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The Year Ahead – What Can We Expect?

2018 is drawing to a close, and the year ahead is set to be an historic one for Britain as the country faces one of the biggest political shifts in decades. But what can the logistics and warehousing industry expect in the next year?

 

Whilst we, of course, cannot say for sure what will happen in the near future; there are certain events which we can predict will affect our industry significantly.

 

Of course, the main political event will come in March as we officially leave the European Union. The issue of the Irish border is one which is still not settled – so let us imagine both scenarios. The Irish backstop plan which, at this moment in time, seems the most likely, will see a ‘soft’ Brexit, but if an agreement cannot be reached we may head towards a hard Brexit which means that any trade with Europe will involve longer delivery times as drivers’ goods are stopped and checked at customs.

 

As we will not be bound by the same standards agreements, goods must be checked on borders to ensure that they are up to EU standards. Some have voiced concerns that the increased stop time as lorries wait to have their goods inspected will lead to an increase in illegal migrants boarding HGVs to enter the UK illegally, particularly as immigration laws will change as EU members will no longer be allowed to move freely to Britain as they once could.

 

Our final Brexit prediction is that of uncertainty. Such a huge political shift will lead to economic changes – and whilst few can say whether this will be for better or worse in both the short and long term, the value of the pound will be unpredictable. This means businesses will need to have invested in surplus stock before March – a subject we have spoken about previously with our safe and secure warehousing space available to store these excess goods as businesses ride out the turbulent times ahead.

 

The drivers’ shortage, a European-wide issue, may well be exacerbated in 2019. Workers may feel less inclined to move to the UK and fill vital positions; so, we can predict an industry-wide awareness and recruitment campaigns. Hopefully this will be backed and supported by the Government, with funding for training, education and apprenticeships.

 

Of course, it’s not all negativity in the future. Despite the changes that we’re going to face in 2019, the logistics and warehousing industry will remain a vital cog to UK industry and economics. Businesses must still trade, and we will be there to support them with first class Just In Time logistics services and secure storage – see you in 2019!

Rest Stops and Tired Driving

Drivers are regularly advised not to drive tired; motorways light up with overhead signs, road safety charities campaign against fatigued driving, and the DVLA has a page dedicated to informing the relevant authorities on medical conditions that may cause tiredness. Naturally, when it comes to the professional driving industry, the laws are stricter still, with drivers not permitted to work for more than 4.5 hours without taking a minimum 45 minute break. These laws can be appreciated for the safety they offer both HGV drivers and others on the road, however, in reality, these laws are continually compromised due to the lack of dedicated spaces for lorries to park during rest periods.

 

Not only are professional drivers legally required to take these breaks, but all too often we hear reports of drivers not taking them or of parking in residential areas, but we must question why this may be. Whilst we acknowledge that some drivers may work through their breaks or park inconveniently simply to meet targets quicker – this is an issue in itself – it should also be brought to light that it is also entirely probable that a lack of breaks can be the result of a decreasing number of much-needed amenities.

 

In this digital age, the movement of goods across the EU has grown rapidly, and so long hours are inevitable with the profession. To guarantee the safe arrival of commodities across borders, laws must be abided by, including those of rest periods. A driver who is well-rested is more likely to be able complete their job and continue the functioning of the supply chain system than one who is fatigued. However, without the required rest, risk is imminent.

 

When considering this issue, it is important to begin with a more general perspective; all employees, regardless of their occupation or workplace environment, expect access to clean WCs and hygienic spaces to take lunch breaks. For most, these facilities do not have to be campaigned for – they are a given. Yet when it comes to professional drivers, the case is different; despite their integral role to the UK economy, such facilities are not guaranteed. Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect these facilities fitted within each individual vehicle, however, all drivers are hypothetically always within easy reach of ‘rest periods’ – safe places to park overnight, eat and wash.

 

Despite their need, HGV rest stops have always been few and far between, but over recent years, roadside cafés and other rest stops have been closing at an alarming rate, leaving drivers minimal options when it comes to parking up. Similarly, this reduces the amount of dedicated parking areas for truck drivers and when the number of trucks on the roads are increasing (considering the growing amount of goods transported everyday), parking opportunities become more limited still.

 

It seems that, as a result, many drivers have been taking to parking in spaces which some deem unacceptable and inconvenient. All too often, the media transcribes local villager’s frustrations regarding HGV traffic and parking. In Yorkshire alone, residents are reporting to councils that there is ‘clear evidence’ of HGVs damaging roads and verges, drivers participating in antisocial behaviour by littering and creating noise pollution. In this particular case, the article claims that the vehicles in question are, “foreign registered vehicles that choose not to use or have no financial means of using dedicated lorry facilities”. However, the issue would still exist regardless: there are few – if any at all – rest stops in the area, and those that are available do not have enough space to cater for all who need to use them. It therefore seems unsurprising that in such situations, drivers have little choice but to stop in laybys or similar areas – and with an estimated 20% of all road accidents caused by fatigue, it is imperative that they rest somewhere.

 

How can this issue be resolved? Increased funding to develop parking facilities along with amenities which allow drivers to wash and take food breaks is the most obvious option. And with this need for funding comes an equally important need to educate the wider public on the lack of amenities available to drivers; as we have highlighted before, the professional driving and logistics industry are an imperative part of the British economy, but like other occupations, they need to take regular breaks.

 

Drivers, let us know your thoughts on the matter by dropping us a tweet, and if you’re on the road soon and need a rest stop, find your nearest one here.

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.

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.

Digital Driving

It can often be difficult to comprehend the level at which digitalisation infiltrates our daily life; it has become so commonplace that it can be difficult to remember, or for the young amongst us, to imagine a world without electronics, apps or social media. Whilst the transport and warehousing industry is largely built upon electronic and digital foundations, it was inevitable that it would one day follow suit in embracing the rise of digitalisation beyond factory walls. In recent years, vehicles have become increasingly digitalised, with self-park modes, in-car phones and paper tax discs transitioning to an online service only. Our roads have also adapted with smart motorways and lanes that have the capability to charge electric cars as they drive. Now, there are further proposals still; digital driving licenses are being considered, new virtual reality safety apps are being launched and of course, the introduction of autonomous vehicles looms.

The necessity and productivity of each upcoming proposal, in our opinion, varies. Within this piece we shall assess how the sector will be affected by the digitalisations on our horizon, namely the digitalised driving licence, implementation of autonomous vehicles onto British roads and lastly, the launch of the virtual reality app.

Although perhaps only a minor change to the industry, last year saw the first trial of digital driving licenses, allowing motorists to carry their licence with them without having a physical copy to hand. The intention is to offer drivers numerous benefits that do not otherwise exist; from reducing fraud and theft to allowing greater ease in renewing almost-expired licenses. It’s practicality however should be drawn to question with security breaches a potential risk; would drivers be protected in the case of mobile theft? Equally, in the unfortunate event of an accident, will it be more difficult to identify drivers? Here at Barnes, we feel that this concern is particularly pressing; as mobile phones are becoming increasingly reliant on fingerprint technology to unlock the device, if a physical license was not at the scene, would it possible to identify the driver if they were unconscious? To move away from morbidity, we believe that with these points taken into consideration then the digitalised licence could become a useful addition to the digital driving portfolio. This, however, is merely a small-scale change to the world of digitalisation within the driving industry, with one greatly significant change fast approaching; autonomous vehicles.

Ambiguously set to hit our roads ‘later this year’, it seems that driverless vehicles are on the horizon . In countries such as Belgium, tests have already begun, whilst in the US the trials are now a regularity, with some brands advertising public use of their driverless cars. However, following recent reports of a pedestrian death caused by autonomous vehicles, the safety of the autonomous vehicles must be called into question. Although it was the first-known incident of its kind, it was far from the first autonomous vehicle accident; a similar outcome evolved with a Tesla model after it failed to recognise the hazard as it occurred, and so the “the brake was not applied”. It seems that these accidents are becoming a commonality amongst driverless vehicles, and we fear that these accidents would only be accentuated if they were to involve larger vehicles.

The details surrounding the trials and potential launch of autonomous HGVs it seems are less public and are being kept out of the limelight. Yet discussions are underway with officials – this much the public do know. Having spoken in detail about this topic before, we ask once again; are autonomous HGVs really the safest addition to our roads? Here at Barnes, we urge the Government to reconsider their plans; not only would driverless HGVs affect the livelihood of millions of drivers, but as before, we want to reiterate that the skills humans, particularly in cases of sudden, uncontrollable variables, cannot be undermined. For all the positives that come from the digitalisation of various transport systems, we, and others in the industry alike, fear that with driverless vehicles and HGVs, the cons significantly outweigh the pros.

To finish on a positive note, we wanted to reflect on the newly launched app from Highways England that aims to improve driver awareness of blind spots. The smartphone app, used in conjunction with cardboard goggles, aims to accurately recreate a driving environment where the acknowledgement of blind spots are vital, such as, joining a motorway, overtaking and tailgating. Whilst our employees are qualified to the highest standards, we believe that all drivers should have the option of improving their driving skills further and that there is no such thing as too much practice! If you have tried out the app, let us know your thoughts on it using our Twitter feed.

As the digital world continues to evolve, we expect that further changes will be made to the transport industry. Whilst some could be considered pivotal, be this in a positive or negative manner as demonstrated with the new VR app in comparison to driverless vehicles, others are only minor changes. Currently, it seems that most digitalisation movements are simply ‘in discussion’, but, if the safety of all road users are completely considered and used to motivate and shape future necessary additions to the industry, we believe that the transport industry as a whole can benefit.

Encouraging a Female Future

Having just celebrated International Women’s Day this month and following the recent news of the partnership between The Women in Logistics UK group (WiL) and The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), here at Barnes, we felt that it was an appropriate moment to comment on the current gendered state of affairs within the industry. We are, like many other logistic professionals, confident in stating that the industry is male lead – but whilst we are confident on this matter, we are also disheartened by it, and it is in this piece that we hope to not only raise awareness of the gender disproportion but to ask why this disappointing disparity exists.

As the joint venture between The Women in Logistics UK group and The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport was announced, the industry as a whole felt a movement of progression. The partnership, which came into effect on the 1st March, is significant as it allows greater opportunities for women to access support, whilst also allowing them a platform to confidently and safely discuss the issues and challenges that they face in both recruitment and retention. In addition to this, to create an encouraging ambience to the sector, the two bodies hope for it to also be a space to engage, motivate and inspire past, present and future female logistic talents.

Whilst this is a step forward, the road to equality within logistics still stretches ahead, and it is up to us and our industry peers to host conversations that aim to discover how we can continue the journey to a better, and more equal, working environment. In 2013, The Guardian reported that although the transport and logistics sector boasts an employee count of 1.5m, women make up less than a quarter of these numbers. Upon investigation, they offer a plausible proposal as to why; one which we fear may be the reality: poor perceptions.

Despite 2018 being marked as ‘The Year of the Woman’ – a reflection of the progression in the 100 years since women gained the right to vote and a reminder that there is still a way to go – it is thought that many women believe there to be (and have experienced) a glass ceiling within logistics. Whatever gender you may identify as, it is vital to understand and this perspective and the limitations it may pose. On a daily basis, if you deemed the working environment to be overruled by the projection of male stereotype narratives –  “heavy labour is a man’s work” – which lead to suspicions of restrictions in terms of growth, promotions and salaries – why would you enter such an industry?

Jennifer Swain, a logistic and supply chain recruitment expert, offered a thought-provoking piece on LinkedIn, whereby she discussed the reality of female enthusiasm to join the industry in the first instance. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, she had only interviewed three women for logistical positions in seven months; and although this is the experience of a singular company, we suspect that the numbers may not be all that different for other businesses within the industry.

With the key issues identified, the next steps are to tackle them. The WiL and CILT partnership is a fantastic place to start, but we all need to offer the body support by playing our part. To do this, we cannot emphasise the importance of speaking to those affected enough; reach out to your female employees and peers, provide them with a safe space and ask them for an honest conversation on their motivations, challenges, and the ways in which they might feel restricted. Then put these comments into action – address the points raised by continually working together and fighting to improve the working environment for all employees. Once these practices become common place within the logistic and transport industry, the sector will undoubtedly better promote itself – although this is not to say that marketing efforts will not need to be executed in order to reach a greater number of people.

Here at Barnes, we strive for an equal and motivating work space for employees of all genders. As we have commented before, we operate an open-door policy, and we welcome all our colleagues to discuss any matters, regardless of the topic, with us.

If you have any thoughts that you would like to share with us on gender equality within the transport and logistics industry, please get in contact with us via our website or Twitter page.

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!

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!