Winter weather Mar 2nd 2018

Bread is delivered in snowy conditions to Sainsbury's in Larbert, near Falkirk,

The road transport industry battled on against the ‘beast from the east’ and Storm Emma this week, but many operators have been left counting the cost.

In Scotland, Glasgow-based Bullet Express had to close after rural and access roads became unnavigable. MD David McCutcheon said while his business would survive, some would be finished off.

“This is going to be expensive for a lot of people. We’d just had a really good month in one of our departments and this situation will wipe that out and put us back to square one,” he said, adding the firm was expecting to work this weekend to catch up.

McCutcheon criticised First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who attacked HGVs for ignoring Scotland’s red weather warning, after trucks and cars were stuck on the M80.

“Many of those trucks were delivering essential goods, such as medical supplies,” he said. “If she’d done her homework she would have realised many would have left before the snow.”

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “In many cases – particularly in isolated areas – an HGV will be the only vehicle with the capability of getting through. The drivers of these vehicles should be applauded, not pilloried.”

James Allen, MD of Allen Logistics NI based in Moria, Craigavon in Co Armagh spoke of his frustration after the business was forced to close on Thursday (1 March).

“Transport is hard enough, without this,” he said. Allen said the firm, a Fortec member, was undertaking some pick and pack at its warehouse but had not been able to get any vehicles out, despite freight continuing to arrive from England.

“There’s a cost as we aren’t generating any sales or revenue,” he said, describing how an hour’s journey to Belfast port had taken one of his drivers more than four hours. “It’s frustrating but the customers at least understand.”

Paul Ince, joint MD of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire pallet firm The Pink Link said the company parked up vehicles last Thursday for the health and safety of its drivers and the public: “When we were looking to send people out we thought it was treacherous.

"Thankfully our customers are all very understanding as they are local to us. It will cost us money, but hopefully won’t cost us reputation.”

He added that the multi-drop nature of the firm’s deliveries meant customers were often based off the main road network, with access very difficult in heavy snow and ice.

The knock-on effect of halting deliveries for a day will mean a high volume of inbound deliveries to be collected by The Pink Link from its Palletways UK hub.

“Losing a day means it puts us under a fair amount of pressure because obviously customers want their products, and as a customer-focused business we’ll do what we can to get them there,” said Ince.

Malcolm Bingham, head of policy for the North of England at the FTA, said the catch-up following bad weather downtime for operators would be just as challenging as the lost revenue.

He believes firms may press the DfT to relax drivers’ hours rules to address any backlog – there have been exemptions already for animal feed and heating fuel – but the government will be cautious.

“This is very much for the industry to call and we will echo this call,” Bingham added.

By Chris Druce and Hayley Pink


Image: Press Association