The delivery of plant protection products (PPP) to UK in the right quantity, at the right time and in the right place is due to an extensive distribution network and an army of drivers trained to high standards, according to a survey by the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC).
Often taken for granted, an efficient distribution network and service delivers significant benefits for farmers. Investment in on-farm storage and cash flow benefit from delivery when product is needed. Cooperation between supplier and farmer ensure high value products are secure.
“Delivery drivers are a vital, yet rarely noticed, link in the crop protection supply chain,” said David Randall, Chairman of AIC’s Crop Protection Storage and Logistics Committee. “They ensure products arrive when farmers need them. They often take responsibility for ensuring delivery and secure storage without any involvement from farmer or farm staff.
“The whole industry is very fortunate to have such a highly qualified and experienced workforce – they are the ‘unsung heroes’. You only have to look at how they rose to the challenge of this year’s late spring to see that.”
The survey identified that farmers benefit from a ‘just in time’ delivery service thanks to some 450 depots across the country. Each store strategically located and operated to high standards, audited by BASIS, helps minimise miles travelled per delivery.
The majority of drivers had over five years’ experience; 41% had been in their jobs for over 10 years and 17% had done the job for over 20 years. Many cited freedom of driving in the countryside and meeting customers as reasons they enjoy their job.
“With time comes considerable knowledge on the location of farm stores as well as trust between driver and customer,” said Hazel Doonan, Head of AIC’s Crop Protection and Agronomy Sector.
As well as experience, distribution drivers are well-trained in handling PPPs dealing with any emergency that may arise. The survey showed over half the drivers undertook five to ten days training each year.
In logistic terms, PPPs are classed as ‘dangerous goods’, this requires drivers to train to achieve an ADR certificate – a qualification that requires renewal every five years.
Some 54% of delivery vehicles fall into the 3.5-7.5 tonne category. For such vehicles, drivers require a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) which requires 35 hours of training over each five-year period as well as the training required to gain a HGV licence.
“As well as their delivery roles, many drivers also undertake warehouse roles which requires further training in areas such as forklift driving, first aid and manual handling; as well as the BASIS storekeeper training,” said Hazel.
Journeys travelled vary with seasonal demand, but on average 10% of respondents drove 50-100 miles a day; the majority fell into the 100-200 miles a day, while 12% exceeded 200 miles.
Making the drivers’ task easier
Respondents were asked what made a good farm delivery point. The ideal is a well-signposted store with clean, level access to minimise trip hazard. The store should be tidy with sufficient clear space for the new consignment.
Ensuring no farm vehicles or machinery is parked in front of the store was particularly asked for by drivers.
Security is taken very seriously by distribution businesses. However, it is rare that drivers will meet farm staff when making a delivery. In many instances, the level of trust is such that drivers are trusted with independent access to farm stores, enabling deliveries to be left securely.