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Self-Driving Lorries: Could Public Fear Help Our Industry?

Automated, self-driving lorries have been a contentious topic which have grown from rumour to near-reality in recent years. We’ve voiced our concerns about the introduction of semi-autonomous vehicles when the planned ‘platooning’ technique was announced last year – from the decrease in road safety to the threats to employment.

But it seems that it is not just those in the road logistics and professional industries who are troubled by the looming threat of autonomous HGVs: Logistics Manager revealed the results of a survey which found that self-driving lorries were the second most frightening technological advancement, coming closely behind conscious machines.

The fact that self-driving HGVs are only slightly bested in the ‘fear factor’ by, essentially, the concept of robots which can think for themselves outside of human control, is telling.

When delving deeper into the 2,000 respondents’ worries, the reason ‘I don’t trust that they’ll be reliable and as quick to react as a human would’ was a top response, with an incredible 62% sharing this fear. This was a concern raised in our post last year, and the fact that it’s shared by the public only strengthens this.

Interestingly, when probed about their top concern, the respondents also cited that the possibility of machines replacing human workers was worrisome. Given that the study was asking the general public rather than a group of professional logistics workers, it’s understandable that autonomous lorries don’t evoke the same fears of job replacement for our nation’s professional drivers – but the fact that it is still a concern in general shows that we are not happy with the morality of people being replaced by machines.

The less trust the public has in the new technologies behind driverless HGVs, the more barriers the Government will face to implement them on our roads. As well as supporting our dedicated professional drivers, this public fear could also help to boost our industry’s image. The discrepancy between the public’s feelings towards the haulage sector and the reality of their reliance and the high standards of safety has been a topic which we’ve explored previously.

But when forced to think about the impacts of autonomous lorries on our roads, society must reflect on the fact that current drivers are, in fact, an incredibly safe and reliable workforce. Quick reaction times, practical human intelligence and expert training makes our professional drivers the dependable, reliable and indispensable part of the logistics chain.

Let’s hope that the future will bring even more awareness and recognition for our nation’s dedicated professional drivers!

How Will a No Deal Brexit Affect Just In Time Logistics?

The Brexit negotiations have taken more twists and turns than anyone could have imagined when the vote to leave the EU was announced back in 2016. With deals going nowhere and extensions to talks, it’s given business leaders even more time to think about how Brexit will affect their industry.

We’re already seeing the more obvious effects of leaving the EU – customs workers striking this month over the lack of clarity have led to miles and miles of queues at Calais for professional drivers. A simple act such as this has wide-reaching consequences – drivers will not only be frustrated, but their health is put at risk as they remain in the cab unable to move in traffic queues and longer hours are spent on the road. Playing the blame game is all too easy but, ultimately, futile – strikers take such a stand only because of serious concerns for their workplace.

These strikes give a taste of what may be to come in the long term: should No Deal become a reality, drivers will doubtless face long queues when leaving or re-entering the country. But as well as the toll this will take on drivers’ hours, physical and mental health, it will also have an effect on businesses. And Just In Time logistics will be an industry which will be hugely altered should no deal be agreed between Britain and the EU.

Just In Time relies on the efficiency of forward planning to ensure a smooth logistics operation, with new stock transported when levels are low but not depleted. If this month’s queues at Calais are any indicator of what a No Deal Brexit might look like, it would be understandable for business owners to be concerned that delays at borders could lead to a break down in the Just In Time system.

However, at Barnes Logistics we believe that there really is no need for panic. As well as being utterly counter-productive, the fact remains that the majority of businesses have been planning for this eventuality for years. By analysing customer spending habits, we have seen businesses across a whole variety of industries strategically stockpile and more effectively manage key goods.

Although delays at borders may lead to longer delivery times, this is a simple reality which both businesses and customers must face and embrace. If goods have been stockpiled, businesses have safeguarded their ability to make products and sales – with the only net affect being that businesses may have to wait a little longer than previously for their goods to arrive. As long as there is clear communication between both parties, both can plan and prepare accordingly.

At the end of the day, Just In Time relies on thoughtful forward planning to ensure maximum efficiency – and this will remain the key to its success whatever the outcome of Brexit.

Success For HGV Safety Perception

As professional drivers, our careers chronically face interrogation from the media and other motorists. Issues surrounding accidents, incidents, emissions and vehicle specification have the most volume amongst news coverage and encourage a negative perception of the drivers and the industry that they are tirelessly committed to. To some extent this concern is understandable; naturally every driver, professional drivers included, want each road journey they take to be a safe one, however, the ability of HGV drivers is generally scrutinised more than others, despite the efforts of many operators in promoting road safety. This creates an undeniable frustration, as professional driving occupations are a service centred upon the demand of societal needs.

Despite common discourses on HGV drivers, last month, the industry was met with some fantastic news that hopefully reflects a broader change of perspective and opinion towards professional drivers. According to WMB Logistics, lorry operators, based on a survey of 2,267 British motorists, are the safest drivers on the road due to the amount of time they spend travelling the country’s tarmac routes.

Throughout 2018, as always, the industry continued in its efforts to further improve the safety of both its vehicles and driver skills; this news is therefore a welcomed response to 12 months of hard work. The study found a substantial 22% of correspondents reported lorry drivers to be the safest road users, closely followed by parents at 21%, delivery drivers at 13%, coach drivers at 11% and new drivers at 10%. It is overwhelmingly positive to see that not only have HGV drivers been ranked so highly, but other logistic workers and LGV operators also fall within the top five. This faith in such professions hopefully signals a changing attitude towards our nation’s drivers, and during a somewhat hostile period as we defend our value (particularly in reference to road safety) in comparison to the likes of autonomous lorries, the news is well-timed.

In light of this news, here at Barnes, we wanted to seize the opportunity to briefly reflect on the efforts made by the industry over the past 12 months to improve road safety. In May of last year, Highways England launched a fantastic virtual reality training programme that aimed to increase awareness of blind spots using a smartphone app. Additional safety procedures were implemented by I_HeERO, who worked to install eCall systems within HGVs to alert emergency staff of the cargo the lorry is carrying in the event of an accident so that more efficient dispatch actions can be made by emergency responders. Stricter regulations surrounding the fining of exceeding driver hours were implemented, and a campaign partnership between the Road Haulage Association and Vision Express offering free eye tests to motorists was launched. Further efforts have been actioned in reducing vehicle emissions, bettering tyre pressure legislation and continually raising awareness of driver training courses. This is just a brief reflection of the actions taken by the professional driving industry, and we are confident that the next 12 months holds even greater efforts.

We want to congratulate everyone within the industry for their determination in increasing road safety and in practicing high levels of care and caution – it is because of our efforts and commitment to the industry that the sector has been recognised as the safest motorist category on UK roads. We’re positive that this title demonstrates the beginning of a change in opinion towards HGV operators.

Let us know what else we have achieved and what we should be working towards next in our road safety efforts by dropping us a tweet!