It’s like “Groundhog Day” said Subir Gupta, Aquarius IT’s National Account Manager, as he goes back out on the road to visit new and existing customers.
There is no doubt, that it’s going to be a long time before things return to whatever it is that we envision is normal, but having returned to the road recently to meet up with both new and existing customers it’s strangely eerie that conversations have not changed – operators are discussing all the same challenges they faced pre-COVID, it’s almost like its ‘Groundhog Day’.
I don’t know why I expected things might be different, after all I’ve been speaking to all our customers on the telephone or via Zoom throughout the pandemic and we’ve discussed the challenges … but it’s really not the same as seeing them in person and chewin’ the fat over a cup of coffee. As bizarre as this sounds, it makes everything really real again.
For new customers, our conversations have revolved around the delays they are facing from things such as O Licence approvals and obtaining vehicles, and having to deal with the dominant industry issue of finding drivers – let alone find drivers who will stay for the long term with the right incentives.
It is equally the same situation for our existing customers, the availability of drivers and vehicles etc. These discussions have also got quite animated, especially when they start talking about the price of second-hand vehicles! Interestingly too, a gripe that has been mentioned a few times now by customers, is the lead times from telematics providers for DVS standard kit due to this being a requirement to get into London.
On top of all these challenges, hauliers face the age-old challenge of compliance, but the driver shortage has created a new predicament. What should they do if they can’t get a compliant driver in their vehicle? In this case I will always remind them that they are the ones running the business, and they are the ones that will face the sentence at the end of the day, and they will be the ones who will have to live with the consequences if something happened.
Ending on a positive … many customers I’ve spoken to agree that it is hard, but the outcome of some of these issues and the encompassing fuel hike, is that they have seen margins increase. In fact, I have spoken with several who have come back to the industry as “the rates” are now worth the headache!
Let’s just hope some or all of these challenges are resolved soon – after all, the road transport industry is the back-bone of our economy and without them working around the clock in scary conditions during the pandemic, none of us would have got our vital goods.