Since our last conversation in 2022, much has changed for Explore Transport, the supplier of a wide range of transport services and plant equipment.
For starters, the company invested heavily in its mixer division, which has grown to a fleet of 60 trucks. Furthermore, the business received one of the highest accolades from the DVSA with its accreditation to the ‘Earned Recognition’ scheme, showcasing best in industry levels of legal and regulatory compliance. “We’re very proud to fly that banner,” shares Chris Gatheridge, Head of Operations. “Not many of our competitors are accredited to the scheme, and it’s been a real testament to how hard the team have worked.”
Although business has improved for the company, like others, Explore Transport is still attempting to juggle the impact of longstanding legislation in response to the growing demand for more sustainable operations. The goals to achieve the UK government’s net zero targets are also approaching quickly, hence why efficiency needs to be taken into consideration. “Ideally, solutions have to be in harmony with issues that businesses are facing,” he shares.
Despite the current challenges and in a bid to remain resilient and dependable for its clients, Chris stipulates that the company is doing its level best to remain ahead of the curve. An example of how it is achieving this is through the diversification into ADR work – dangerous goods. This will take shape through an acquisition that will allow Explore Transport to fill a massive market gap. “You need to have additional specific equipment and training to support dangerous goods operations.
“It gives us an extra angle to offer full turnkey solutions for our clients. This will be our first division where we could have multiple vehicles supporting the operation to allow us to move the load safely. For instance: a customer may purchase products that are classed as dangerous goods, some solar PV panels and batteries for example. That equipment may be shipped in from the continent or from further afield.. We will collect the load, and transfer it to one of our flatbed trailers at the docks to deliver to our customer’s site. Often it’s a heavy container, full of equipment, therefore, we may need to carry out advanced lifts using vehicles from our Hiab division and lay it down in the appropriate location for the customer. In most instances, the customer might not have the expertise or cranes necessary to move the cargo, so with this acquisition, we’ll be able to do that for them without any problems,” Chris enthuses.
He emphasizes that he’s keen to enforce robust training across the company once the acquisition has been completed. A further example of the organization’s determination to stay ahead of the curve is by replacing its transport management system. “It allows us to see the whole company holistically. We are also able to pinpoint areas where we can better use the network in order to drop those empty miles so if we can see when one vehicle in particular becomes free, then we’ll look to plan it in and keep those empty miles down to a minimum.
“Our investment in our fleet, makes it one of the youngest on the UK roads, we keep refreshing the fleet to ensure that they’re the most modern vehicles on the road, with the latest tech to keep our team safe. We’ve recently added Artificial Intelligence (AI) cameras to the vehicles. Historically, we had to rely on vulnerable road user cameras, on the nearside and offside of the vehicles, as well as proximity sensors. We’ve now replaced those with AI, so they can identify vulnerable road users from the side of the truck and bring it to the attention of the driver in the cab. It’s a really smart solution.”
When Chris discusses ‘vulnerable road users,’ he refers to those with less crash protection than occupants of motor vehicles, who therefore have a higher risk of being injured or killed in a road accident. “The other benefit to the AI tech, which is quite clever, is it can determine if there’s a vulnerable road user within the danger zone. It will alert the driver, and then become silent until it spots a person, reducing unnecessary noise pollution, which will be welcomed by most who happen to live near busy junctions. So that’s the kind of technology we’ve been pushing for in the cabs,” Chris explains. “In addition, we’ve now got full 360-degree cameras as well, and that has been particularly important for keeping an eye on the load and our customers’ property.”
Explore Transport continues to prioritize comprehensive training to procure the best talent, despite industry labor shortages. Subsequently, the company has become the first operator within the construction logistics industry to develop and deliver an in-house training program with one of the most progressive learning structures. Its ‘uncapped’ training program is measured against the aptitude and capability of the individual learner, and is the first of its kind. Coincidentally, Explore Transport has been shortlisted for this year’s Motor Transport Awards in the Training Award category, which are set to take place in early September.
The organization’s Operational Training Scheme has hit new milestones in terms of numbers of active drivers. “If applicants meet the minimum criteria, their journey with us can go one of two ways,” Chris shares. “If they are experienced then they will undertake a week’s induction to introduce them to the Explore way.”
Supplier of choice
Whilst those who maybe lack the experience that Explore needs to undertake their specialist work take another route, as Chris elaborates: “Such drivers who are not experienced in our industry, will go into the mentor scheme, where they will have a one-week induction into our business, and at the end of that, they will then drive alongside a mentor in their truck. There, they will sit side-by-side for a period of time, say six weeks, and simply learn. We’ve found that the program uplifts others and improves their work ethic massively, and it also encourages the team to help each other out, which is great to see.”
Beyond 2023, Chris wants the business to strengthen its team when it comes to overall training, as he believes this will continue to differentiate Explore Transport from its competitors. “My goal is to have every driver undertake training for one week once a year. I want us to be the supplier of choice for our customers, and to be able to offer advice and assistance accordingly. When we deliver plant equipment, there is no reason why we can’t arrive at a construction site and show their team how to load and unload the cargo. I’m excited about what lies ahead; this team puts in a huge amount of work, and I think the reputation we have with our customers means it’s paying off,” he says.
With new expansion plans for the company’s fleet, as well as additional heavy haulage acquisitions, Chris brings the conversation to a close on a note of optimism for Explore Transport’s future. “We’re looking forward to the results of the MTA Awards, and I believe that the work that we’re doing for our training will elevate the quality of our team, and ultimately our service. I’m really proud of this business; we have so much more to give and I’m excited to see that come to fruition,” he concludes.