Lessons from a road trip
Gareth Jones of Solar Calibre Doors becomes delivery driver for the day
Some readers might remember a ‘reality TV’ series in the early 2000s called Back to the Floor, when senior business figures went undercover in their organisations, taking on roles very different from their day job. Gareth Jones, Managing Director of Solar Fabrications took a similar approach recently when he took to the road in an 18-tonne delivery lorry. For some years Gareth had a personal wish to qualify as a Class 2 delivery driver so he set about taking lessons and in May, mission accomplished, he took the place of the company’s regular XPO delivery driver.
“I spend a lot of time in the factory so know a great deal about how the team operates there. The logistics side of the business I’m less familiar with, so it was important to me to get out and experience how it all works. James Lee, Business Development Manager for Solar Calibre Doors, came with me and we were joined by Marcus Oliver and James Froggatt from XPO, along part of the route,” said Gareth.
The day started bright and early. Gareth and James were at the Huthwaite factory at 4.20am, ready to load up and be ready to leave at 5.30. The route for the day involved a round trip of 263 miles, from Nottinghamshire up to New Look Windows in Rochdale, followed by Evander Glazing in Warrington, Supercraft Windows & Conservatories in Stoke and Sycamore Windows in West Bromwich, before returning to Huthwaite.
“All went really well…for an hour . Then we got caught in a traffic jam, the result of an accident, and sat stationery on the M62 for over an hour. So that was lesson number one. Keep cool in the face of delays and disruption, even as you watch your carefully planned schedule evaporate.”
Driving the truck itself was the more obvious lesson number two. “Reversing into tight entrances, edging through narrow spaces between parked vehicles, reversing onto busy roads and, of course, the road traffic accidents. This is a skilled job that requires a great deal of focus.”
Gareth and James spent around 20-30 minutes at each stop, catching up with each of their customers.
“It was good to hear directly from them about their business, learn how things are going and what we can do to help or improve. We also learned lesson number three. You have to recognise this isn’t an easy job. As well as the mental concentration and frustrations of the driving itself, it’s also extremely physical. Our Craftsmen doors weigh in the region of 100kg and need two people to manoeuvre them, given they’re so unwieldy.”
Just under ten hours later they arrived back in Huthwaite. As Gareth made his way through to the Solar Calibre Doors delivery yard, he clipped the side of a recycling skip. Nothing serious but the final lesson – you’re not there, until you’re there!
“It was hard work, so all credit to the team at XPO and to delivery drivers in general that do this all day, every day. We’ve agreed that my driver fee will be donated as groceries to the Trussell Trust Food Bank in South Normanton, which XPO are going to purchase and deliver – hopefully an easier trip!” said Gareth.