Pete Cochrane

A Different Point of View

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Road Transport

The Tin of Peas

It seemed like a good idea at the time, taking one of my articulated trucks and trailers to my young daughters infants school with the intention of promoting awareness of the transport industry as early in their young lives as possible. Some of my suppliers had kindly supplied colouring books, pens and promotional pieces for them all and I brought a tin of garden peas!
My idea was to ask them how many trucks it took to get a can of peas to a shop. The question brought a wild and broad numbered response from the children to the point that the attending teachers had to regain control of the situation. Lesson learned on my part!
I then explained that if a tractor and trailer brought it to the processing plant, the following trucks would be needed to get a can of peas onto a supermarket or corner shop shelf:

For the Can:
1) Raw materials to make steel coil to make can.
2) Movement of coil to can factory.
3)At least another truck for materials used in can manufacture.
4) Empty pallets delivered to stack empty cans on.
5) Reels of plastic banding (non-biodegradable) delivered to secure cans to pallets.
6) Squares of wood delivered to put over the top of the pallets before banding.
7) Cans delivered to pea canning plant.
8) Can lids deliver to the canning plant.

For the pea can labels:
9) Wood to paper making plant.
10) Paper reels to the label making plant.
11) At least one truck delivering ink chemicals to the label making plant.
12) Labels delivered to the canning plant.

For the pea canning plant:
13) At least one truck delivering chemicals used in the canning process.
14) Empty pallets delivered for the finished product at the canning plant.
15) Finished cans of peas delivered on pallets to the RDC.

For the Regional Distribution Centre (RDC):
16) Delivery by at least one truck to the shop.

The tins are recyclable as are the pallets and some labels. But plus or minus sixteen trucks for the production of a tin of peas was not perceived as a big concern in 1993!

Move to 2019 and trucks are seen by the climate change protesters as the worst killers of the climate, when in reality Euro6 emission level trucks are cleaner than most cars per ton/km.
Another reason why trucks are required is that we love the supermarket and over the years, apart from the odd corner shop they have killed the high street butchers, fresh produce suppliers, bakers and to a large extent door to door milk deliveries. In fact most of the shops you bought things at in a high street shop in the 60’s and 70’s have been replaced by the supermarket. If truth be told, many more trucks would be required if this hadn’t happened. One truck can carry the equivalent of thirteen van payloads and the equivalent of even more van payloads if it’s a bulky load volume wise.

If I could walk into a persons house who thinks trucks should be banned, what would I find in their cupboards? Even worse what would I find in their freezers or fridges especially if they are of the older CFC type. Most frozen food packaging is not biodegradable. Very little if anything in your house and probably including your house wasn’t delivered by a truck.
How many walk to the supermarket instead of using a car? Whenever I go to a supermarket the car park is full, in fact I generally walk to the supermarket unless I happen to be passing on my way home from work.
Then there are the people who think truck road tax should be put up. Well, go ahead and watch food and other product prices rise as the margins a very slim in road transport. It’s nothing more than a stealth tax on the public because very little of the proceeds are spent on improving our roads. It matters not a jot which political party you vote for. Some are so misguided they want to ban trucks altogether. I’m not sure how they plan to clothe and feed the nation.

So all I ask is that next time the sight of a truck annoys you, look in your shopping bag, your house and even your car, and ask yourself how all these things got to the shop where you bought them or even how they got to your door. The chances are that most if not everything will have been in or on at least one truck before it got to you.

Writing Content

Writing content for this blog is not an easy task I have found out. I am a firm believer in giving as accurate a picture of a given subject as possible, without short changing the reader with an incomplete point of view. This means unfortunately that sometimes new content may not happen every week, but might result in some weeks where two new articles appear. I have a lot of subject matter under construction and hopefully you the reader, will find it thought provoking and entertaining. The world is changing very quickly, and in my humble opinion not for the better. A few world leaders that should possess thoughtful and progressive interactions with other countries, seem to want to take random and dangerous action against other countries that don’t have the same views. This makes the future look very bleak on a global scale, plus Brexit is happening whether we like it or not. It doesn’t matter if we wanted to stay or go, a democratic decision was made and we have to go with the result.
So in this changing World, we as individuals have to find a way of being better at what we do, or even invent or do things that nobody else has done. In other words we must conquer the world through innovation and entrepreneurship. I hope in a small way I can help you see things from a different point of view, because some of the skills I have picked up over the years, have taught me that no problem is insurmountable, you just need to reframe it.

Telematics Stress – A Modern Problem.

Telematics Data
Telematics Data

With all the current media attention on mental health, I wonder if anyone has considered the mental health of truck drivers? We are under stress from bad driving by other road users, tight delivery schedules, constant fear of the Police and VOSA even when you always drive for a one hundred percent legal operation, safety, security and now to add to this little list of stressful sources, we suffer a constant barrage of telematics league tables and must try harder letters and comments.

This is an industry wide problem that has not been sufficiently scrutinised to understand the effects on a driver. In my experience telematics data is tolerated for a short while by drivers before they lose interest because no matter what they do, they can’t get to the top of the league table. I have arrived at this conclusion after listening to drivers I work with and also many other drivers from numerous companies during conversations while tipping or loading at places.

Maybe a more productive way of gaining acceptance for telematics data and any subsequent improvements would be to incorporate a module in an annual CPC training event covering the various headings within telematics and how each of them affect a drivers score. Furthermore, instead of using league tables as a means of measurement, encourage drivers to use individual telematics data as a tool for personal improvement.

Personally, the league tables mean nothing to me as the results depend on the load weight, trailer size, weather and route at the very least. The person I want to drive better than the most is ME! For years I have recorded my trip data every day. This includes the trailer number and type, weather conditions, load, time taken, speed, MPG, fuel used and route. If you build up a consistent record over a period of time, a pattern emerges and anomalies such as if the truck is sick or the trailer doesn’t run as freely as another does becomes clearer. I consider that as a professional driver it is my duty to improve wherever I can. I learn every day even after nearly forty years as a truck driver, and will continue to do so, as it is a vital part of gaining and building on experience. Failures are only failures if you don’t learn from mistakes, and we all make mistakes no matter how much experience we have. That is why challenging yourself by keeping a record of your performance is so valuable and something all drivers should be encouraged to do.

The industry is a wash with training and often results unintentionally in most cases, of putting unnecessary pressure or stress upon drivers to perform based upon telematics data, but another aspect to consider is whether your data has a close relationship with exactly what your vehicle is doing. If it isn’t set up correctly, its possible you are being unnecessarily hard on a driver or drivers. It’s worth remembering that your truck has cost you a lot of money and drivers are your businesses most valuable asset as they are entrusted with your truck and also the people that come face to face with your customers. A vital reason to try and keep them happy.

The human race is made up of intensely competitive beings and no matter how many drivers say they are not interested in telematics data, nearly all are to some degree. Usually the negativity to the data seems to be related to their position on a league table and I suspect from questions that I am asked, is because they don’t know how to improve their score.

If more emphasis was given to encouraging drivers to compete against their own scores and comprehensive training given to demonstrate how data changes depending on the driving style used, I believe a fleet wide improvement would be a result.

The modern phenomena of measuring everything to within an inch of its life, creates an unpleasant feeling of always being watched by big brother, and depending on the character or personality of the person policing a persons performance, can lead to resentment and a feeling of distrust to a driver by a company with a knock on effect of poorer performance than they are capable of.

It’s not difficult with the right motivation to improve fuel economy by one percent and in a lot of cases to improve even further than that. Imagine what you could save over a year by finding a way that motivates your drivers to improve without them feeling oppressed?

Maybe the only way is to measure the results!

Volvo FH04-500 Tractor Unit

The very impressive Volvo FH04-500
The Volvo FH04-500

Tested 08/04/2017-12/04/2017

I feel I have let this truck and Volvo down in my fuel values during this test, mainly because I drive an FH460 all the time and this truck is the same office but with a very different heart. I truly believe that had I driven it without having driven an FH before, my fuel would have been better. This is because it coasts forever and also because I do the same run every day and I am driving it to the same power off points as I would the 460 when in fact I could come off the power much sooner, in fact much, much sooner! As a result my brake count is way more than I should have done. The Volvo FH04 500 is doing exactly what I expected in comparison to the 460 version. The extra 40hp makes just that little difference when it’s on cruise control by having a bit more torque. You can see on the dash real time fuel data that it is more economical when it needs fuel. Places where you would see 1.9mpg you now see 2.5mpg as the low figures and a much better cruising fuel figure sooner.

The whole vehicle is less stressed at 500hp and does as I said run on forever, I believe this is due to the fact that it is on top of the power requirement instead of pulling the load up to the power requirement. A bit difficult to explain what I mean but would be easy to demonstrate. Power delivery is very smooth and as with all new heavy trucks its built to be on cruise control as much as possible, especially the higher horsepower trucks, and not just on motorways but whenever its safe to do so.

The cab is exactly the same as the 460 except this particular vehicle it had an electric sun blind and better seat coverings. Unfortunately I have the same little grumbles about it, namely the space in front of the passenger seat is very cramped compared to the Scania, and I can’t help thinking that if I was using this truck on long haul European work like I used to, then I would have been a bit uncomfortable if I was parked up for extended periods. Next is the fact that it is a dirty truck compared to either the new Next Generation Scania or its predecessor the Scania Streamline, and gets very dirty mirrors that really impact your rear viewing capabilities quite quickly in damp weather. On a positive note, the Volvo is a brilliant truck on smart motorways or average speed camera controlled roadworks compared to the Scania’s. This is because on the Volvo you can press the Eco button on the steering wheel and bring the speed down to 1mph instead of the default 3mph for economic operations, then set the cruise control at 49mph and let the truck get on with it. It will not exceed 50mph and it will not fall away speed wise either as the Scania’s seem’s to. The only thing you have to remember is to press the Eco button and set the value back to 3mph for the best economic running when the speed restriction ends.

Interpretation of the Dynafleet data needs to be correct as quite often while you are on cruise, the vehicle goes into coasting mode in exactly the same way as you would have done it by dropping it out of cruise. The difference is in the data on Dynafleet because as the coasting value seems to reflect coasting when you coast off cruise and is the total value of coasting above and below 89kph OFF CRUISE. If it coasts in cruise, the overspeed value increases but the coasting value doesn’t! If the Eco button is in the default 3mph setting, the truck shouldn’t exceed 59mph on cruise and the overspeed is referring to coasting between 56mph and 59mph. Therefore the true coasting value should be the total of the two values as long as the cruise control usage value is high. It took me a while to work that one out! There is something more to this observation that is important but escapes me at the moment, but I will add an addendum when I remember.

Overall in the five days of testing, I have had a double-deck fridge fully loaded, square and round edged fridges, extreme variations in traffic and weather including worsening high winds on some days and a routing cock up that added an hour and a half onto a normal runtime. So a consistent test as planned has not worked out. As usual I have recorded everything daily as I do with my regular truck and other demo units. Plus as is usual with a test truck a physical fuel fill test. Dash fuel figures range between 8.8mpg and 9.8mpg which is either better or consistent with my usual FH460 figures (This vehicle had only 16000 kms on it when I started testing, so is still not run in properly yet), Physical fuel on three of the days was 9.35mpg, 9.59 mpg and 9.38mpg respectively. From experience of other manufacturers test vehicles this is fairly good. Physical fuel checks confirm the accuracy of dash and telemetry data. Adblue use seems consistent with the FH460 values with this vehicle.

On the final day of testing the 500 really showed how good it is. Through no fault of the Volvo I was held up with a breakdown which resulted in me leaving my last drop quarter of an hour later than my due loading time three quarters of an hour away. Making progress while keeping to the national speed limits across country is no problem for the 500 and I arrived at my loading point bang on the time I had given them. With the high winds I had been experiencing all day and severe congestion on the Scottish road system, the Volvo was showing only 8.3mpg which to be fair was still better than the 460 would have achieved but not what I was happy with. Even worse was the fact I had no time to try and get the figure to improve, or so I thought. As soon as I was loaded with the cargo of 16 pallets of Milk, I left Bridge of Allan via Stirling to join the M80 at Stirling services before tackling a very congested M73 and even worse M74 at Raith. Wherever possible I had it on the limiter and it never broke stroke. Even better by the time I got back to Penrith, the fuel figure had improved to 9MPG, a figure that the 460 would never have done under the same conditions. Stunningly impressive is the only way I can describe it.

In conclusion, all I can tell you is that whenever I test a truck, I evaluate it as if I was buying it for myself and apply the same comparison techniques I used when I owned my own truck operation. The main things I am looking for in a truck are comfort, reliability and above all else a good balance of power and economy. I have never been a subscriber of just buying high power trucks other than unless the job requires them, and in my humble opinion 500 hp is about as much as you need pulling a fridge.
I can’t believe I am going to write this next bit, but here goes. I have tested a lot of the best trucks meeting our requirements including the superb Next Generation Scania R450, but if I was given the choice between the Next Generation Scania R450 and the Volvo FH04 500 I have just been testing, then I would have picked the Volvo. Anybody that knows me, also knows that I am a dyed in the wool Scania fan and would not say this lightly, but in the absence of not having tested the S500 Next Generation Scania, I would without doubt have picked the Volvo 500. It is a truly awesome truck and if you are buying one or just driving one, you will not be disappointed.

If You Have A Passion – Just Do It

I have an urgent message for you. If you have a dream or a passion follow it without distraction.

From day one it was a struggle financially as I had very little money when I started. As my outfit got bigger so did the workload, and as I started employing more drivers, so did the headaches of keeping the trucks moving and legal. Anyway, to cut a long story short, my knowledge of the business allowed me to see via my projections that transport was starting to decline as legislation became tougher. So I decided to sell up, on the premise that I would find a new business venture. Initially, I wondered if I had done the right thing but felt vindicated a couple of years later when road haulage in the U.K. Did take a dive for the small operator.

I went back to college and studied advanced application programming, passed all my exams and promptly decided that I probably couldn’t sit in an office all day programming. So I got my thinking head on again and believe it or not a few weeks later, a job as a truckie for a top British Superbike team came along. This in turn led to a job working for a support company supplying manpower and solutions in MotoGP for another top team, and then into Formula 1 supporting a very well know Italian team with red cars, that had a very skilled German driver working for them at the time. This job took me all over the World, working in many areas of Motorsport at a very high standard of work. Some years later, travelling had lost its lustre and I yearned to be home with my long suffering wife and kids more.

I wanted to start another business but still couldn’t think of what to do. Needing money to support my family, I went back to driving a truck for a large company. Thirteen years later and in my sixtieth year, I am still driving a truck for a large company albeit a different one, and I still yearn for my own business again despite still not knowing what I want to do.

Life seemed to last forever in my twenties, thirties and forties, but when you get in to your sixties, the years become a blur as they pass. This doesn’t mean I’ve stopped searching for my next adventure and I am sure the next chapter of my life’s journey is not far away.
So my message to you is follow your dream, follow your passion, take a chance while you are young. Life is but a blur as time goes by and the worst thing that can happen to you, is to get to your death bed wishing you had taken a chance.

I don’t have too many regrets as I have done many things that other people would have loved to have done. None of it has been easy though, also I still have that niggling feeling that I haven’t achieved my full potential, and that I have to leave my mark on this world as a legacy if nothing else. As Sir Richard Branson says ” Screw it, let’s do it”. It’s a worthy sentiment.

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