In a very good place…

Action Roadways is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The Belvedere, Kent-based pallet handler has a great deal to satisfied with, while not resting on its laurels as they look towards their half century in 2031.

One key measure of the health of Belvedere, Kent-based transportation and warehousing company Action Roadways is the very low rate of staff turnover it enjoys. The higher the rate of leaving, the more likely that staff morale is in the basement. By that measure, the fact that the most recent employee, a driver, has already been there for 18 months complements director Steve Thompson who has worked for the firm for 32 years as a sign of the success in creating a healthy company. Which is why Mr Thompson thinks it is in a very good place.

Mr Thompson reflected with FORWARDER magazine on his three decades’ career with a company that formed his first introduction to the world of haulage back in the late 1980s.

He says:  I joined Action Roadways when I was 22. I was working as a clerk at the South Eastern Electricity Board. A friend’s father had started Action Roadways and I joined the company. I have never left the firm even though I have had offers since. 

This reflects Mr Thompson’s strong loyalty to the company and its hard-working staff. This notion of hard work is a good reflection of the company’s founder, the father of Mr Thompson’s friend, who famously worked hard for 15 hours day and played hard on the weekend. 

 He retired 15 years ago and has just turned 80,  says Mr Thompson. A relative of the founder has worked in the company for a number of years. Mr Thompson has known her since she was eight years old. She is now over 50. “One of the reasons I joined and have stayed is that it was a family-run business. 

Services

Action Roadways provides distribution solutions for businesses in South East London and North Kent. It has an extensive distribution network and its rates are competitively priced to give clients’ business an advantage. The company’s current road fleet are a mixture of 13.6m Curtain-siders, 7.5 tonne lorries, a flatbed trailer and Transit vans. Manufactures include DAF, MAN and Renault vehicles. All are operated by CPC-trained drivers.

In terms of pallet distribution, Action Roadways offers next-day, and economy and non-standard cargo delivery options supported by competitive rates and a dedicated customer service team. More urgent consignments can be sent by the company’s Express Van service available for time- sensitive shipments.

Storage solutions are provided by the company’s Belvedere depot’s 600 pallets space of storage space available. These can provide a short-term storage solution, longer-term options or even a devan or consolidation facility if required. In terms of staff, the company has four staff members in the office, five in the depot warehouse and some 19 drivers.  

The Pallet Network

Action Roadways has been a keen member of The Pallet Network (TPN) for 2003 and Mr Thompson cannot speak too highly of the network or the benefits of being a member. He says:  We have been members for 18 years and I cannot say too much about how the TPN has transformed the business. 

He added that Action Roadways had once been a member of a hazchem network but found the pallet business was growing so much they pulled out of chemical movements. TPN is the UK’s leading pallet network, with more than 100 members and over 120 sites throughout the UK. Together with TPN, Mr Thompson considers that his company offers excellent service levels for next-day, timed or economy deliveries for any palletised goods.

As a result, Action Roadways offers full, half or quarter pallet sizes. It can also take oversized freight which requires more than one pallet space. For out-of-gauge freight, which measures 2.6m or more in length or width, the company offers a bespoke service.

Team Action Roadways

Clients looking to use Action Roadways’ transportation are buying into a ‘team’, considers Mr Thompson.  We are a small team but no-one lauds it over anyone else. We have a hierarchy of roles but we all work closely together to get the job done,  he said. At times, Mr Thompson will get hands-on with working.  We offer continuity of staff and service as well as reliability. 

Being an SME, Mr Thompson and his team have considerable freedom in how they can help clients without the constricting straitjacket rules larger companies may have in place. He says:  We always work for the benefit of customers. This means that if we can’t undertake the project, we will find another company that can help them. 

It is not only staff who remain for a long time at Action Roadways. While many customers go back years, Mr Thompson points to two very long-term clients.  One client is freight forwarding and logistics specialists DGS, also based in Belvedere, Kent who has been with us for 20 years. Another is Asphalt Reinforcement Services who have been with us for 18 years, since they started.  Three years ago, DGS (Daily Groupage Services) took the ultimate step and acquired Action Roadways, the ultimate customer vote of approval. Bedfordshire-based Asphalt Reinforcement Services offer geosynthetic and steel mesh systems to provide a sustainable solution for road surface maintenance.  
 They have been with us from when they started. We have transported their material for years and stored items for them. They have never forgotten the service we have provided. 

Currently Action Roadways stores some 1,500 to 2,000 rolls of asphalt repair material for the company.

BREXIT & ‘Stack’ & drivers

With the majority of its business being UK domestic transport, Brexit did not have such a great impact on Action Roadways and its business. Of greater concern is when Operation Stack, a procedure used by Kent Police and the Port of Dover to park (or ‘stack’) lorries on the M20 motorway in Kent when services across the English Channel, such as those through the Channel Tunnel or from the Port of Dover, are disrupted. While it is in Kent, Belvedere is not necessarily on the radar of Operation Stack, its disruption can be felt my Mr Thompson and his team.

One threat that has appeared over the horizon is a growing shortage of qualified drivers. Many in the transport industry have concerns about the shortage of suitable drivers.

Mr Thompson concludes by relating the ambition that over the next few years the company will purchase more of its own vehicles and perhaps a second warehouse in the area to expand their services.

Alan Smith, Editor, FORWARDER magazine