Why demonstrating agility is so important to a haulage business.
With a fleet of 44 trucks – most of them articulated – out on the road, Jimmy Langley, a logistics planner for Ivinghoe Haulage is a very busy man. But Langley, an experienced despatcher, is not concerned, nor is he fazed by the herculean logistical challenge that awaits him each morning.
Langley, who has worked for the Buckinghamshire-based haulier for several years says, “We would only be worried if our trucks were empty and our drivers had no jobs to go to. However, we’re always busy. The biggest challenge the industry faces right now is not a shortage of work but a scarcity of drivers.”
Indeed, with the average age of British truck driver as high as 48, and a lack of younger drivers coming through to replace those who retire, many haulage companies find it difficult to fill job vacancies.
Langley explains, “Ask any haulage company and they’ll tell you that driver shortfall is a much bigger headache than Brexit. However, if the industry was allowed to self-regulate more, rather than the government doing it on its behalf then the problem could be nipped in the bud by ditching the Driver CPC and replacing it with a far less onerous and more effective training programme. This year, for example, 50,000 drivers are set to retire, but if they didn’t have to jump through hoops to renew their Driver CPC, many of them would still be on the road.”
While solving the skills shortage is an industry-wide problem, the ability to retain the most knowledgeable, most competent and most experienced drivers is what makes one company stand out from another. So how does Ivinghoe Haulage, keep its most precious resource happy?
Sue Levy, Ivinghoe Haulage’s transport manager explains, “We’re a family-run business and employ a dedicated fleet of drivers, many of whom have been with us for a long time. We look after them by giving them the best tools to work with. We’ve updated and expanded our fleet on two occasions in the last decade. Twenty-seven of our vehicles now meet Euro VI standards for example, and all of them are equipped with state-of-the art tracking equipment. While it’s true that hauliers do work long hours but we try to ensure that they have a good work-life balance enabling them to spend quality time with their families. We know how important that is for a long-distance lorry driver.”
For Levy, however, in an industry where resources are scarce, it is how you utilise them that makes the difference. In this respect, she says that “agility is important”.
“We’ve always been able to spot an opportunity and most importantly take advantage of it,” she adds. “As a family farm located in the village of Ivinghoe we always had trucks. We realised very quickly that we could put the trucks to work elsewhere in the off-season and so we began thinking of ways to diversify. In 1987, we started a turf supply company, Ivinghoe Turf. Then in 2004, we decided to extend our business by moving into the general haulage sector. Over the last 15 years or so, we’ve grown the business and to such an extent that it has become a mainstay.”
Ivinghoe Haulage now provides a nationwide haulage service covering a variety of load capacities up to 44,000kg. It serves hundreds of businesses in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire and other locations across the UK from its Leighton Buzzard-base which provides easy access to both the M1 and the M25 motorways.
But that’s not to say that the haulage business hasn’t faced difficulties. Driver shortage aside, Levy says the biggest hurdle is to ensure that each of the 44 lorries that the company owns are at full capacity all of the time. So how does she and her staff achieve this delicate balancing act?
“We discovered Haulage Exchange (HX) recently and it has helped us greatly to maximise capacity. We use HX for load building and return journeys. We already have a large customer base and so most of the time, we’re not relying on the Exchange for that first load of the day. But, before we began using HX, if say, our driver had dropped off in Daventry, there would be no guarantee that we would be able to find him another load, and there’s every chance that he might have no choice to return to base empty. However, HX helps us build on that first consignment. So, Jimmy, who’s logged on to the Exchange all day, will use its smart matching system to seek out and secure another load, which might, for example, take the driver to Doncaster or Aberdeen.”
Levy also says that the HX provides a useful source of return journeys. She explains, “We have several large contracts, but the agreements don’t usually cover return journeys. Travelling home empty can really eat into your margin. So we use the Exchange’s real-time matching technology to find loads for our drivers which take them home. It’s great because the live tracking map pinpoints available and suitable loads in real-time without us having to phone bash – which is what we were doing before. Since we’ve been using HX, it’s rare that we don’t secure a return load at least part of the way home.”
So how much have the extra loads added to turnover? Says Levy, “It’s early days and so I can’t give you any figures regarding increased productivity but what I can say is that we’re very happy with the Exchange and would definitely recommend it.”