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In the spirit of CROSSHIRE


Paddy’s Motorbike bemoans the problems faced by hirers’ delivery drivers and can only see their frustrations increasing.


DRIVING ME MAD


I have just purchased a new van, with one little drawback: it’s a diesel. There is a strong prejudice growing against all diesel cars and vehicles, and it does not seem to matter that ‘white van man’ and other hard-working professionals have been using this trusty mode of transport for moving goods and people alike for decades. We don’t have to look far to see the growing number of buses that are being switched to ‘eco’ fuels and battery power. However, there is no sign of a 36V 70Ah battery driven Ford Transit on the horizon and my guess is there won’t be for some years to come.


The idea of electric vans has many good points but it does raise many questions and not all have been answered, such as: Do we have to put in an infrastructure for charging? Will we need a 3-phase power supply at our depot to charge all our vehicles overnight? How many can you charge at a time? Would our staff be happy about running an extension cable to the van to charge it, if they take it home at night - because if they don’t, they might not be able to drive it the following day! If you had the radio on together with the heater, how many miles would you lose? All in all, there is a lot to consider. In the meantime, you can be sure that we will see steady increases not only in the price of fuel, but in road tax as well.


However, this is just one source of frustration. We regularly have horrendous problems in trying to make deliveries into city centres - places where customers obviously want the goods quickly, but the local authority puts everything in place to stop us. Just look at London: you are charged to drive into the centre, you pay a ridiculous amount to park or face a traffic warden’s fine, and yet hire companies typically just impose a delivery charge that would be a fraction of the equivalent taxi fare.


If this was not enough to deal with, I encountered my worst nightmare recently when I had to make a delivery to a town centre having no prior knowledge of the road layout.


I found it to be totally sat nav-unfriendly and very frustrating. I reached the place I needed to deliver to, with our builder customer standing outside waiting for me, but I was not allowed to turn left into the street as there was one sign ordering traffic straight on and another allowing right turns only. I felt like ignoring them and making the turn anyway - something you might have got away way with years ago, but now you run the risk of getting caught by a traffic camera just waiting to take a nice shot of you, followed up by a penalty notice and an inevitable fine.


So, you end up driving round in circles, just looking for a place to pull into so you can call the customer and look at the map in the hope of finding the solution to how you are possibly meant to get there. Oh, and remember to keep a look out for the traffic wardens hiding in the shadows waiting to pounce on you like some demented vampire after blood shouting, “You can’t park there!” And all this before 10am!


There are reports of a growing downturn on spending in the high street due to the internet, with fewer banks and more shops staying unoccupied. Retailers are facing a bigger challenge to make business pay, so you can imagine that if there is to be a large outlay in having to switch to more eco-friendly vehicles, this will have to be passed on to our customers. And the more difficult the city centre areas are to get to, the greater the cost. Charging up an electric van will take hours, not your normal few minutes at the pumps, and that is time you cannot afford while trying to make a delivery in a maze of one-way streets and parking restrictions.


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