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Friday, July 19, 2024

They who dare

Rod McKenzie has dusted down his crystal ball and foresees tremendous opportunities for those willing to grasp the future by the horns

Let’s do some crystal ball gazing. As we wander around the fairground that is our current trade – beset by various houses of horror like Clean Air Zones, staff shortages and supply chain cohesion after Brexit – we could pop into the Fortune Teller’s tent to see what the longer term has in store for us. What I am hearing from many of our members is times have never been tougher: for some of the reasons already outlined but many more. Certainly times are too tough for some smaller logistics businesses that are quitting altogether and I have no wish here to be either a Cassandra or a harbinger of doom. Instead, it’s better to be able to plan for what might be coming and get businesses aligned to a future strategy.
So what does the future hold for us? The crystal ball is clearing and Madame Lori in her tent sees a vision before her…
Many high streets look deserted or filled with coffee chains. She can see a huge online logistic operation (it might be named after a river) dominating the supply chain.

Or maybe something new and unknown? Google and Microsoft.

She can see many vans, some are very poorly maintained and overloaded. She can see environmental campaigners demonstrating against diesel power and demanding carbon neutral vehicles immediately – and Generation Z and politicians listening. She can see more technology in truck cabs, but fewer people to drive them. She can see alternative power sources for trucks – but wait, is it electricity, gas, bio-methane or a mystery source? She says there is a coming, powerful, mighty tool visible – it might be called 5G or Block Chain. She can see shared resources, pooled or aggregated supplies of assets like lorries – less ownership of such hardware. She can see something called Autonomous and many drones in the sky. But wait, the ball is clouding, the images fading….
Sounds like a nightmare – that some will feel they are already living.
But actually, is this not a time of change but opportunity in our industry?
It is probably the same to spec up our businesses and think about the future in a creative and collaborative way. Is my IT ready? What can I do to get in shape? There are tremendous opportunities for the most imaginative logistics firms ready to adapt and survive over a target period from 2025-2050. Can we collaborate and consolidate more as logistics businesses? How can we demonstrate our undoubted Green potential and sustainability? At the RHA we have launched our own carbon policy for our industry as a campaigning document for measured – business friendly change to carbon neutral. You can read about it on our website.
How can we make technology work for us rather than fearing a spy-in-the-cab?
How can we support the booming van industry with compliance?
How can we be early adopters rather than late adopters of tech?
We need to engage with disrupters rather than fearing and avoiding them.
We need to change our industry’s image from old-school to cutting edge.
We need to tackle needless red tape dressed up in the catch-all word “compliance”: FORS stands accused. It’s a restrictive and monopolistic practice with operators failing earned recognition basics in front of Traffic Commissioners. And why should a London local authority be dictating standards to other areas of the UK: Government needs to get a grip on localism. We all need to be more diverse and inclusive in every way.

The future could still – should still – be ours.

Rod McKenzie
Road Haulage Association MD, Policy and Public Affairs: Trusted face of the road haulage industry that’s currently facing huge challenges, not least Brexit. He previously worked for the BBC for 20 years as a presenter and executive editor.
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