Amazon already has robot driven warehousing. And, although it might sound like something out of a science fiction novel, smaller scale deliveries are being carried out by robots in some of the major cities today. With this technology advancing at break neck speed, it is time that the transport industry begins leveraging it to facilitate efficiency, growth and, above all, a way to ease congestion on our severely overloaded roads.
We believe it should be possible to avoid congestion by shifting delivery and offloading to different times of day. With robots able to accept a delivery, a haulier could almost deliver at any time of the night. And we would expect nationwide pallet services to become more automated over the next decade, meaning all deliveries could take place when we sleep. Likewise, the loading of vehicles could also take place at night. However, there are questions that need to be asked and solutions put forward. With overnight trunking systems already in place and doing the graveyard shift, would this overload the roads at night? What about International vehicles that need to drive during the day to avoid transit times becoming far too long?
Looking at congestion times, would it not be worth examining a complete ban or heavy taxation on heavy good vehicles during peak congestion times, not just in cities but all major oversubscribed motorway networks? We need to improve our infrastructure, make public transport more affordable, more regular, more efficient and more attractive all over. A combination of these two would help our roads massively.
In August, with temperatures soaring into the forties, most Southern Europeans turn their backs on work and exit en masse to the coasts – for many this will be their only holiday of the year. It is a time of celebrations and families uniting. In the meantime, the cities become ghost towns with very few shops open, apart from tourist ones. Freight transport grounds to a halt and the last international departures will leave to and from these countries on the 4th of August, quite often not starting up again until the beginning of September.
This is not always convenient for Northern industries and businesses that need to be supplied and have orders to fulfil. This needs to be planned ahead. July is always a busy month making sure that supplies are kept high to ride the lull of August. However, quite often, forward planning fails, for various reasons, and then there is a dilemma. There are solutions: all is not lost. Many exporters and importers in Italy, Spain and Greece retain a skeletal crew, or at least are willing to ship any last minute orders. The express world does not sleep, ever. You do have to bite the bullet and pay more than your usual rates. However express is becoming quite common in International transport and this is driving the rates down. With the demand for vans increasing, when minimal stock is being kept on site, we can offer the most cost effective solutions all year round. So when panic sets in, take a breath and know that we have the solutions to all your transport problems.
Brexit Brexit! Not a day goes by where this is not mentioned in some form or another. Given how many factors are in play – some known, but mostly unknown – predictions are incredibly difficult. Nonetheless, it is important from an International point-of-view to keep things under control, and to look at keeping any transition as smooth and seamless as possible. It should be just as easy for our customers to trade with us today as it was yesterday, and as it will be tomorrow. Keeping this idea in sight should help companies to focus on how it can be achieved.
Firstly, we may have to adjust pricing to compensate for the short-term fluctuation of currencies that we are already witnessing, and which will probably persist. In order to do this, we must look at overall costs and volume. Lower margins maybe, but for higher volumes of exchange in goods/services. This could help bridge the gap in lower profits.
Secondly, we have to understand the potential customs issues that will occur upon Brexit. This is a very real, but grey area. Within transport cost exercises, it is good to leave a little leg-room allowing for these eventual costs. If you already export or import outside of the European community, then you will already be familiar with this and be used to factoring in these costs. It is good to remember that our trading outside the European Community continues to flow, and customs issues are few and far between. Our vision at Pathfinder is that we would be able to fast track customs procedures with traffic to and from the European Union. The alternative of long waits at borders and excessive border controls is unthinkable and would be untenable.
Lastly, it is important from a company point of view to get our house in order. Examine all costs, right down to the price of paper clips! By keeping British companies efficient, cost effective and fluid, along with driving towards unique selling points, we can remain in control of our destiny to a certain extent. And given the uncertainty facing the UK at the moment, that is something to strive for.
Debs and I have certainly been rather busy of late. We have both taken up road cycling in the past year. Mid life crisis you might say? Maybe. It is certainly cheaper than our other passion: skiing. And a lot easier to practice in the UK! We endeavour to cover as much mileage per week as weather and work will allow. It keeps us fit, and we are both finding that we feel more energised during the day. This helps enormously to get us through busy days, and stressful ones too.
On a more personal note, we have taken part in many cycling events this year to raise money for a dear friend who is battling breast cancer. Chemotherapy has a devastating effect on a person’s body, and has left our friend unable to work. Unlike Pathfinder, which continues to tick along if one of us can’t make it in, she does not get paid if she doesn’t work.
Added to this the stress of coping with the increased cost arising from her treatment, and making sure that her little boy has a normal as possible childhood, we have decided to try and alleviate some of her financial burden. To date we have raised £1300.00, and we are hoping to increase this figure. Please let us know if you would like to sponsor us and we will send you the link.
There are little things we can each do to make other people’s lives better and we believe that this is an important part of keeping a balance in life.
We may be part of the EU, at least for now, but each country still has its own separate bank holidays. It is bad enough with driving bans throughout France over the weekends, as a quick read of Aboutfrance.com demonstrates:
“Additional Summer weekend HGV bans in France.
The weekend truck ban is longer from early July to mid August, when HGVs are banned from Saturday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and then from Saturday 10 p.m. to Sunday 10 p.m. In other words, during these July and August weekends, there is a 3 hour window of opportunity on Saturday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. for HGVs to reach their destination or get out of France to a country without weekend HGV bans.”
You also need to negotiate through the various bank holidays. It is always good to check this, and factor it in to transit times before you promise the world to your customer. Keep in mind that, quite often, a bank holiday in Europe on Thursday or Tuesday means the country may do what is called “the bridge” – meaning that companies often shut on the Friday as well following a bank holiday on a Thursday. Likewise, hauliers may not attempt any deliveries during bank holidays or bridge days.
The expression in France is “faire le pont” meaning doing the bridge – not to be confused with planking and definitely less stressful!