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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.

The Rising Cost of UK Roads vs the Rising Expectation of HGV Drivers

As public and business demand for logistics increases, the nationwide shortage of HGV drivers only becomes more detrimental. As it currently stands, the UK are short of approximately 45,000 drivers – a figure which in a society with a high demand for delivered goods is extremely concerning. Perhaps more concerning still is the lack of efforts being exerted to secure more drivers; it seems that recent industry proposals which supposedly aim to tackle the problems at hand are instead focused on government economic gain rather than real solutions. The monetary gain of which we speak is largely referring to the abundance of new regulations which seemingly aim to lower the worrying levels of emissions yet cause financial strain for those who work within the driving industry. In recent months, the news has emphasised how such financial strains also exist beyond the topic of pollution – articles have detailed how drivers will be fined for working beyond legal hours and how networks such as the M6 toll as well as local councils plan to introduce new HGV charges. Whilst we at Barnes are keen to play an active role in tackling the environmental and social issues that the UK faces, we also wish to highlight the detrimental nature that increasing fines have on an already strained, short-staffed and much-needed industry. The following offers a reflection, drawing on many of our past comments, but considers them in terms of financial impact that new proposals may have by asking, how are the rising costs of UK Roads affecting the rising expectation of HGV drivers?

In July an increase in M6 toll prices was announced. Vehicles can expect to see an increase of approximately 50p; for lorries, this takes prices up to £11.50 during the week and £9.80 at the weekend. The news has attracted criticism from supportive industry bodies like The Road Haulage Association, with the body’s chief executive claiming that the changes make the M6 an unaffordable, unviable route for HGV drivers. The Midland Expressway, however, claim that there is a ‘necessity’ for increases as it will reduce journey times and result in a motorway system that is “great value for money”. They offer further attempts of justification by  adding that ‘pay-as-you-go’ routes are very popular with HGV drivers. The RHA chief, who directly communicate with drivers, presents a contrasting but pivotal point: “Why have the Midlands Expressway decided to increase the rate for HGVs now – at a time when the price of diesel has just risen by another two pence per litre – adding over £800 per vehicle to a trucker’s annual operating costs?”

The news comes after it was announced that haulage companies can now also expect to pay less tax on ‘environmentally friendly’ vehicles, but as we have previously highlighted, it seems that the greater issue at hand is not being addressed; not all can afford to buy an entire new fleet and so are forced to pay more tax.

Additionally, with emissions levels deemed a major issue, hauling bodies are confused as to why such charges are being increased, as they will undoubtedly lead to HGV drivers to use alternative routes to the M6. Such routes are likely to be A and B roads – the very urbanised areas where the government and local councils are attempting to lower pollution levels.

Yet in these very areas, some councils are campaigning to introduce ‘congestion’ charges for HGVs. Dorchester town centre, for example, is keen to implement fines on lorries that travel through the borough without making deliveries, using cameras to track their movements. But as discussed above, it is likely that the M6 toll price hike will cause an increase in town traffic.

In addition to these expected cost increases, there have been a number of other financial hits to the HGV driving industry. Earlier this year, it was announced that on-the-spot-fines would be given to drivers exceeding their tachograph hour restrictions. Having spoken in depth on this issue before, we can only reiterate our previous comments: are drivers only tampering with tachographs to meet strict delivery deadlines? As these issues have continued to develop since our last blog post, we would now like to additionally ask, how can financial punishments be effective when the pressure and expectation on HGV drivers is not easing, particularly with a severe skills shortage to also consider?

It is with great disappointment that we pen our beliefs: eventually, all HGV drivers will be penalised, regardless of route, and yet demand for logistics and deliveries will not falter. With the news of various fines dominating our daily news, we fear that prospective drivers may be deterred from entering the industry, thus worsening the problem at all angles. Thankfully, as an industry, we have a supportive body that campaigns against newly proposed charges, but, as an individual business, we urge the government to address the problems at hand before imposing fines. Realistically, the expectation on drivers is set to increase, therefore it is vital to exert greater efforts into the recruitment and retention of new drivers, whilst also exploring alternative ways to reduce emissions and congestion. If these requests are met, it is possible that the industry can thrive once again.

Let us know your thoughts 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.

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.

A Day in the Life of a Barnes Driver

May is National Share Your Story month, so we thought we’d celebrate by walking a day in our very own drivers’ shoes, and discovering what it’s like to be a Barnes driver. So many people dream of having a career flexible enough to travel the length of the country every day, or even hopping overseas, all whilst having the opportunity to meet new people as well as receiving consistent support from their employers. At Barnes Logistics, this lifestyle is a reality every day for our team.

 

Brendan Norman is a highly valued driver within the company. To offer a genuine insight into what it’s like to be a Barnes Logistic employee, we caught up with Brendan to find out what life on the road is really like.

 

Brendan starts every day by catching up with his work colleagues, relishing the value that close working relationships bring. “Every morning I get to see my work mates and have some banter,’ says Brendan, ‘and of course the first thing I do each morning is perform my vehicle safety checks. This is everything from checking and adjusting tyre pressure to scanning the truck for physical faults. After this, it’s time to load up! Depending on how many stops I need to make that day affects how long loading takes, but I always make time for a drink. I can’t start my day without my decaf coffee – I’ve recently given up caffeine!”

 

When on the road, Brendan has his go-to playlist to help him along any long drives: “Anything by Elton John, especially his more upbeat songs. They really help keep me motivated, and are definitely an advantage during heavy or standstill traffic!”

 

When he’s driving, Brendan knows the temptations that roadside stops and cafes can bring! But Brendan resists, well aware of the health risks which can be associated with the driving lifestyle.  But who can say no to a Friday treat? “I pick myself a chocolate chip cookie when I fuel up – only once a week mind!”, says Brendan.

 

Now, onto the big question: What’s Brendan’s favourite thing about being a Barnes driver? “It’s hard to pick one thing! I suppose if I narrowed it down, my two favourite things about being a driver with Barnes has to be the team I work with, plus the hours work really well for my lifestyle.”

How do we Entice the Younger Generation into Logistics?

Each day offers something new – one day may take you to the other end of the UK, the next you may be heading across the borders and venturing into our neighbouring countries. Imagine waking up every morning to different scenery, having the opportunity to meet new people and receiving regular input and support from your employer. Logistics: it’s the ideal career. However, despite this, the logistic industry is still struggling to recruit young people, and it’s a growing concern for the country.

For the past two years, the haulage industry has been talking about the shortage of drivers. With the shortage of drivers believed to be between 45,000 and 60,000 and just 2% of HGV drivers under the age of 25, it is imperative that the industry acts soon in order to encourage a new generation of drivers to fill the available positions.

At Barnes Logistics, we’re committed to tackling the driver shortage, and so, we have decided to round up the best parts of being a driver, and what it takes to get there!

Each day typically begins with checking the truck for damage or physical faults. This includes examining the tyre pressure, topping up fluids, and even checking that no one has entered the vehicle. These checks are vital, as the vehicles are on the road for long periods every day, and these checks act as safety barriers for both the driver and other road users – so a sharp eye is key.

Following the checks, the driver will load the lorry. It is a task that requires both physical strength and skill, as drivers will need to be able to efficiently operate the lifts within the vehicle, and plan how to balance the load to maximise the driving quality. Once this is done, you’re ready to hit the road.

A career in driving is a rewarding one, with drivers often able to plan their hours to suit them – as long as delivery targets are met and they meet the DVSA guidelines. Through picking up and dropping off deliveries, it is guaranteed that you’ll meet new people every day, as well as having regular contact with other employees at the company base.

Access to the resources and qualifications needed for a HGV job are there, but more young people need to know how to access them. The All Part Parliamentary Group has reported that there are 142 high education courses available, including courses at 48 universities, all available to school leavers. With the government also ruling that young people must remain in education until the age of 18, the age at which a C+E licence can be acquired, the logistic industry is hopeful that with the right guidance, many school leavers will opt to head straight into a HGV driving career upon completion of their studies.

In order to do this, governing bodies and logistic organisations must be more proactive in covering issues such as education, funding and bursaries if the driver shortage is to be addressed.

At Barnes Logistics, we are keen to welcome young drivers into the business. Each of our drivers are happy, comfortable and undergo all necessary training. We hope that through continuous recruitment, we can help the industry overcome the driver shortage and the effects it has on the sector.