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The Immigrant Lorry Crisis

When it comes to news reports involving the professional driving industry, there is a scarcity in themes. Largely, reports fall into three categories; road accidents involving HGVs, the implications that Brexit may have and the ‘illegal immigrant lorry crisis’. The immigrant crisis, as it’s labelled, is a topic which we at Barnes are yet to speak on, and it is a topic that can be difficult to discuss as there are various elements to it – but as an issue which can compromise the safety of hardworking professional drivers, it is one we feel compelled to explore.

A story of ‘illegal immigrants’ recently circulated the British tabloids; eleven people, including three children and a baby, entered the UK by lorry, only surviving their journey by eating the chocolate that the haulier was carrying. The circumstances surrounding this particular story are not uncommon; the group had boarded the lorry as it travelled from mainland Europe and then secured the vehicle in such a way that it could not be easily opened again, reducing the likelihood of them being found before reaching their desired destination. Although this narrative is a commonality, it is important to consider that not all who secretly stow themselves away are criminals, in many cases, the very act of illegal hitch-hiking appears desperate and involves a significant level of risk to it, suggesting that it is entirely possible that the people found on board were refugees or asylum seekers who simply hoped for a safer life based in the UK.

 

In such situations, regardless of the circumstances of the stowaway, it is also important for us to address how drivers can deal with such situations, as ensuring their safety is paramount. Unfortunately, many professional drivers feel let down by the existingHYPERLINK “https://www.gov.uk/guidance/secure-your-vehicle-to-help-stop-illegal-immigration” legalities; as it currently stands, legislation states that drivers must secure their lorry in a way that would prevent anyone from entering the trailer. In the event of a ‘clandestine entrant’ being found on board, drivers can face a fine of £2000 per person found on board. Even if the driver did not willingly or knowingly transport them, they face the fine as it demonstrates that their vehicle security measures have failed, and were therefore insufficient. These penalties are severe, particularly when the majority of drivers are not intentionally smuggling people across borders; in many cases, the desperation of stowaways can overcome the efforts of the driver, and there have been multiple cases reported where the driver has checked, rechecked, and even passed through specialised scanning equipment, but all have failed to detect any bodies on board. In such instances, the driver truly cannot be held accountable; if advanced technology fails to find stowaways, how could the driver be expected to? And yet many miles later, when eventually discovered, both the driver and stowaways face being detained.

 

It seems that the system of fining and detaining has fuelled anger towards immigrants who cross borders on lorries. Make no mistake, we are certainly not encouraging, agreeing with or promoting illegal immigration, but, we urge both the government and public to consider the safety of both the driver and immigrants. Our hardworking drivers should not be penalised or faced with potential penalties in these events, nor should they be locked away in a cell whilst investigations are begun.

 

As a business that operates within the logistics industry, we know that drivers are experiencing this far too commonly, and as a result, better systems are needed immediately, as they cannot continue to be subjected to the physical, emotional and financial stress that comes with the discovery of unknown passengers in their vehicle and the legalities that follow. If the circumstances are not addressed, we fear that drivers will continue down this same road for the foreseeable future, but we are hopeful that if we, and others alike, continue to raise awareness of this issue, policy makers will be encouraged to take necessary action.

 

Please share with us how you think our country can better protect our professional drivers by dropping 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.

Rochdale Business Awards Success

Earlier this year, we entered Barnes Logistics into the annual Rochdale Business Awards after our first successful year at our new headquarters.

 

Established in 2011 to celebrate the achievements of businesses and business people within Rochdale Borough, we entered the ‘Business of the Year’ category, for businesses with a turnover of more than £5 million.

Rochdale Awards 5

The judging panel were looking to see how a business had performed over the past year in terms of turnover, team expansions and growth opportunities. In the past year we are proud of our incredible business expansion – increasing our fleet and team lead to needing to move to larger headquarters; and later in the year we grew the business even further by acquiring the haulage company GA Newsome. This business growth meant that we could create further jobs in Rochdale, and the opportunity to bring our top quality professional logistics services to even more time critical businesses.

 

We also outlined the highest standards to which each and every Barnes employee is trained – every driver is CPC qualified and then internally assessed, and graduates are closely mentored to develop to supervisory and managerial positions.

 

Finally, the judges were looking to see what businesses did to give back to their community – and we are proud of our commitment to supporting Springhill Hospice this year. Not only this, but our MD Chris Barnes also sponsors a number of sporting institutions across the North West.

 

The event was held at the magnificent Rochdale Town Hall, where our team met and mingled with other like-minded business professional in the glitz and glamour of a black-tie event. We were delighted to be announced as winners for the Business of the Year, in the highest turnover category. After the awards ceremony, we continued to the after party for a well-deserved celebratory drink!

If you’d like to know more about how our award-winning company could help your business for all of your logistics needs, don’t hesitate to contact our team today.