#ProudProfessionals is the strapline of a social media campaign which began in 2017 with the intention of increasing awareness of the commercial vehicle sector and giving credit to those who keep our transport system operating smoothly and efficiently. The challenges of maintaining supplies of food, medicines and other supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic have brought the transport sector into a new focus. We hope that the actions of those who will help overcome these challenges will bring a new level of respect and recognition to this hugely important part of our economy and society.

The Road Haulage Association estimates that 98% of consumer goods, food and agricultural items have been transported by road at some point by road and no motorway user can have failed to see the number of vehicles transporting goods between ports, airports, distribution centres, warehouses, factories, retail outlets and homes. Freight transport has been something of a ‘Cinderella’ sector for many years, working hard behind the scenes without always getting the credit and praise it deserves. #ProudProfessionals seeks to raise the profile of the transport sector, and to recognise those who work daily to keep our factories, hospitals, shops and homes functioning.

The lifeblood of our society

One way to consider the transport system is to look at our hands, or more accurately what lies beneath the skin of our hands. The image shows a complex network of arteries, veins and blood vessels which carry blood to and from our fingers, allowing the hand to fulfil its many roles in our daily lives.

The arteries and veins do the ‘heavy lifting’ of moving the blood to and from the hand, while the blood vessels provide the local service, enabling fingers and finger tips to flex, nerves to function and the hand to perform its precision operations.

So it is with the transport system. 44 tonne HGVs fulfil the role of the arteries and veins, moving a very high volume of goods from our ports and airports across our motorway network, while a huge range of smaller and specialist vehicles undertake detailed operations at a local level. 1.41 billion tonnes of goods were transported by HGV in 2018, over a total of 152 billion tonne kilometres. With such a heavy load to carry, the transport system can only function properly when each element plays its part.


Vehicles with a purpose

When you look more closely at our transport system, you see the sophistication and complexity behind it and how the different parts play their distinct and vital roles. Vehicles are designed to fulfil many different purposes in the same way as the blood vessels perform different duties. Whether undertaking retail distribution to a supermarket or more specialist work such as in the construction sector each vehicle is the product of a partnership between a vehicle manufacturer and a specialist body builder.

The Henderson Group is one of the leading suppliers to the supermarket sector in Ireland, and operates a range of vehicles across multiple sites.

Vehicles such as the 44t tractor/trailer combination and the refrigerated distribution truck are (literally) the bread and butter of the retail distribution sector, providing the inter-city and local distribution services which our busy lives and brand preferences demand. Yet despite their apparent similarity each of these vehicles has been carefully specified to each operator’s needs, and each is designed to fulfil its task as economically and environmentally efficiently as possible. By the time a vehicle starts delivering its loads it will often have been as carefully engineered as the finest sports car.

Retail distribution fleets are often made up of multiple vehicles, but when we look at some of the other transport sectors the degree of specialisation can increase even more. Construction is one of those where vehicles can literally be ‘one-offs’.

Mention construction and most people will think of the traditional tipper. This model is a typical ‘muckaway’ model developed by Renault Trucks and the UK’s leading tipper bodybuilder Thompsons to remove earth and other materials from a building site.

But behind the tipper lies a whole portfolio of specialist construction equipment and some of these have been designed for the most challenging operating environments.


Designing the ‘one-off’

London Underground’s remit is to keep London’s 9.6 million people moving safely around the capital. The demands of maintaining the rail infrastructure is hugely complex, and so the vehicles which they have need of are equally complex.  Evenheights is a key maintenance partner for London Underground, and came up with a unique ‘shopping list’ for the vehicle it needed to support its most important client. The London Underground contract brought with it three major complications – the sheer awkwardness of the materials they would have to transport, the very short timescales they would have in which to work, and the constrained spaces in which the vehicle may have to operate. A section of replacement track for London Underground is typically 60 feet long, and weighs 1.4 tonnes – this requires a very special type of vehicle to transport it and to get it into its desired location.

The first challenge is how to move such long track sections across the city. This could be done with a conventional tractor unit, pulling a specially-designed trailer unit, but how do you then get the rails from the trailer to the track locations? The answer comes in including a crane as part of the tractor unit specification, but then how do you deal with the operational constraints of a trackside location preventing you offloading the rails to the side of the vehicle …?


The solution was to create a unique solution for Evenheights. The final design for the tractor has four axles (for maximum load capacity), but is unusually short, to improve its manoeuvrability and ability to access tight locations. As well as the traditional four lifting legs which are deployed for stability when the crane is in use, this model has a fifth leg, fitted to the front of the unit, to allow loads to be lifted over the front of the cab. The crane has a lifting capacity of 82 tonne metres, and its boom can reach 25m, enabling Evenheights to move the rail sections and other materials to the exact location required by the installation teams.

This bespoke vehicle shows the capability of the engineers within the transport industry to create the most comprehensive solutions for the most complex and challenging operational challenges, and there are of course many more examples in different applications across the country.


Keeping the vehicles operating

Vehicles as complex as these require the same level of expertise in their maintenance as in their design and manufacture. In the UK, legislation requires all commercial vehicles over 3.5 tonnes GVW to be subject to a 6-weekly inspection, as laid down by the Traffic Commissioners and fleet engineers whose job it is to ensure that the UK transport fleet remains safe for operators and other road users. The 6-weekly inspection is carried out by approved technicians within the service network, ensuring that all key systems continue to work as they should do. Failure to comply means the vehicle can be taken off the road, and ultimately an Operating Licence removed from the operator. In the case of a franchised service dealer, after sales technicians will have all the latest diagnostic and repair equipment they need to fully maintain each vehicle. They will have been trained in all the intricacies of each manufacturer’s vehicles, and sometimes to service the body or ancillary equipment as well. In a sector where operating margins are very low, typically 2.2% for the MT100 companies, it is key that technicians are as expert and efficient as they can be, and that parts supply is sufficient to minimise any downtime.


The importance of the transport industry to UK society is being increasingly recognised. The transport sector is one where many people have worked diligently and professionally for many years, in manufacturers, bodybuilders, the dealer network and other supporting areas. Renault Trucks believes that commercial vehicles, the companies that produce and operate them, and the people who keep them working have been undervalued in the past. As the industry steps up to new challenges in a way which no-one could have anticipated, we are proud to play our part. We are #ProudProfessionals.

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