Tony Walton is Head of Carrier Engagement at DigiHaul. With a career in transport and logistics spanning four decades he has seen a great deal of change in the industry, not just the introduction of digital technology. He shares his insights, experience and advice for carriers.

You’ve forged a long and successful career in logistics and supply chain, can you tell us about your experience at DHL then DHL Supply Chain?
I started off as a driver, then I joined what was the National Freight Consortium which eventually became DHL in 2005. I was given the opportunity to manage a small operation and it grew from there. I spent around 10 years in the Fuels and Chemicals sector then branched out into Retail and Consumer. Although it’s all transport, it showed me how different sectors can be.

My career developed in directions that I didn’t envisage when I first became a driver in the 1980s.

What changes have you seen in the industry over the past 40 years or so?
One of the things I’ve noticed is the professionalism amongst drivers is much greater now compared to when I first started out because the culture was very different. Now, drivers are more empowered to contribute and add value to the industry. Having been a driver myself, I wanted to be much more engaged with drivers to get the best out of them.
Of course there’s also been a massive change in technology – we didn’t have emails or mobile phones when I started. In some ways the transport industry is lagging behind in technology because we’re quite a traditional marketplace, so we’ve developed DigiHaul as a technology that carriers can embrace rather than fear.

How are you and the Carrier Engagement team supporting your carrier partners in the move to digital freight?
We’re trying to help them through this change programme by being a people-focused business that engages with our carriers, not a faceless platform. The nature of transport is that there will always be issues, so being able to contact someone very quickly to help keep the operation running smoothly is very important.

We’ve structured our team so that we have a Carrier Manager for each region who is on hand to resolve any problems with payments, technology or PODs – whatever our carriers need help with, there’s someone there to support them.

How is this level of support helping carriers who are already signed up with DigiHaul?
Now that lockdown restrictions are easing we’ve been able to visit some of our carrier partners to show them how our technology works, which has helped make things easy for them.

Similarly we’ve been able to share opportunities with some of our smaller carriers to help grow their fleet and ultimately their business. Seeing them be successful is success for us.

What’s the one thing that motivates you when you go to work?
It has always been to be better than I was yesterday, whether that’s the team, the business or me as an individual. People that I work with always motivate and inspire me to be even better – often people in the team bring new ideas to the way I work.

Within the DigiHaul team we have a good blend of people with transport experience and those who are new to the industry and challenge the way we do things, which is very healthy for the business.

Can you give an overview of the current driver shortages in the UK and the challenges that carriers are facing?
Although we’ve been talking about driver shortages due to an aging workforce for several years, in 40 years I’ve never known anything like this. We’ve been fortunate that drivers from eastern Europe have really supported the transport industry in the UK over the past 10 years or so but now we have the perfect storm with the advent of Brexit and then the first lockdown. Many migrant drivers who were seeking settled status decided to go back to their native countries during lockdown and haven’t returned – we don’t know whether they will or not. In many cases the economies in their home countries have grown so the need to leave their home countries to secure a better job is no longer there.

Changes to the IR35 tax legislation also mean that many agency drivers are not making themselves available for work at the moment. And some shippers often rely on ‘cabotage’ European hauliers who come to deliver goods into the UK and are looking to take on domestic work as they head back to British ports but those drivers aren’t there at the moment because it’s more difficult to get across the borders.

There’s no short-term fix – the industry needs to focus on training and developing domestic drivers and rebalancing pay rates which will start to attract younger drivers.

How can DigiHaul can help overcome pain points to help carriers?
DigiHaul has a big part to play in being a solution to the problem. Our ability to procure large numbers of carriers for our shippers to tap into means we can offer sustainable work at sustainable prices to our carriers and, at the same time, offer sustainable pricing and availability to shippers.

What advice would you give to carriers who may be thinking about moving to a digital freight solution but aren’t sure about making the change?
One of the biggest benefits, particularly for smaller carriers, is our 30-day payment terms so this can really help with cashflow and help businesses to grow. I’d say don’t shy away from the technology and always give us feedback so we can continue to innovate and improve our service.

There’s also no commitment by signing up with us – by offering the breadth of work at the right prices we hope to be the first choice for carriers but also recognise that we may not be their only source of work, so they can use DigiHaul alongside their existing arrangements.

What is the difference between DigiHaul and digital marketplace platforms from the carrier’s perspective?
One of the investors during our first round of funding was DHL Supply Chain. They have really backed us and made significant volume available for us, across the whole UK, covering all sectors. We are making this visible to our carriers, so this is a great opportunity to grow your business with us.

We are also a digital freight business, not a marketplace platform, and we recognise that people work with people. This makes a big difference to our carrier partners and shippers, particularly when issues crop up. We are a digital business with the human touch!

What’s next for DigiHaul?
Our focus so far has been onboarding carriers from DHL Supply Chain so we’re now looking at how we can understand them better and help to support them.

In your opinion, how can carriers best prepare themselves for the future?
Wherever they are in their journey, all carriers know that digital is the future of freight. The next generation of technically savvy managers will be coming through the ranks so my advice would be to embrace it and work with us to make it better.

Find out more and book a demo with us on our Carrier page.

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