The transport industry is facing up to wide spread problems all the way across the board, from same day courier services through to heavy goods haulage firms. How the industry deals with these problems is a vital question in how we can move forwards beyond the difficulties posed by rising fuel prices, environmental concerns being levied on the industry and also the potential prospect of winters as harsh as the one that the UK recently experienced.
The recent cold snap has a massive effect on the transport industry, and continues to do so, as it presented multiple problems that courier services and those in the industry had to work around and deal with. First and foremost amongst these problems was the over-abundance of ice on the roads during this period. Many local councils were woefully unprepared for a winter as harsh as the one we had last, leading to salt supplies being much too low. This in turn led to many roads simply becoming unusable, especially in smaller suburbs or urban areas. Needless to say this had the potential to strike a crippling blow to the transport industry and, for many, it did just that. The industry, and Britain as a whole, was simply caught unawares by the difficulties posed by such a nasty winter, and this led to major problems for many businesses, however the transport industry was amongst the most prominently affected. Vehicles were forced off the roads and many companies simply had to shut up shop for a number of weeks, drastically affecting income.
This is something to we simply can’t afford to happen again, especially due to the potentially catastrophic effect it can have on smaller businesses and urgent courier services, who rely on their ability to get from A to B quickly. As such we need to ensure that local councils all over the country have adequate salt supplies should we face the same issues in the future. Not only this, but salt supplies need to evenly spread around. We, as an industry, simply can’t afford another winter like the one we just experienced and knowing that supplies could have been available in places that needed them simply rubbed salt into the wounds.
Some are attempting to take measures to minimize the impact of this problem. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has already recommended a number of potential solutions to the problems that the industry faces from a harsh winter. Amongst these are the obvious, such as ensuring there are larger salt supplies available to reduce the time queuing at salt production sites.
Another, less obvious recommendation is to provide drivers with a little more leeway when it comes to their hours. The FTA calls for a greater flexibility in the handling of a drivers time on the road, as well as calling for a modest increase in the amount of time they can spend driving when they are able, to compensate for the periods during winter when they may be forced off the road.
This call, however, comes into direct conflict with recent rulings by the European Parliament (EP). An attempt to permanently exempt owner drivers from the 48 hour week imposed by the EP failed, meaning that soon self-employed courier drivers will now have to limit themselves to 48 hours of working per week, alongside the workforce that they may employ.