Team Focus: Life as a Distance Driver
At Fagan & Whalley, our people are at the heart of everything we do… But what is that, exactly? You may be familiar with the Fagan & Whalley name having seen our trucks on the road, but how much do you know about the people behind our operations?
In this new series of articles, we speak with staff members across all departments to shed a bit of light on what’s involved with their role, and the part they play in terms of the grander scheme of things here at Fagan & Whalley.
“The role of a distance driver is definitely dynamic!” explains Operations Planner, Olivia Fagan. “Our distance drivers are the people who are on the roads all week, collecting and delivering loads from all over the UK. Some will work Monday – Friday, and some Tuesday – Saturday, and all need to be really flexible as their work is constantly changing.
“The team I’m part of in the Transport Planning Office at Site One is responsible for maintaining communication with drivers to keep them informed of any changes in their day, which might crop up due to new consignments being incorporated into the network, any last-minute customer requests, or complications with traffic on the roads.
“Our distance drivers may have multiple drops to fulfil each day, or their destination could ultimately change. On any day they may start their shift without knowing where they’ll end up at the end of it, so a key part of the role is remaining flexible and making sure they can adapt according to the instructions received from the office. It hinges largely on our ability to maintain constant communication, which is especially vital in the case that we come across any issues.”
Attracting a whole range of different age groups, the role of the distance driver involves quite an extensive training process, with further training having to be carried out regularly in order to keep up with the professional standards of the trade.
“Initially, a driver will need to obtain a Class 1 licence, which involves quite a lot of training in itself,” explains Olivia. “Once they have their Class 1, they then need to make sure they’re up to date with their CPC and any other necessary qualifications, the training for which we can provide in-house. Our drivers are also responsible for keeping on track with and recording their hours, ensuring the daily maximum isn’t exceeded.”
“Our distance drivers are out on the roads for quite a stretch of time each week,” says Daniel Fagan, Transport Manager. “They’re not only performing a major function in our transport and distribution operation, but they’re also representing the company whilst doing it, so they do spend some time looking after their trucks and making sure everything is clean and tidy.
“Their truck will basically be a home on wheels for them, which is why we’ve invested in the best trucks with the best facilities available. They will spend a lot of time in the cab, and will need to sleep and prepare food in their truck, so it’s important that they each have the facilities to do that. We always like to go the extra mile for our drivers, and we’re constantly updating the fleet so that we can make sure they’re as comfortable as possible.”
Q&A with Distance Driver, Jamie!
What are some of the challenges you face in your role as a Class 1 distance driver?
The defining part of what we do is the fact that we don’t return to base until the end of the week, so you do need to build a good sense of awareness and keep an eye on things, including fuel levels.
The biggest challenge we face is probably finding appropriate parking in the evenings. Day-to-day life is never the same in this career; your routes will change daily, your load changes, even the places you park all change! What might seem to be suitable parking when your trailer is empty might be more risky, or even dangerous, when your trailer is full with valuable goods. It all comes down to planning, making sure you don’t run out of time before you reach somewhere you can park safely, and that hopefully has a decent shower!
Is there anything you particularly enjoy about your work?
The main thing I like about my job is the level of independence it awards me. The start and end destinations will be sent through from the office each day, but what happens in between will be very much down to myself, such as selecting which route to take (within reason). I’m also trusted to use my initiative to solve any issues which may arise en route, including complications arising from road closures, diversions, or heavy traffic.
How do you manage the early starts and changeable daily schedule?
I think it does help that I’ve never really worked in a 9-5 environment, so shift work tends to come easily to me. I’m definitely a morning person, so 3am starts don’t put me off! It also helps, in a strange way, that I feel like I’m “at work” from the start of the first shift on a Sunday through to handing over the keys on a Thursday – it blends into one long shift rather than individual days, because I’m not returning home at the end of each day to break up the week.
Tactical alarms are also key – I usually have three set around my start-time to make sure I’m up and ready to go!
How do you manage living in your cab all week with little space?
It does take some getting used to, but as long as you keep the space tidy and make sure things are stowed away as soon as you’re finished with them, it makes things a lot easier!
I’ve adapted to make smart use of the space. For example, I use stackable storage boxes in the lockers, and I’ve attached a bungee cord across the ceiling of the cab to use for drying clothes.
What is your favourite part of the UK to deliver to?
I’m happy anywhere that’s not the M25!
My favourite destination would probably be anywhere in the North East, like the Durham and Northumberland area. It’s where I’m from, and it makes the job a little bit easier when I know how to get around without having to consult a map!