Supporting network members in the south of the UK

Written by Gary Flight, Regional Commercial Manager

I used to run my own transport company and was part of another pallet network for many years.

I sold up in 2009 on the back of the financial crash and continued managing the company for a couple of years.

Fortec is close-knit, friendly and I am trusted to make decisions, to head up my own area of the country and to build relationships with depots. The personal touch is key to Fortec. I love people so this suits me beautifully.

On my first day I was thrown in at the deep end.

There were some operational challenges in the south-east and my remit was to sort these out, while also attracting new members. It was not long after I started that COVID-19 struck and for the first few weeks I was calling every depot daily, to make sure they were okay. I updated spreadsheets with details about how many drivers were working, how many were off sick and how many were in isolation. The idea was to foresee and plan for any challenges and support all depots before any major issues set in.

COVID-19 has posed varying challenges to our members.

Some companies furloughed drivers so when volumes suddenly increased, they would have to look elsewhere for drivers.

Other companies were down to only two people in an office. If one had to self-isolate that put an awful lot of pressure on the other. My job throughout has been to listen and to support our members. Sometimes depots want advice, other times they just want to vent. I am here for either – and everything in between.

The last couple of weeks have been much easier.

Drivers who were self-isolating have returned to work. Other drivers are being un-furloughed and when the shops re-open we will see a dramatic change and boost in business.

One positive of COVID-19 has been the spotlight that has been thrown on to logistics.

Collectively our sector has unrivalled resources and as a pallet network we are a key link in the UK supply chain, providing efficient forms of freight distribution and enabling overnight deliveries of consignments anywhere in the UK.

Transport companies have been classed as ‘essential workers’ during this pandemic and this recognition is long overdue. Too often drivers are treated as second-class citizens and logistics is rarely taken seriously as a career choice. I hope, with the spotlight now on logistics, this will change. Let’s face it, the country would come to a standstill without our sector.

London is a challenging patch, but I understand these challenges.

I live just 40 miles from the capital and used to run a depot covering central London, so I am sympathetic to the challenges. I have five London depots on my patch and their challenges change every day.

There is traffic, a congestion zone. London depots have had to spend thousands of pounds on Low Admission engines for the LEZ area and now the congestion charge has been increased. Parking fines are a full-time job for London drivers. Getting tickets is inevitable – there is nowhere to park and limited unloading bays.

Today of course the challenge is COVID-19.

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