Why are there two different snow marking schemes for tyres? Why do commercial vehicle operators have to buy different tyres for each corner of their vehicle? Can an untrained technician accurately measure the tread of some 80 vehicles in an operator’s fleet?
The answers to all three of those questions attest to the growing complexity of the marketplace. In reaction, products seem to be becoming ever more technical, and expertise ever more specialised.
If that leads to improvements in performance, should we object?
Operating transport is not easy, and there are lots of pressures, whether commercial, regulatory or technical. It’s natural to want to pass off some of the technicalities to someone else – no-one can get involved with everything. If taken too far, though, a risk exists that the operators will be cut completely out of the vehicle parts and services specification loop.
There is a concept in the nuclear power generation industry of the ‘intelligent customer’: a buyer of products and services that not only understand what it wants but also has some critical ability to evaluate the offering of suppliers. ‘Intelligent’ in this context means not so much super-clever but more having sufficient understanding of the topic to be able to judge the value of the proposed solutions to their problems. It also knows enough to understand its own limitations, and that of suppliers as well.
That might be a useful attitude to foster in road transport as well.