Saturday, July 13, 2019

Glittering Award Ceremony from Road Haulage Group Had All the Elements

Even Gender Imbalance is Changing in the Most Unlikely Places
Shipping News Feature
UK – This week saw the annual Road Haulage Association (RHA) Awards, held in this its 75th Anniversary year, and the celebrations at the London Hilton in Park Lane certainly lived up to a very special occasion. Truckers are a tightly knit bunch in an industry often viewed as having a misogynist agenda. Not so if the attendees here are representative, with a larger female contingent than hitherto, indeed if the audience balance was decided upon raffle winners the ladies outnumbered the men!

First to speak was Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the RHA, who took the audience through a veritable tour of the organisation and industry’s history, from original founder Henry Duckworth, through nationalisation, the winter of discontent when lorry drivers were the first to strike, only to return to work after a 20% pay rise, and on to the recessions at either end of the 1980’s, a period during which the RHA made insurance and financial services available to its members.

The growth of vans and the birth of the FairFuelUK campaign were detailed next which Burnett opined the latter being the reason fuel costs remain 44% below government aspirations, and the audience got the chance to see some of the previous week’s Panorama, which we detailed in a previous story.

Next up was Andrew Howard, outgoing RHA National Chairman, who passed the baton to Ashley McCulla, saying the organisation continues to punch above its weight despite the fact that in his two year tenure the challenges of Brexit, driver shortages, environmental pressures and a lack of road infrastructure investment had prompted the formation of an All Party Parliamentary Group under the leadership of Sir Mike Penning MP to study problems the industry was facing.

McCulla made the point that politics in the UK were now at an all-time low, with the voicemail left for Richard Burnett by Transport Minister Chris Grayling threatening the RHA’s exclusion from any future talks with government if he didn’t resist the urge to speak up, mentioned by all speakers. McCulla congratulated Burnett for the transformation the RHA has undergone during the five years of his stewardship.

Next to speak was Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes, a gig she joked she only accepted when a little inebriated after a trip out with RHA director of Policy and Public Affairs, Rod McKenzie. She dispensed with the 1800 words carefully crafted by her civil service team and claimed she would ‘go rogue’, continuing on into a slick speech covering her first-hand knowledge of the Irish border problem, her awareness of what may arise should there be any administrative hold up to trade flows and how she intends to reduce the time taken to process immigration requests for an industry which depends on replenishing missing staff.

Ms Nokes made the point so beloved of those of us who talk about logistics, without it, all would be homeless, hungry and naked, and she insisted that, despite the Grayling-Burnett spat, the DfT must continue to draw on the expertise of trade associations like the RHA, and government must ensure that it acts on the advice gained, adding however that she wouldn’t be leaving Richard Burnett any voicemails.

Rod McKenzie introduced his former colleague Jon Culshaw who gave his usual hilarious performance culminating with a long monologue in the persona of ex Liverpool footballer Steven Gerard regarding the possibility of life on Mars. A neat ending when the next turn was Kevin Keegan, a man who puts the same preparation into these occasions as he habitually did into honing his skills on the pitch. Anyone who has seen Keegan in this situation will know there isn’t a better person to grip an audience - no one talks when the man gives one of his video demonstrations.

And so to the Awards, our photograph shows what was undoubtedly the most emotional moment, Steve Jones, a driver for Joda Freight, who has been in the industry for forty years and was horrifically injured in a crash in France in 2003 and who spent 9 years in rehabilitation. The loss of his right arm earned him the pseudonym of ‘Captain Hook’ from his colleagues and he has gone on to be described as an exemplary employee since starting with Joda in 2103, not only driving, but mentoring colleagues. Steve won the Award, sponsored by Michelin, for the Exemplary Employee of the Year.

The emotion hardly went down more than a notch when Jim French MBE , former RHA Chairman, was credited with his many achievements including setting up the Tees Valley Logistics Academy whilst a Director of PD Ports and working with Care After Combat, and for which he received the Lifetime Achievement Award, a more popular choice would be very hard to find.

Lead sponsor then for this year’s celebration was Michelin and the other Awards then in full are:

  • Haulier Diversity Award sponsored by Backhouse Jones awarded to Clipper Logistics for attracting a diverse workforce through its Apprenticeship Degree and Fresh Start programmes, seeing minority groups and ex-offenders getting a chance to join the industry.
  • Diamond Haulier Award awarded to W H Bowker, a family centric company formed a century ago with the founder’s First World War gratuity payment
  • Livery of the Year Award awarded to Great Bear Distribution now part of the Culina group, both of whom are celebrating their 25th Anniversaries

The formalities ended with the presentation of a cheque for some £20,000 from the RHA CEO to Caroline Barber of the transport charity Transaid.