Comment: Essential engineering engagement

I entered the road transport industry as an apprentice HGV technician in 1979. I subsequently joined the IRTE in the early 1980s as a means to help me become a manager – little did I know.

During the 1980s and 1990s, I would read Transport Engineer and attend regional events when I could. However, my association with the IRTE drastically changed 20 years ago when I asked SOE’s engineering executive, Ian Chisholm, for some help with a technical issue. I enquired how I could take advantage of an increase in gvw for articulated trucks to 44 tonnes. The challenge centred on artic tippers, which risked becoming unstable when delivering to sites with uneven ground.

Discussions with like-minded engineers and the IRTE provided views and ideas for solutions. Development was rapid and a new generation of ‘approved’ tipping trailers was born. On the grounds of safety, reluctance from customers to take artics diminished with a considerable increase in delivery efficiency.

Challenges to custom and practice makes for improvements to everyday life – with engineered solutions always in demand. We face a multitude of opportunities for solutions, which include: safer vehicle operations; provision and use of clean carbon neutral fuel; vehicles that drive themselves... the list goes on. While this engineering demand shows no sign of abating, we must feed our industry – and, by feed, I mean get more engineers.

Engineering plays a vital role in all economies. It ensures systems are safe, efficient and sustainable. Engineers think differently: to them, everything is part of a system. They compartmentalise and see structures that others don’t. They fix things, they design things and, ultimately, they make things work.

Research by Engineering UK predicts 173,000 new engineering and technology jobs in the UK by 2030. Engineering is set to boom in the coming years, with ample opportunities open to those aiming to advance their careers. With that in mind, our marketing team will soon publish a guide that is aimed at steering and signposting engineers through their careers.

I joined road transport engineering as an apprentice, as did most of the IRTE Professional Sector Council. And, while we have an industry that is great at doing good things and telling ourselves what we’ve done, we’re not so good at telling everyone else. On this point can I ask for help? Take this message and encourage anyone you meet to consider our industry.

While we can ask for support, we cannot rely on others. Please talk to friends, colleagues, relatives, those young and the not so young, their parents, their friends and associates. Explain the rewarding and fulfilling opportunities our industry provides – and point them towards businesses that need road transport engineers. We need more to join than leave!

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