Blogs, topical advice, and thoughts from experienced logistics industry advisers

By Mark Cartwright, Head of Vans and Light Commercial Vehicles, FTA

As autumn begins to draw in, it'll soon be time to say goodbye to the long, sunny days we have become accustomed to. These changing conditions – darker mornings and evenings, increased rainfall, and a lower sun – can bring challenges which we all need to be aware of to ensure we keep operating safely as the seasons change.


With the sun sitting lower in the sky during the autumn months, it is vital that your field of vision is as clear as possible. Make sure there is nothing on your dashboard; there should be no coffee cups, maps, delivery notes, or anything else that could get in the way of your view out of the cab.  Make sure the glass is clean, inside and out, before setting off, and allow extra time to your journey if the conditions require a blast from the demister. And remember to always keep a pair of sunglasses in the cab, as the low angle of the sun can be difficult to deal with at this time of year.


After long periods of dry weather, the roads can become slippery at the first dew or rainfall, thanks to deposits of rubber on the roads. Take extra care when driving at this time of year, and allow sufficient braking distance to make sure you are completely safe.


Visibility, both of your vehicle and of other road users, is more challenging as autumn moves into winter.  Check all your lights are working correctly, and keep all of them clean – spray from the road and other dirt can limit their effectiveness.  Always use indicators when turning, to ensure that other vehicles are aware of your intentions.  Keep alert to other road users too – more vulnerable road users like cyclists and motorcyclists can be more difficult to spot when the light is failing, so take extra time to check before pulling out.  And be aware that reflective road surfaces, combined with damp or wet driving conditions, can make it very difficult to see things clearly, particularly at multi-point junctions or away from main roads with good lighting. Check and check again before manoeuvring to ensure that all road users can keep moving as safely as possible

Posted: 03/09/2019 09:54:06 by Freya Penny | with 0 comments

We all know someone who thinks they’re Lewis Hamilton, driving too fast every time they get behind the wheel.  Can you honestly say that you’ve never exceeded the speed limit to get somewhere on time, to make that extra delivery or ensure that you get to an important meeting?     

Excessive speed is often a major factor in road traffic collisions.  It’s sobering to realise that the chance of survival for a pedestrian hit by a car increases from 10% if the vehicle is travelling at 40mph to 90% if it's doing 20mph.  But what are the implications for transport operators if their drivers regularly speed or cause an accident while breaking the speed limit?    

Cost is one area to explore - travelling at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than driving at 70mph.  Speeding due to the pressure of work causes driving stress and this can lead to employees being off work, either through illness or because of a road accident, let alone because of damaged vehicles, so effective driver management is important.  Prior planning of routes and delivery patterns can go a long way to ensuring that speed can be controlled – don’t make excessive demands of your staff.   

Technology can play a big part.  Vans can be limited so that exceeding the speed limit is not possible, and telematics can be used to monitor and manage a driver's performance.  And perhaps there's an argument for vehicles to be limited by default when they come off the production line?  After all, what other piece of industrial equipment is sold equipped to break the law?    

Financial penalties for speeding have recently increased and drivers could find themselves with big fines relating to their weekly earnings as a consequence.  Business owners who turn a blind eye to speeding are also at risk under Health and Safety at Work legislation.  New sentencing guidelines put greater emphasis on the culpability of senior managers and owners.  An evidence of speed can be gathered from management systems on modern vans, even when no telematics are fitted.     

Driving at speed can have a significant effect on the way a vehicle handles on the road, making accidents more likely to occur.  And it is worth pointing out the effect that constant acceleration and deceleration can have on the life of a vehicle – much better to drive at a steady, controlled pace, keeping within the speed limit.  All in all, driving in a proactive manner, at an appropriate speed, is something that we should all be doing, week in, week out – that extra 5mph really isn’t worth the potential problems it can cause.   

Posted: 09/05/2018 10:49:11 by | with 0 comments

In a recent survey of AA members, tailgating was voted the single most irritating driving habit.  More than a quarter of motorists asked, said other vehicles driving too close made them stressed and angry. Tailgating is illegal and while it is always dangerous, it’s particularly reckless at this time of year, when there may be wet or icy road conditions.

Interestingly, research published last year by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirmed that tailgating really doesn’t get you to your destination any quicker.  In fact, speeding up and slowing down in heavy traffic actually causes jams, particularly on motorways.

Of course, there are always some determined tailgaters on every road, whose aggressive driving style means they are quite happy to put their lives and others at risk.  But most drivers who get too close to the car in front are ‘unwitting tailgaters’.  They are not concentrating properly, or have an unrealistic view of their ability to stop in an emergency.

The stopping distances we all learned when we passed our driving test are for an average sized family car in normal weather conditions.  During the winter months driving conditions are rarely good and your van is probably heavier than a car.  So, as a professional driver, it’s vital that you take stopping distances seriously.

Stopping distances are made-up of two elements – thinking time and braking time.  Even the most experienced driver needs time to react to a hazard in front of them.  According to the Highway Code, when driving at just 20mph, it takes six metres for your brain to react and tell your foot to hit the brake.  At motorway speeds, thinking time increases to a staggering 21 metres. 

The braking time is the distance your van will continue to travel as you press your foot on the brake, before it comes to a halt.  According to the Highway Code at 20mph this is 6 metres, while at motorway speeds it will take 75 metres for an average-sized family car to stop.  A larger or heavier van will take even longer. 

The condition of your vehicle will also have an impact on stopping distances.  According to the RAC, factors such as tread depth, tyre quality and inflation will all have a dramatic effect.  The quality and wear of the brake pads is also significant.  Unless your vehicle is in near perfect condition, all these factors will reduce your ability to stop quickly.

Judging distance in practice can be difficult, but you can always use the two-second rule which is recommended in the Highway Code. As the vehicle in front passes a fixed point, such as a sign or a bridge, start to say the phrase ‘Only a fool breaks the two-second rule’ at a normal rate.  The words take about two seconds to say, so if you pass the same fixed point before you’ve finished, you’re too close.  Government advice says in wet weather you should double the distance and make it even bigger in icy conditions.

So next time you get behind the wheel, take a moment to review your stopping distances.  Check yourself with the two-second rule and make sure you’re not an ‘unwitting tailgater’.

Posted: 05/01/2018 16:11:22 by | with 0 comments

“I want it all and I want it now,” Freddie Mercury sang, and as consumers, we’re with him all the way. The demand for speedy receipt of goods we’ve bought is such that, in a piece of research conducted by McKinsey in Germany, France, Sweden, and the UK, fifty percent of people surveyed said they would happily pay £6 or £7 for having same-day delivery of an item which cost them £59. This attitude, which also demands more and more specific time slots when items will arrive may be contributing significantly to the levels of congestion and pollution on our roads.

A few weeks ago I caused a little bit of upset among cyclists by suggesting that the congestion problem facing our larger conurbations may be being made worse by the reduction of tarmac available to other road users. Less available road space, I mused, could mean more snarl-ups and more stationery traffic. I wasn’t, as was being suggested, blaming cyclists for congestion but I was questioning the impact of cycle and bus lanes on traffic flows and saying that more research was needed. It was therefore very interesting to listen to some extremely learned evidence put before the Transport Select Committee recently on precisely this subject.

Professor Tom Cherrett, Professor of Logistics and Transport Management at the University of Southampton, said that Transport for London has concluded there has been significant reduction in what they call network capacity, ie tarmac, because bus and cycle lanes are prioritised. Professor Cherrett said there has been a 30% loss in terms of proportion of network capacity for private motorised vehicles. Now in recent years the amount of traffic has stayed largely constant, fallen slightly in fact, while congestion has gone up. Surely, logic would dictate that the lack of available road space must be a factor. However, there’s another reason which came through loud and clear in the evidence session. Me and you.

Professor Cherrett then told us that 17% of vehicles in congestion zones are goods vehicles. And more than half of those are service vehicles like those driven by plumbers or heating engineers. However, of those vans making deliveries the vast majority are nowhere near full. In fact, the average delivery van is only loaded up to 38% of its capacity. Now it would be easy to criticise the courier firms for that, but as ever, it’s not that simple. In an eight or nine hour day the average parcel delivery van will make thirty-five stops in one of our major cities and only cover less than four miles. 70% of the driver’s delivery time will be on foot, meaning his van is parked up while he physically hands over the goods. That stop takes up road space which slows traffic. The reason he was originally only 38% full is because that is as much as he will be able to deliver in the allotted time. What’s more, as of today, 10%, of the parcel market is for same day delivery which is super efficient for us as consumers but again, means the driver’s van will only be carrying that day’s goods.

Retailers are under similar pressure to provide us with what we want right away. Twenty years ago there was a 60/40 split between selling space and storage space in the average shop. Today that figure is 80/20, which means more delivery vehicles are needed to replenish the shelves quickly because of our demands. Then, because there’s more traffic on the roads, while demand for quick delivery increases, the ability to meet that demand means more half-empty vans on the road, means more congestion, means a greater need for more vans to meet consumer need and so on, spiralling ever upwards.

So, assuming that the public’s (that’s our) insatiable desire to have our stuff brought to us at the earliest possible moment doesn’t dwindle for some as yet unforeseen reason, the question is, how do we continue to meet this demand without making our major urban roads even worse? One answer may be load consolidation; this is where different businesses are encouraged to pool their deliveries into one vehicle. It’s a nice idea, although there are problems. Even combined loads won’t allow for vans filled beyond that 38% average the time to get where they need to be to meet consumer demands. Also, this merging of loads onto one carrier has to physically happen somewhere. In London for instance, the amount of land available for such a process to take place is very limited and very expensive, and the economies of such a system depend on short journeys. The farther out of the city the consolidation actually takes place the more miles will have to travelled to carry out the deliveries. What’s more, emissions from the average diesel vehicle which comes to a standstill twice in a mile are three times as high as those produced by the same vehicle cruising consistently at 30mph, so if our consolidated load has to travel through heavy traffic over any distance the benefits are questionable, at best.

One achievable answer, and a lot of people won’t like it, is to consolidate a lot of vans into a very much smaller number of HGVs. In load terms ten van journeys are equal to one journey by a medium-sized lorry which will, of course, take up less space and produce less pollution. Then, load consolidation could come into play. The consolidation centres could be further out of town if enough vans were replaced by a tenth as many lorries because they would be able to make their deliveries through more free-flowing traffic thus lowering cost and pollution all in one go. Then there’s the other possible solution of operating outside peak hours, ie deliveries being made at night. A lot of people aren’t keen on that either, fearing increased noise and disturbance at unsocial hours, and a lot of local authorities actively discourage it. That is despite the massive amount of work to make vehicles and loading/ unloading much, much quieter.

It’s an old argument with a modern twist. Delivery vehicles are bad unless they’re delivering to us.

We have some choices to make. Either, we ignore our deeply-held instincts for instant gratification to make the delivery process less fraught and more sustainably manageable or, we put up with an excess of goods vehicles of varying sizes and all the congestion and pollution which goes with them to accommodate that base need. Failing that, we might have to redesign our road systems to allow for traffic to flow at an effective level and perhaps sacrifice some bus and cycle lanes in the process. It’s not an easy call but it’s one which will eventually be decided not by the Department of Transport or vehicle manufacturers or delivery companies, but by all of us sorting out where our priorities really lie.

Posted: 03/04/2017 11:34:06 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments

My name is Wyn Skyrme, a Vehicle Inspection Engineer specialising in HGV and PSV training and vehicle inspections. In my 32 years engineering experience I have been to many places, however my trip in early September to the Falkland Islands Government (Islas Malvinas) has been one to remember.


The Falkland Islands, a remote South Atlantic archipelago, is a British overseas territory. With rugged terrain and cliff-lined coasts, its 778 islands and islets are home to sheep farms and abundant birdlife. The capital, Stanley, sits on East Falkland, the largest island. The city's Falkland Islands Museum has themed galleries devoted to maritime exploration, natural history, the 1982 Falklands War and other subjects.

My goal to deliver HGV training to the staff of the plant and vehicle department and demonstrating best practice on UK legislation and enforcement started by a long but interesting journey. Travelling to the Falkland Islands consists of a split journey flight from Brize Norton RAF Airbase in Oxfordshire, flying out in one of their civilian transport planes known internally as an air tanker. On arrival, a high security checking-in procedure is carried out on all passengers and military staff followed by a flight of around 9 hours to the service base at the Ascension Island down in the South Atlantic. Ascension Island is an isolated volcanic island in the equatorial waters of the South Atlantic Ocean, around 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) from the coast of Africa and 2,250 kilometres (1,400 miles) from the coast of Brazil, which is roughly midway between the horn of South America and Africa. From here we flew another 9 hours to Mount Pleasant Airbase on the Falkland Islands. I estimated my total journey travelled around 26 hours.

On arrival I was met by the FIG Workshop Manager, Mr Ralph Harris, who co-ordinates the Government vehicle maintenance and operations on the islands. From there we travelled around 50 km on unmetalled roads in a temperature of minus five degrees celcius with a 30 mph wind (making it feel like minus 20). Speeds on these roads are maximum 40 mph and 25 mph in local areas. The roads have extremely large and frequent potholes which make 40mph feel rather excessive for the conditions. The roads on the island are maintained at Government expense and are constantly being regraded and repaired due to the islands maintenance programme.  This being one of the reasons for being here - to identify maintenance strategies for HGV vehicles used for low mileage in hard and sometimes arduous conditions.

On arrival into Stanley I had an introduction to the FIG workshop staff and environment; a well-established place with all equipment readily available to carry out vehicle maintenance. Due to the remote position of the Island equipment and parts need to be in stock as delivery schedules from the UK to the Island can be time exhaustive.

Vehicles on the island are that of UK specification, although without the complication of current Euro standards generally vehicles that are built for the Middle East countries Euro 3 are ordered, as these have less of the electronics and legislative restrictions we have in the UK. No annual or vehicle testing or form of standards are in place on the islands, as described in the tyre law it is stated that tyres 'must be made of rubber and be of pneumatic inflation!'

The week I was there I trained all nine workshop staff and the workshop closed for the week.  We carried out the full training course from legislation and enforcement within the UK, moving on to vehicle component assessment and defect reporting - updating their knowledge on how and why we have a documented DVSA produced standards manual within the UK. This was a mixture of classroom training and practical sessions working through pre-use checks, personal safety awareness, vehicle familiarisation and safety procedures whilst working in a workshop environment. Training the engineers to UK tandards on the island not only achieves getting the message across about the importance of vehicle maintenance standards, but also it’s about the voices of the world and sharing experiences and knowledge between already knowledgeable candidates. On closer investigation I needed to inspect the key areas of what they really wanted out of the training and diversified my knowledge and advice to educate in these areas. We found from early vehicle inspection that the wear that is abnormal for vehicles that would be used under normal operating conditions was apparent. The constant build-up of mud and snow gets into the operating areas of these vehicles and it is not uncommon for the heavier end of the fleet to have steering components and brakes overhauled and linings changed more frequently than that of trucks that operate in the UK. This was identified and staff were advised that a monitoring process should be implemented and identified on their inspection reporting, It would benefit all staff at an early stage of inspection to identify if a component will become in excess of tolerance before its next inspection.

We finally close the week up with assessment exam papers covering all the context of the training information presented over the week. Then a workshop assessment inspecting the vehicle to the routine presented, finally carrying out a functional brake test in both laden and unladen conditions on their roller brake tester in the workshop, calculating the results and comparing the important parameters that need to be met when carrying out vehicle brake testing.

I feel I have achieved in getting the message across in raising standards and the importance of vehicle inspections to UK standards, to all candidates. Delegates appeared to understand their responsibilities in continuing to move forward and improve the level of standards in all areas for road vehicles used in the Falkland Islands - my job done!

For me? Onwards and upwards back home to South Wales 30 hours later.

Posted: 06/10/2015 11:34:48 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments