Wisbech-based A Downing Agricultural Engineers is down to a trickle of work now, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it was lucky enough to benefit for a short while at the beginning of the lockdown, the earnings from which it says will help see it through the coming weeks.
“We got into helping one of the major supermarkets on high days and holidays back in 2006, when the wheat price dropped, leaving us short of work,” director Andrew Downing explained. “So when everybody was still panic buying from the supermarkets, we enjoyed having our low-loaders on the usual machinery work, plus we were running two subbies and two self-drive hires on fridges.”
Stockpiling over, now things have dropped off on the agricultural side as well, leaving Downing with a dilemma. “We can't furlough our drivers because if we get a machine demonstration to do or urgent deliveries to be made we need them at work, but we've had to park a few of the trucks up and ask the lads to have their holidays,” he said.
It's by no means just him having problems in East Anglia though – one large operator nearby took 30 trucks off the road on Easter Monday, and Downing is seeing an average of four drivers a day turning up at his gate in the hope of finding work. “We very nearly bought a new lorry at Christmas, but I'm very glad we held off,” he admitted.
by Lucy Radley