Comment : Other people’s shoes02 January 2019

News in this month of an apprentice exchange between Royal Mail and trailer manufacturer Cartwright; Royal Mail’s apprentice mechanics travelled to the Cartwright factory to see how the trailers that the company buys are made, while Cartwright’s travelled to a Royal Mail garage to see how they are used.

What a fantastic idea: it allows both groups of new engineers to see their own work from a completely different perspective. That deepens their understanding of their equipment, and widens their view of the wider operational context, in a way that might help answer those ‘why-are-things-the-way-that-they-are’-type questions. Even the Royal Academy of Engineering is proposing interchanges between academics and industry (

It would be great to see schemes like this adopted more widely. Fortunately, there are many commercial vehicle bodybuilders and trailer-builders in the UK for operators to team up with; but they are not the only ones. The Leyland DAF factory springs to mind on the HGV side, but of course there are also bus factories in Ballymena (Wrightbus), Falkirk (ADL) and Leeds (Optare).

Customer-supplier exchanges aren’t the only possible modality. What about peer-to-peer swaps, such as a hire-and-reward HGV operator swapping technicians – or even fleet managers – with other types of operators in their area, such as bus garages, coach operators, municipal authorities or crane hire companies? What about technicians trailing DVSA vehicle examiners, and vice versa, to see commercial vehicles from opposite sides of the law?

Such postings could not only reward a diligent mechanic, but also help the operator by spreading new ideas and knowledge of best practice. Perhaps these companies would be surprised to discover how much they have in common.

To work well, such exchanges require trust and mutual understanding. A good place for forming relationships and hatching plans would be regional meetings of the IRTE, which feature a cross-section of local industry (as well as free membership for apprentices).

In other news, DVSA is strengthening its enforcement against tyres greater than 10 years old. This follows a tragic bus crash profiled in TE March 2018 (‘Killer Tyres’: Some research suggests that age-related tyre degradation is essentially invisible. Better to be safe.

Will Dalrymple

Related Companies
The Cartwright Group

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