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.”

From the Frontline: Impexparts MD Arthur Pinkney talks about how his company is dealing with COVID-19

“Brexit, general elections and grey imports, we’ve had to contend with the lot,” says Arthur Pinkney, MD at parts supplier Impexparts. “And just when we think it’s safe to come out of the water, COVID-19 comes along. There’s no time for strategy meetings, this thing is real and we have to react and react fast. There’s nothing in the rule book to guide us. The response from UK haulage has been gargantuan; this dirty draconian industry has pulled it out of the bag and is creating heroes by the minute.”

Pinkney tells Commercial Motor that as of today (25 March), Impexparts is still managing to offer a same day delivery service, albeit with reduced staff numbers. “We’re answering the phone, we’re getting stuff delivered. Are we breaking the rules? Yes we are, but we’re staying safe and getting product on the shelves.”

Pinkney is hopeful that the UK haulage industry will have a totally different public perception at the end of this outbreak, but he isn’t holding his breath.

“Truckers and the haulage industry in general are perceived as unnecessary polluters that block our roads and cause delays when they head off to the coast! But how things have changed in a matter of just a few short days. Today, social media, the media and the man on the street are saluting the efforts of our hauliers who are working tirelessly to keep the UK open, and quite rightly so. However, when we get through this, and we will, I wonder if memories will fade. Let’s hope not!”