From the Frontline: James Smith, Hireco Group MD, talks about the impact COVID-19 is having on his vehicle rental business

“On the one hand we have seen an impact on the skeletal fleet, but on the flip side pharmaceutical, food and dry freight has literally gone mad,” explained Hireco Group MD James Smith. “Stuff is flying out, and we have Christmas levels of utilisation.”

Smith said last week’s temporary closure of the MoT stations had an impact on the business. “But they came to their senses and put that extension in place, which was good,” he said.

Smith has a huge amount of praise for all of his staff, operating in such difficult conditions, but is particularly impressed with the professionalism of the servicing team – both admin staff and those out on the road.

“I’m so proud of the team out on the road, keeping the kit moving,” he said, referring to the fleet of 30 service vans and 400 key vendors. “They could easily have said we aren’t working, but they have fantastic working practices. Without those trailers being serviced, they wouldn’t be able to go out and help to keep the supermarket fleets going.”

Hireco is also doing its bit to help with setting up the makeshift COVID-19 field hospital in the ExCeL Centre in East London. “Our truck parks are being used to store the scanning equipment,” Smith explained. “It’s all hands to the pump. We have to keep the UK moving, and Hireco plays a critical part in that process.”

HGV driver D4 medicals suspended by major providers in face of COVID-19 lockdown

HGV driver medicals are being suspended by two of the largest providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Carol Millett.

Fit2Drive Medicals suspended its D4 medicals on 23 March, whilst D4Drivers suspended its medicals yesterday.

Fit2Drive Medicals carries out between 1,000 to 3,000 D4 medicals a month, whilst D4Drivers processes up to 5,000 drivers a month.

Speaking to Commercial Motor, Fit2Drive director Paul Andrews, who also runs Clitheroe-based Paul Andrews Haulage said: “We have taken the view it is safer not to expose drivers to the dangers of attending clinics during the pandemic and all our doctors back this decision.

“We also do not want to call drivers away from key duties supporting the supply chain during this time.”

Andrews added that the company is lobbying the DVLA to grant a grace period on D4 medicals during the pandemic.

D4Drivers announced a similar move today, following the government’s announcement of a nationwide lockdown.

Earlier this week, D4Drivers was on the hunt for operators with spare warehouse or office space in which they could carry out medicals after the pandemic resulted in some of the buildings in which D4Driver clinics are held having to close down.

However the company has now decided it will not take any new bookings during the COVID-19 outbreak and is contacting hundreds of customers to reschedule.

D4Drivers medical director Dr Grant Charlesworth-Jones called on DVLA to give the industry clearer guidance on whether D4 medicals should be carried out during the pandemic and particularly during the national lock-down which came into effect on 23 March.

Charlesworth-Jones said one option open to the DVLA is to suspend D4 renewals during the pandemic. However he warned that this option would only defer the need to process medicals and would create a “chronic” backlog.

“Alternatively the classification of the D4 medical as an essential medical would give us the go ahead to start the service up and deal with most of the demand - in a risk managed way in line with containing infection,” he suggested.

“Ultimately we are keeping an open mind to both options and have the flexibility to respond quickly to either - we are all at the mercy of the DVLA just to let us know what to do next,” he added.

Commercial Motor’s request for comment from DVLA on this issue has yet to receive a response.