Despite its importance to an island economy such as Northern Ireland’s, there perhaps is a tendency to take the contribution made by the logistical services industry for granted.
While we - quite rightly - laud tourism, agri-food, financial services and the creative industries for how they have helped drive the local economy forward in recent years, road haulage and other elements of the transportation sector are not always fully recognised for the vital roles they play.
Indeed, the importance of the transportation sector to the wider Northern Ireland economy may soon be thrust into sharper focus if the current HGV driver shortage which is gripping the road haulage industry is not addressed.
Recent government figures reveal that the problem in Northern Ireland is worsening, with the Office of National Statistics estimating that there are currently 1,200 driver vacancies to be filled in the Province.
Despite this backdrop, one of Northern Ireland’s leading logistical services companies is looking confidently to the future on the back of major new investments in depot facilities, IT technology and new vehicles as it celebrates a significant milestone.
The Montgomery Transport Group is enjoying its 45th year in business, having experienced continued growth since it was established in 1970 as the first company in Ballyvesey Holdings’ transport and logistics stable.
Stephen Marshall is a Director and General Manager of the Montgomery Transport Group, which is headquartered in Glengormley, Newtownabbey, with depots in Dublin, Preston, Leeds and throughout the UK. Stephen is very confident that Montgomery Transport’s upwards trajectory can continue for a further 45 years – and beyond.
He explained: “The Montgomery Transport Group started out with just one tractor unit back in 1970 and has continued to invest and develop throughout the past four and a half decades. We now operate a large fleet of modern distribution and articulated vehicles offering unit loads, bulk tanker and distribution services throughout the UK and Europe – a ‘one stop shop’ for all logistical needs.
“Our new depot in Rugby further expands our strategic locations, with over 600 staff working across seven depots and distribution centres throughout Ireland and the UK. This comes at a time when we are also investing heavily in our truck and trailer fleet - by the end of September 2015 there will be a further 60 new tractor units and 100 new trailers introduced into what is one of the most modern fleets operating on Irish Sea cross channel services.
“We have also recently introduced a bespoke computer operating system as well as 24/7 vehicle tracking and on board cameras to improve driver control and enhance road safety.
“On any given week, our Distribution department delivers in excess of 15,000 items, including a range of consumer and pharmaceutical goods. In addition to this we move close to 1,500 full loads between the UK and Ireland in a week – not to mention upwards of 300 bulk tankers carrying liquid, powder, bulk products and fuel distribution.
“While the scale and scope of the company and its operations have steadily expanded, the business principle which is at the core of everything we do has not changed since day one. That principle is an unstinting commitment to delivering a timely service and value for money to every single customer.
“Service is key – we pride ourselves on working closely with our customers to present continual service and cost improvements, while constantly striving to add value through creativity and innovation. Those customers include well-known global brands such as Nestle and Mars as well as Northern Ireland manufacturers such as Lakeland Dairies, Caterpillar, Brett Martin and Westland to name but a few.
“We’re proud of the longevity Montgomery Transport is enjoying, the employment we have created and the contribution we have made to the local economy – none more so than in providing an outlet for Northern Ireland’s world-class manufacturers to export their products.”
Stephen is well aware of the threat currently being posed by the severe shortage of HGV drivers and fully accepts the responsibility which Montgomery and other leading operators have in addressing the problem and safeguarding the future of the industry.
He added: “The key to solving the driver shortage lies in making HGV driving a much more attractive vocation, particularly to younger people. Montgomery Transport Group is taking a proactive approach by looking at establishing apprentice schemes and bringing school leavers into the business in order for them to see the opportunities which exist to enjoy a long and productive career.
“We are confident that our long-term strategic approach and commitment to investment will help us address this challenge and others which exist, such as the ever-changing shipping capacity on the Irish Sea and the intense competition provided by those firms willing to sacrifice quality in order to offer a cheaper price.
“We are reaping the benefits now of investing in our people and in our fleet during the recent years of recession. We are continuing that policy, with the opening of our new depot in Rugby a direct result of the close working partnership which we enjoy with Palletways – Europe’s largest provider of express distribution services for palletised goods.
“Reaching our 45th anniversary is obviously an important milestone for Montgomery Transport Group. However, we are by no means standing still – in fact we are very much looking to the future. There will always be efficiencies to be made which can improve the customer experience and we will always be looking to maximise those opportunities to the full.”