A couple of us ventured down to the West Midlands to check out a little event called the Commercial Vehicle Show.
The idea behind the visit was one of reconnaissance - to scope out what's what, what's not and what's coming for logistics over the next 12 months.
A lot's been happening in the industry of late. There's no denying that. Solid information, however, has been difficult to get hold of. News, in the main, has been loud, brash, hostile, fearful - and what's worse, everything seems like a long way away, everything's about to happen...and in the meantime, the details keep changing.
So the purpose behind the fact-finding mission was to get a handle on exactly what's going on in road freight. And it turned up some pretty interesting results.
1. Concern over Brexit's surprisingly low
We thought this would be much more of an issue for hauliers than it's turned out to be. On the whole, the attitude around Brexit was fairly cool.
In fact one survey, carried out by Asset Alliance Group (from whom all subsequent stats will be taken, with exceptions duly noted) discovered that when it came to buying, leasing or renting vehicles, a massive 76% of operators had not been discouraged by the economic uncertainty following the Brexit vote in June 2016.
What's more, an impressive 56% said they didn't think the departure of the EU in 2019 would affect their plans to buy, lease or rent in the future.
2. What threatens the industry the most? New talent...
...Or lack thereof. Much has been said of the lack of qualified HGV drivers. And every corner of logistics, from TMs to drivers to trade associations to the State herself, have expressed worry over the skills shortage.
We've pondered the issue before. Why is the industry failing to recruit new wagoners? A few of you voiced your opinions when we asked the question back in December. And the progress made on the issue since then doesn't fill us with confidence.
57% of respondents reckon the biggest concern for road haulage going forward is the lack of skilled lorry drivers. An important, if unsurprising, statistic.
3. There's one area of legislation that's feared above all others...
...And no prizes for getting this one right.
Yep, Clean Air Zones (CAZs) and Low Emissions Zones (LEZs) charges are at the top of the heap, when it comes to forthcoming laws that operators are least in favour of.
In fact, in answer to the question 'Which law will have the most onerous effect on the road transport industry in 2019?', this area gobbled up a full 50% of the vote.
It's been hogging the transport headlines of late. Not since Nixon ordered troops into Cambodia has a confrontation escalated to such an unsustainable level. Distressingly, there's no sign of it simmering down. The State recently announced it was implementing 5 Ultra-Low Emissions Zones (ULEZs) before 2020.
Where? Well, if you regularly haul through Derby, Leeds, Nottingham, Southampton or even the home of the CV Show itself, Birmingham, your TM might start asking you to take the long way round.
4. Earned Recognition finally went live
This was the biggest revelation of the whole week. The DVSA's new enforcement scheme was announced without any warning, notion or fanfare. A collective gasp shot through the NEC Arena. For many, the sense of shock became one of imminent peril, and it quickly spread to every corner of the UK - urgent bulletins were pedalled out by every trade mag in the business; social networks lit up with the agonised screams of hauliers up and down the UK.
Okay, I'll cut out the War of the Worlds nonsense. But be prepared - your TM might start clamping down a bit more on the drivers' hours side of things. And if they don't, that's an even bigger cause for concern.
Why? Well, let's say your firm's signed up to the scheme. If their overall drivers' hours infringements fail to meet the DVSA's KPI by 4% or more, the Agency will receive an automatic trigger.
And that means the DVSA might just get out their magnifying glass, and start rooting around the operation's business.
If your boss doesn't act on this, that's bad news for all concerned - from the operator to the admin staff.
The State's published the comprehensive lowdown, which you can get online.
If you want a more condensed, less stat-heavy rundown, you can get our easy-to-read whitepaper on the subject.
All in all, nothing much is expected to happen immediately. As more and more operators sign up, however, changes will accelerate to the point where enforcement transforms into something we've only read about.
Anyway, we've veered into the layby. The CV Show 2018 demonstrated two things above all else.
One, that irreversible changes are coming, for better or worse.
Two, that the industry will crack on, regardless of the obstacles.
That's far from the sum of it, however. The CV Show 2018 was an eye-opener in countless ways. One other major feature was technology - there are things happening in road haulage tech that blow our minds. The times are moving fast, you better believe it.
If you didn't catch the show yourself, don't fret. Chris Allen's holding his weekly webinars, and you can submit your questions about what happened during the CV Show, and get them answered. For those of you familiar with Chris' refreshing, unique takes on everything road transport, this will be a welcome relief from the noise and confusion. Get on it here: