Members of the Freight Transport Association’s policy team have been out on the road with Waitrose, meeting staff and drivers who supply fresh food to shops in London and the South East.
Director of UK Policy Elizabeth De Jong, Head of Policy for London, Natalie Chapman and Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Heidi Skinner travelled on board rigid and articulated trucks, from the Waitrose regional distribution centre at Aylesford, Kent into shops in Paddock Wood, West Hampstead and Bloomsbury.
The trip with Waitrose staff, in the run-up to Christmas, reflects FTA’s commitment to working closely with its members, large and small, to better understand the challenges of transporting freight across the UK and promote the interests of the industry on a national stage.
Natalie Chapman explained: “As Head of Policy for London I hear about the challenges of congestion and access from members on a daily basis. But nothing beats going on a run into the capital, for getting a practical sense of the skill and dedication drivers need to deliver goods in one of the world’s busiest cities. It only serves to remind me why the work of FTA is so important.”
The FTA team were also given a tour of the 600,000 sq ft Waitrose distribution centre at Aylesford by Waitrose Transport Operations Manager, Kevin Savery and Legal Operations Manager, Jerry Ward. Regional Distribution Centres act as a centralised collection point for stock, receiving deliveries from Waitrose suppliers across the country, picking the specific orders for each of their allocated branches and then redistributing them to those branches via the Waitrose distribution fleet.
The day of the visit was one of the most congested in London this year, with the Dartford Crossing closed southbound for part of the morning. Heidi Skinner said she got a unique perspective on the personal impact of congestion in the capital:
“I represent the interests of FTA members to politicians and spend a lot of time in the centre of London, but seeing it from the cab of a lorry brings a whole new point of view. I was really impressed with the professionalism and dedication of the Waitrose staff who work incredibly hard to ensure residents and commuters based in London have access to fresh food on a daily basis, whatever the condition on the roads.”
FTA represents all modes of the UK’s freight and logistics sector, with its members operating half of the UK’s lorry fleet (more than 200,000 vehicles), moving more than 90% of the UK’s rail freight and consigning 70% of the country’s visible exports by sea and air. The UK remains a leader in logistics at a global level, ranked in the top ten countries in terms of logistics performance, and the sector contributes 11% of the UK’s non-financial business economy. In 2016, 2.54 million people were employed in logistics in the UK, approximately 8% of the UK’s workforce.