Premier a firm thai knows where it's goinc
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WITH A NAME like Premier Transport, this is one company that is obviously proud of itself. And why not?
Bob-Russett oversees the day to day running of Premier while his father, Harold, is still closely involved with the company's daily operations, despite his commitments as Road Haulage Association senior vice-chairman.
It was Bob Russett I spoke to on a recent visit to the company's base at Bristol. The relationship between father and son has a healthy foundation of mutual respect, and there appears to be a genuine family business atmosphere at Premier which is sadly lacking in these days of conglomerates and mergers.
Bob told me that much of his traffic goes to high street shops or cash and carry warehouses. The list of products carried is endless. On a tour of one of the nine separate warehouses at Bristol I saw drums of caramel, baby food, margarine, boxed clothing, window frames, feather pillows, cloth and soya extract.
"Because we carry such a cross section we have to be careful," says Bob. "Toiletries can't travel with things like fertiliser, for instance."
The best way to witness how a company operates, the problems its drivers and vehicles face, and what it does when confronted with such difficulties is to go out on the road with a vehicle, which is what we did.
The driver for the occasion was Stan Adams, who arrived at 8 am on an extremely wet Tuesday morning for our collection and delivery run in and around Bristol. The vehicle had been loaded the night before, and after a quick inspection of his loading sheet we were in the cab of a Leyland Terrier TA 738 and ready for the off at 8.10. The speed with which Stan arrived, docked in and was ready for work was comparable to the start of Le Mans.
However, it was not long before our first hold-up of the day — no fuel. Stan didn't take too kindly to filling the tank for himself (mainly because of the weather as much as anything); but after putting in 10 gallons (45,5 litres) of diesel, we were ready for what seemed like a moderately busy day's work. That was to change as the day progressed.
"You've got to put in your own diesel and all now. Let's get out of here," said a disgruntled Stan.
We were finally away by about 8.20 — just a 20 minute gap between arriving, inspecting the vehicle and loading sheet, refuelling, and driving off. It was decided as we left Premier's gates that our first stop would be some eight miles away in Yate, which meant navigating through Bristol's early morning commuter traffic.
But it was only a matter of minutes before we were on picturesque (if a little wet) country roads on our way to Yate. Despite not being a regular pick-up, Stan found the premises on the new Beeches Industrial Estate, almost instinctively.
After picking up a hea wooden crate from a blasn manufacture — we had be told it was to be two boxes — were on route for near! Kingswood and Brains, the fi zen food, sausage and pie col pany. We were to deliver fi drums of chemicals, like wet ing up liquid or deterge guessed Stan, but again, our formation was slightly wrong. fact, they were five 20 kilo (44. pounds) bags of absorbent gra ules.
Stan admitted that life is much impler when he knows the sremises he is visiting.
"If you know exactly where fou're going you've won half the settle in this job. The big probam is drivers not knowing vhere they are going."
Stan reckons that the best way or a lorry driver to find his way iround a strange area is to have I chat with a sympathetic local axi driver. He says that they will sften peruse the delivery list and ell him the order in which he ihould carry out his collections sr deliveries.
He does not often use maps when working locally although se usually keeps some in his cab or the rare occasions when he is ituck.
"Of course there aren't many ,laces in Bristol I don't know", le said, and judging from his serformance at the wheel on the lay I travelled with him, I , can selieve that.
Stan is never afraid to ask when he is unsure of an address hough, and we stopped at a mutique in Keynsham High itreet in the hope that someone :ould tell us where Abbey Park 3harmacy was. It was, in fact, )nly a short distance away from he boutique, so Stan decided to eave the vehicle where it was — )n a double yellow line in the larrow high street — and walk he few yards to the pharmacy with the ICI parcel. In fairness to lire, parking on the double yelow line was his only option and 3esides, he finds traffic wardens 'pretty good'.
Which is more than can be ;aid for the next leg of our jourley, to Bath. A half-hour traffic am is no fu n at the best of times put when there is seemingly no work being carried out on a road that is being "repaired" and you are staring at the rear end of a dirty tanker, a lorry driver's life can become almost unbearable.
"Absolutely ridiculous" was how Stan described the jam. The remainder of what he said about the congestion is unprintable.
His good humour returned, however, when we finally got through the offending temporary traffic lights that caused the hold up, and were on our way to an industrial estate near the centre of Bath. We collected a sheet of glass destined for Wolverhampton. A little clumsily perhaps, it was wedged in by a box and some rolls of material we were to deliver later in the day, but the glass seemed relatively secure.
As Stan struggled to turn his vehicle round in the limited space he had available, he told me that he usually likes to prepare his vehicle for a quick exit before an actual collection or delivery.
A pick up in the centre of Bath should have been straight forward but proved to be a problem. Stan had a slight accident — two, in fact — not with the vehicle but with himself. After reversing up to the rear of John Menzies at a shopping precinct in Bath in order to pick up 23 cartons of toys, Stan became a victim of the slippery floor and fell over — twice. Somebody had spilled something and had not bothered to clean-up properly.
"It's like a bloody skating rink," he observed. "You couldn't possibly fall over a second time, but I did," he said with a smile.
But it was not funny. He had hurt his back and was visibly shaken. The unsympathetic attitude of the staff at the store did not help matters although a fiveminute break and a strong cup of tea put some colour back into his cheeks. Stan reported the acci dent when he returned to his depot later in the day.
On our way to a furniture shop in Milsom Street, Bath, the inadequacy of the city's aging road system was obvious. But we were in and out quickly with four chairs destined for Poole, Dorset. It was 11.40 am and there was still a lot of work ahead.
Although it was not his usual vehicle, Stan told me that he found the Leyland Terrier more than adequate though he pined for something smaller on a couple of occasions when road access was poor.
But the Terriers are not bad at all, claimed Stan, the five-speed box on our vehicle for the day being "quite good" although the reverse gear was a little stiff.
Coates Printing Inks at Midsomer Norton was next — a collection of 25 boxes for places like Gloucester and Plymouth. All would be trunked that evening.
We headed back towards Bris tol, and had a near miss with a speeding motorist who almost caused an accident when Stan swerved away from him (and just saved his nearside rear view mirror from colliding with a wall). I suppose motorists like this should be called an occupational hazard, but Stan and I had a different name for him.
Stan had also been rather critical of women drivers that day, so he must have felt a little guilty when a young lady flashed him and told him that the rear doors of the vehicle were not firmly closed. The problem was quickly put right.
A 30-minute stop for lunch at High Littleton for the obligatory sausage, chips and beans proved that transport cafes usually provide excellent food — and plenty of it — at a reasonable price. But it also confirmed that such establishments often have very few facilities for drivers. Is a wash basin, soap and towel really too much to ask for?
During our lunch break, Stan told me that he likes to organise his itinerary so that he gets most of the work done before lunch and is back in the Bristol area by afternoon, relatively near his depot in the event of any problems. Obviously something like a breakdown in Bath at the end of the day would be more difficult to cope with than a breakdown a mile away from his depot.
Stan Adams has been a driver for 30 years so I suppose it is understandable that he took a while to accept the tachograph. But like most drivers, it seems, he has learnt to live with it and recognises that the tacho can be beneficial to him, as well as his employer. Premier originally started with Smiths tachographs, was not satisfied, moved on to Lucas Kienzle, and tried Veeder Root in some training vehicles which was an "absolute disaster", according to Bob Russett. The company is happiest with Lucas Kienzle and is now using Kienzle's automatic machines.
An industrial estate on the way back to Bristol was the next port of call. There was no card in the window of the premises, which meant there was no collection that day. Stan was not put out. He prefers this method to stopping, finding a telephon and phoning up to see if a collet tion is required.
Our next stop to a regular CUE tomer almost next door gay him the chance to ring the depo. however. Our programme fo the day was upset by the new that he had been given fou more calls that afternoon.
Despite more problems witl road works, Stan rearranged hi work programme, but doubt& whether we would complete a the calls that afternoon.
And there was also the Britisl Telecom bleeper in his jacke pocket which could sound warning at any time that then would be yet more calls. A Premier drivers have the bleep ens which they respond to im mediately they find a telephone Another high street delivery t a cloth store (one box and el( yen rolls of material) in Brislinc ton was followed by the colle( tion of six boxes and six axe destined for Cornwall. A quic dash to Kingswood was to n avail as we were left hangin around for a while. Eventual' we loaded 84 boxes of empt wine bottles, addressed to a lad in Tiverton, Devon.
A couple of boxes of pair thinners, a tea chest, and a sma parcel were the final pick-ups fc the day, in addition to a furthe "no card — no pick-up" cal Stan decided at 4.10 pm that w had no time to do the final dE livery, which would be the firE priority the following morning.
After a quick "marking up session to make sure he hal made no errors, we were bac inside Premier's gate before 4.31 pm only to find that the Bristc loading/unloading bay was oc cupied. Charming.
While it may lack some of thi refinements of its more image conscious competitors, Premie can — on this evidence — corn pete with the best of them. An with a driver as energetic a: Stan Adams at the wheel, thi company will carry on compet ing — and winning.