Better together, but best to play your part 03 September 2015

Shaun Stephenson, fleet director at food service supply chain giant Bidvest Logistics, assumes the presidency of the SOE (the umbrella organisation for IRTE – Institute of Road Transport Engineers) at a challenging time. Intense global competition, tight margins, rapidly developing technologies, increasing regulation and now the migrant crisis and skills shortages. It doesn’t get a lot tougher.

That's why the IRTE has tied the knot with three of the industry's UK trade bodies – FTA (Freight Transport Association), RHA (Road Haulage Association) and CILT (Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport). Their stated objectives: to improve freight's image and to attract more talent – aspirations that have hitherto eluded all four.

Notable by its absence from the foursome is the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders). Which is odd. Not only does SMMT exercise one of the strongest voices in our sector, including influencing government thinking, but it also already works with IRTE and RHA on the annual CV Show – by far our largest national event.

That said, the goals are good and, with Stephenson's knowledge and influence, we might expect the partnership to deliver more than the sum of its parts. It sure needs to, and not just in terms of bringing more technicians and drivers into logistics, critical though both are.

Recent FTA research, sponsored by Volvo, suggests that 34% of 'O' licence holding transport managers plan to leave the industry within five years – up a staggering third on last year's outlook. Meanwhile, fleet engineers are being asked to spread themselves ever thinner, as skills shortages bite here too. And they face the technology revolution.

These are mammoth and critical dilemmas. As IRTE executive director Ian Chisholm puts it: "Road transport is the backbone of the UK's economic infrastructure." This is no time for indifference. Yes we're better together, but we all need to play our part.

Brian Tinham BSc CEng MInstMC FSOE FIPlantE FIRTE

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Related Companies
Freight Transport Association Ltd
Road Haulage Association Ltd
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Ltd
Society of Operations Engineers
Volvo Group UK Ltd

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