Organisation Built in Wartime to Ensure Vital Transport Services Operated
UK – A special celebration this week for one of the oldest established institutions of what might be termed the modern logistics era. During the dark days of 1944, as the second World War turned to favour the Allies, so it was decided that land transport services needed to be organised and a team put together to help repair the ravages of war and ensure the resupply of vital provisions throughout the country. From those initial meetings came, four years later, the official inception of the Road Haulage Association (RHA) which met for its annual lunch and awards this week in this, its 70th year.
Held at the London Hilton in Park Lane, the event saw an opening speech from National Chairman Andrew Howard, which touched on both the importance of the industry and the turmoil surrounding Brexit, notes echoed by following speakers throughout the day. Howard called for a more serious consideration from government and the public for a sector which employs 2.5 million people in Britain adding £124 billion per annum to the British economy.
This, and an ensuing speech from Chief Executive Richard Burnett, covered these, and most of the other things troubling those in the UK’s freight industry today, the driver shortage, the lack of suitable parking and facilities for drivers, the way the sector is simply taken for granted with people unaware of its essential nature.
Doubtless many of these comments were aimed squarely at the main guest speaker, Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport, but there were however positive notes. The increasing diversity in the industry, both in terms of ethnicity and gender, helped along by initiatives such as She’s RHA which the latter speaker said has already engendered a change in perception leading to a more inclusive environment.
The minister’s speech saw Grayling joke that his two years in post was starting to look like a long term job compared to most of his colleagues, and he hoped he would be able to return for next year’s event. He emphasised that the government did fully understand and value the contribution made by the whole logistics sector, he promised there would be no extra border checks for transport post Brexit, whilst pointing out that the majority of drivers with freight runs to and from the UK were in fact EU nationals. This he said meant that it was equally important to the EU to strike a decent trade deal, a point doubtless met with many crossed fingers in the audience.
Grayling says the government is striving for the best result whilst planning for all possible scenarios after Britain quits the EU. He thanked the RHA for all its advice, help and support in this, particularly in the matter of truck permits, the maintenance of driver CPC status and the retention of existing schemes to ensure business as usual. He said the government was providing extra cash for truck parking, recognising the need for more extensive and secure, properly equipped facilities with authorities warned not to punish drivers stopped in laybys whilst on regulatory breaks.
There is however one particular note of discord between the haulage industry representatives and the government, that of the raft of clean air legislation currently sweeping the country. The government, Grayling says, is quite rightly committed to clean up the environment and can offer no flexibility under the terms of the law, however it has instructed local authorities charged with introducing emission reducing schemes to explore firstly all other flexible solutions, with toll charges being the last option.
The minister was honest about the disappointment regarding the uptake of apprentice places, which are not as high as hoped and also the fact that only around 1% of professional drivers are female, and he promised these issues were being addressed. His final message was that ‘the door is open’ and he was hoping to follow up next year ‘if I’m still here!’
There was of course the business of the awards and these were presented by Tony Blackburn, the well-known radio DJ who has been plying his trade across the airwaves for over 50 years and who was subsequently interviewed by Rod McKenzie, regaling the audience with tales of Arnold the Dog, now 53, and who is in fact no more than a recording, first found on a special effects record when Blackburn was aboard Radio Caroline, dropped when the dog got more fan mail than the DJ and subsequently revived by popular demand.
Topics ranged from how different life with the ‘Pirates’ was from films such as ‘The Boat That Rocked’ (in reality no women and one beer a night) to the reviled figure of Jimmy Savile, someone who Blackburn said was always ‘a strange guy’ and never close to his colleagues. Blackburn, who was the first to make the transition from pirate radio to the BBC, put his acceptance there down to the fact he was educated at Millfield, and therefore the establishment believed as a public schoolboy he was ‘probably OK’.
One of the highlights of the day was the presence of Transaid, the transport industry’s favourite charity which saw, not only a raffle to raise funds, but an auction for an England tie, signed by football captain Harry Kane. At the end of the event this saw a cheque in excess of £23,000 handed over to Transaid chief executive Caroline Barber.
There were three awards and competition for the first two was apparently a hard fought contest for each. The nominations were:
- The Diversity Award Sponsor: M6 Toll
Winner CM Downton Ltd. Downton’s work hard to provide jobs particularly for ex armed forces personnel, currently have a pool of 10 apprentices and 10 of the company’s fleet drivers are women
Runners Up: Elddis Transport (Consett) Ltd., WH Barley
- The Exemplary Employee Award Sponsor: Backhouse Jones
Winner Michael Cowan – Bondelivery
Runners Up: Harry Dent – PD Ports, Paul Billingham – Alfred Hymas, Steve Jones – JODA Freight.
There was one final special award given to the RHA’s longest serving member as a tribute for lasting the course, right from those earliest days. Mansel Davies & Son is a Welsh family concern which can trace its logistics roots back far beyond the early days of the RHA, having started in 1875 and being literally one of the first to join the new industry body with a registration number of 0002!
It was Dr Beeching’s famous swingeing cuts which caused the family business to grow, delivering milk throughout the valleys until these days it collects one and a half million litres daily from 450 farms in addition to operating freight services between the UK and Ireland and running garage and agricultural logistics sections.
Photo: Stephen Mansel Davies with the Longest Serving Member award, whilst over his shoulder sits Jim French, former RHA National Chairman, awarded an MBE in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list for the extensive works he has done working with young people to spread the logistics message to schools and educational establishments.