should be disciplined appropriately – the issue lies within the bias of reporting and how this influences public perception.

 

If the only stories the public read about the professional driving industry in consumer media outlets involve the few extreme cases of poor and dangerous driving, an assumption will grow about the whole of the driving industry. This can lead to misconceptions and seriously tarnish the reputation of the majority of the safe, skilful HGV drivers whose dedicated work allows the UK’s businesses to thrive. Without HGVs, the country and its economy would come to a standstill – an aspect which is never mentioned in stories reporting on dangerous HGV driving.

 

So the positive reaction to the HGV in-cab cameras is a step in the right direction – at the least, it gives another perspective to HGV stories. Although we are, of course, not there yet in a balanced and fair narrative on lorries in consumer media, we can take hope from the start of this movement and continue to raise the profile of the industry ourselves through our highest quality Barnes professional standards.

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!

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.

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!

A Look Back on Road Safety Week

Last week was one of the biggest events in the transport calendar: Road Safety Week. Having commenced on the 20th November, the week, ran by the charity Brake, focused on highlighting the dire need to tackle the serious issue of speeding. Despite an increase in the associated fines and the shockingly high statistics surrounding fatal speed-related accidents, many road users persist in breaking the law, but Brake have pinpointed a simple fact in their vital slogan: Speed Down, Save Lives. Reducing the speed at which a vehicle is operating can often make the difference between life and death in the event of a road traffic accident.

Throughout the week, the organisation centred their efforts around emphasising the dangers of speeding on rural roads and built up areas where pedestrians and cyclists are more likely to be at risk. The initiative, which was promoted within schools, organisations and communities, cannot be echoed enough, so here at Barnes, we are seizing the opportunity to push the message out to our fellow road users and members of the freight and transport industry. In this latest discussion we shall consider the importance of speed limits, how speeding affects our roads and how we can all, as responsible road users, resolve the ever-prevalent problem of speeding together.

Speed limits, contrary to what some believe, are here to make our roads safer for everyone. They are proposed based on a number of factors (risk, danger and environment) and account for elements such as housing, schools and road layout. In April, the Government raised speeding fines in a bid to deter drivers from the temptation of breaking the law. Offenders can now expect a minimum of 3 points on their license (for minor offences – the number of points issued correlates to the severity of the speeding offence) and a fine of around 50% of their weekly income, although this can be increased to 150%. These penalties are larger still for new drivers. But, even with such severe consequences for drivers, why is speeding still a major issue?

There are risks associated with all road vehicles; this is to be expected. Newer vehicles, for example, can accelerate more quickly than aged vehicles, whilst older cars are somewhat less reliable. However, driving behaviour is a large associating factor when it comes to speeding. Speeding is choice that drivers make, a selfish one at that. The statistics gathered by Break speak for themselves, speeding is undeniably dangerous:

  • Breaking the speed limit or travelling too fast for conditions is recorded by police at crash scenes as a contributory factor in one in four (23%) fatal crashes in Great Britain.
  • Drivers with one speeding violation annually are twice as likely to crash as those with none.
  • A recent Brake survey found that four in 10 (40%) UK drivers admitted they sometimes drive at 30mph in 20mph zones.

So how can this problem be overcome? Largely it comes with awareness. The saying ‘ignorance is bliss’ can be called upon here – often those who speed are ignorant to the potential dangers have been fortunate enough to not suffer the consequences – yet. Campaigners adopt a variety of awareness methods, from visual scare tactics to demonstrate the extreme realities of speeding accidents, to cognitive approaches that rather than using horrific aesthetics promote a ‘look twice’ method, where the audience have to re-watch the ad to see the underlying message – THINK!’s latest ‘Pink Kitten’ campaign is a fantastic example of this. Brake’s Road Safety Week is a credit to the UK’s highways in the work it conducts to overcome the problem. From social media campaigns to donations, action packs, virtual games and merchandise, the charity exerts every effort possible into truly making a difference, both during the marked week and throughout the rest of the year. Here at Barnes, we believe that they make a significant difference.

As a company who have over 100 drivers on the road each day, safety is absolutely paramount, to both our drivers and other road users. We will continue to promote the road values we hold and encourage all drivers to put safety first in the hope that we can make our roads a safer place. With hard work and determination, we are confident that speeding and the consequences it stimulates can become an issue of the past.

Same Day Delivery – Is It Sustainable?

Gone are the days of ‘standard – three to five days’ being a sufficient delivery window. In this present day, there are a vast range of delivery options available: time specific, next day, premium, and, the subject of this blog: same day. As a company who works exceptionally hard to fulfil all our client requests with ‘Just in Time’ delivery, we have to question, is a same-day delivery option truly feasible?

There are a number of factors which must be considered – and perhaps these are easier to consider for those who work in the industry and are directly impacted by the effects of same-day delivery. From cost-effectiveness to efficiency, as industry professionals we propose this thought: is it logistically possible to offer a same-day service for a sustained period of time?

One can understand why business leaders, particular for consumer products, might be tempted to trial same day delivery: last year, Ecommerce News found that 72% of UK consumers would shop more if the retailer offered same-day delivery, and that sales could be €5.77bn higher with more delivery options. For those customers placing the order, there is a period of excitement as one waits until the product arrives. But beyond the screen of the online retailer, the logistics sector which drives these industries does not experience the same emotions. The process of same-day delivery is one of pressure, and boxes need to be ticked.

Major international companies like Google, Amazon and Uber have all adopted a ‘same-day’ delivery option, but often, if viewed from a smaller scale perspective, this is not a realistic target for national and local firms. Not all have found it to be a success, however – retail giants eBay have struggled to retain this service; terminating it shortly after it began due to its high costs not matching demand. In addition, with the driver shortage in the freight and logistics industry still a highly prevalent issue, the option of same-day delivery seems far from possible – how can sustained same day delivery be achieved when there are not yet enough drivers on the roads to cope with the current demand from consumers?

Another important consideration to take into account is whether quality control may slip. With time pressures becoming the main focus of warehouse workers, it is not difficult to imagine that mistakes might happen when only a tiny window of time is given for employees to suddenly process orders.

Largely, a concern at the forefront of our minds is the likelihood of every logistical company being able to cope with such a demand. At Barnes Logistics, we are proud to have a fleet with over 100 drivers on the road each day who help us meet order delivery requests; however, we, in our expert opinion, find a ‘Just In Time’ approach to be far more sustainable – a concept you can find out more about in detail in our previous blog. In sum, ‘Just In Time’ works for orders to be moved to specific locations only at the required times, reducing flow times and the amount of inventory to tackle waste and save money. This, combined with our experience and expertise, has proven invaluable to a number of industries.

Perhaps it is time for consumer retailers to take a step back and place efficiency and practicality over increasing their customers’ expectations – particularly given the state of the drivers’ shortage in the UK. Surely managing customer expectations will lead to higher levels of brand loyalty than promising a service which may not be tenable? A slick, well-regulated ‘Just In Time’ system implemented by trained professionals seems a far more economic and skilful logistics scheme to adopt, and one which would offer customers a happy medium in terms of product demand.

If you’d like to know more about the benefits of ‘Just In Time’ and how it can help your business, get in touch with our friendly team today.

Back to School: How to Start a Career in Logistics

It’s September, which means millions of people, young and old, are returning to an educational establishment of some variety in order to, ultimately, better their prospects in the employment market. Here at Barnes, we pride ourselves on employing experienced transport professionals in our teams, in order to ensure a superior service for our clients – but how exactly can one go about starting a career in logistics?

 

There is no one route into the logistics industry given the incredible variety in roles – leading to a diverse workplace filled with workers from a range of backgrounds.

 

For those who know that the supply chain industry is their goal, there are a huge range of higher education courses available – Coventry, Edge Hill and Liverpool John Moores are just a handful of Universities who offer degrees such in supply chain and transport management at both Bachelors and Masters levels.

 

Of course, it is certainly not uncommon that those at the age of 17 are unsure of which sector they wish to spend their post-graduate lives; so, logistics and supply chain courses are not the only path into a career. Those who have degrees based in law, business and management, IT, design or engineering will find a career in the logistics industry where their skills can flourish. From HR to fuel efficiency testing, working in an industry with high levels of professional standards and the strive for continual improvement will provide graduates with a challenging yet satisfying career.

 

Particularly in the last few years as fees have been hiked exponentially and interest rates on student debts seem to see no stability, going to University is not always a plausible, or even possible, route for young people to take. This is where the benefits of apprenticeships cannot be applauded loudly enough: providing the opportunity to gain relevant industry experience and training without the pressure of fee debts.

 

Early next year, the Supply Chain Academy is due to launch an integrated degree-apprenticeship, where students will be employed throughout their training, and will spend a fifth of their time on academic study. This is an incredibly exciting scheme that will allow apprentices to benefit from a fully professionalised course, leading to the younger generation entering the industry to bring far more skills than ever before.

 

Of course, we cannot discuss careers in the logistics industry without mentioning the most vital players in the supply chain: our drivers. To become a professional driver, one must be over 18 and hold a full car driving license in order to complete their Driver CPC – the Certificate of Professional Competence – on a provisional lorry license. Just as in a car driving test, the Driver CPC involves theoretical and practical tests; which incorporate hazard perception and the analysis of case studies.

 

Potential new drivers must then complete the practical test: lasting an hour and a half, drivers must answer questions on vehicle safety and complete both on and off-road driving. Finally, upon successfully passing the practical driving test one must complete a practical demonstration test, where one shows the ability to safely assess and load a HGV, their ability to deal with emergency situations and how to stop the trafficking of illegal immigrants – a subject much talked about in the news recently, as hauliers have seen a 12% increase in fines due to illegal migrants in their vehicles.

 

If a career in the diverse, exciting and demanding world of logistics is one which you might be considering, get in touch with our Barnes team today.

Are We Still in the Driver’s Seat when it comes to Autonomous Vehicles?

When it comes to the subject of self-driving vehicles, the conversation is often a heated one. Regular debates are held between those who work in the transport sector, discussing whether autonomous vehicles will have a positive or negative impact upon the logistics industry; a conversation which is to be continued within the following paragraphs.

 

Whilst self-driving cars are a somewhat common news piece, self-driving trucks have not been featured as frequently. However, with the Government announcing this week the trial of semi-autonomous lorries, and a date for these plans now announced, our news feeds have been inundated with the details surrounding such an operation, and so, at Barnes Logistics, we felt the need to delve further into this topic.

 

Previously, and arguably unsurprisingly, plans to test autonomous HGVs had been suspended after a lack of commitment from many major European manufacturers. Their concern was not without valid cause; is platooning and synchronised braking really the safest addition to our roads? But, despite the initial reluctance from manufacturers, the Government has since revealed plans to trial the feasibility of autonomous HGVs on Britain’s roads.

 

By 2025, sales of driverless cars are anticipated to hit record highs; it is predicted that global sales will exceed 10m. With such high expectations of self-driving cars, it is interesting to consider whether autonomous trucks will boast a similar success. At Barnes Logistics, we have been scrutinising the issues which surround driverless vehicles, and how such potential complications may effect the logistics industry, presenting a vital question: are they a help or a hindrance?

 

Before assuming the overall safety of these vehicles however, there are many significant factors to take into consideration. This includes how the environment may be affected, (which in its own right is a topic of concern and has been discussed at length in our recent blog on vehicles and pollution), whilst other factors that will undoubtedly effect the success of driverless trucks include weather conditions and unforeseeable, and unpreventable road events, such as sudden accidents.

 

Firstly, we explore how driverless trucks would operate. The Government proposes to implement a ‘platooning’ technique, whereby the trucks drive in groups, just 4 metres apart from one another, with synchronised breaking and steering. Then, as a lorry needs to exit the motorway, a driver will take over control again, whilst the remaining HGVs continue to synchronise. It is thought to be a ‘state-of-the-art’ system, driven by smart technology. It is considered to improve road safety through reducing driving reaction time to zero seconds, providing an immediate reaction to potential trouble on the road. The Government also reports that the system is an inexpensive alternative to current HGVs, as the constant speed at which the trucks drive lowers fuel consumption and C02 emissions.

 

However, despite the apparent advantages, in cost reduction and fuel efficiency, there are many potential problems that driverless trucks could cause the logistics industry. The Financial Times has raised a series of issues which may prove problematic. Of upmost importance is the potential for accidents: whilst road safety is considered to be improved through the use of quicker reaction times, it should be noted that often, accidents can be prevented through simple communication between vehicles and pedestrians. Decisions at cross roads are often made through one driver letting another pull out first, and pedestrians are able to cross roads after being waved across by drivers. Human interaction on the road is a complex system which no computer can replicate.

 

Additionally, there is the safety risk that HGV platoons pose to other road users without taking any HGV accidents into consideration. The driverless technology will allow the lorries to travel far closer together – and although this will increase efficiency due to lower air resistance, it also means that road signs may be blocked from view for car drivers. Road-side warnings advise of upcoming traffic jams, accidents and adverse weather conditions – if car drivers cannot see these due to being blocked by a small convoy of lorries, the end results could be disastrous.

 

Finally, one of the most significant potential problems for the sector, is of course, the issue of employment. The logistics industry provides vital jobs for thousands looking for an occupation with flexibility and freedom. Although each HGV in a platoon will have a driver at the wheel ready to take over, will the idea of simply sitting behind semi-autonomous vehicles deter potential new young drivers from the industry? In a sector which is attempting to encourage more interest from the next generation into the driving occupation, this news does not bode well.

 

Overall, it is difficult to predict how successfully driverless trucks will integrate into logistics. For all the benefits they offer, we believe that there is the potential for many mistakes, which could prove costly and (potentially) lethal. HGVs have been human operated since they joined our roads, and naturally, this allows for a significant level of control over technology. Along with the potential for devastation and uncertainty for professional drivers, it seems to be a backwards step for logistics.