Trade Plating Around England, Part Five

Photo by Samuele Errico Piccarini on Unsplash

This time, We go digital and getting between jobs


Brief recap, I spent two and a half years trade plating round England with the occasional foray into Scotland and Wales.

Good news, I have had an email saying that from the following Monday there will be no more paperwork to do as the four part forms we have to fill in on collection and delivery is being replaced by an app. The bad news is that it only works on Android and those drivers who only have an Iphone will need to buy an Android phone if they want to keep working.  For the agency drivers, this means that only future employees who have an Android phone will be considered. For the existing agency drivers with an Iphone a help to buy scheme for an Android phone is being offered.

The new app will now require pictures to be taken during the appraisal for any vehicle being picked up. The dashboard, showing the fuel and the mileage, each wheel and any dents scratches stone chips or missing trim. Any chips on the windscreen have also to be recorded. Most of the app replicates the paperwork and it is intuitive in that you cannot progress onto the next screen until the current one has been completed. The customer’s signature is required on the last screen at both ends. As soon as you have completed the collection, the info is automatically uploaded to the servers in the office so they know the status of any job in an instant. Once you had delivered the vehicle to its destination and had it signed of, again the information is instantly updated in the office.

We are all to be called into the office at different times during the preceding week to have the new app installed on our phones. The self employed drivers have been using the app for around a month and any teething problems have been ironed out with them. The disturbing thing that was being reported was that there is tracking built into the app so the office know where anyone is with the click of a mouse. One driver had discovered that by switching off the location in the settings on your phone the tracking was stopped and most of the self employed have done this. The self employed drivers often teamed up to make life easier for themselves and to enable them to get jobs done quicker. This was achieved by one driver picking up another from a drop off, taking him to his next job. He then followed the second driver to his drop off and then took him to his next job. It removed the need for them to work out transfers from drop off to the next collection. The office didn’t like it because it was drivers not sticking to their specific jobs, and, they didn’t like anyone who thought for themselves.

I had been using two phones while at work (makes me sound like a drug dealer), my main phone and a spare that I used for my sat nav. It had a PAYG SIM in it and £5.00 credit would last for months. This was the one that I decided would have the app on it. On being called in to have the app installed and training done a user name and password were put on the app, a dummy job was sent to the phone for me to practice with and get to know the software. That done I was told that from the Monday the old paperwork was only to be used in an emergency.

The paperwork was a breeze to use and getting used to the app took some time, however eventually it became as quick and easy. Your jobs would miraculously appear on your phone in the dead of night ready for you the next morning. Any updates during the day were also sent through on the app. An email of the following day’s jobs was still sent through the previous evening. I used this to plan out the routes and times for the next day.

A typical day is set out below.

  • Start at 05.30 Pick up a car in the yard and two drivers.
  • Take the drivers to near Immingham and then deliver the car into Leeds.
  • Make my way to Brough to collect another car.
  • Deliver it to Accrington.
  • Make my way to Penyffordd near Wrexham to collect the final car.
  • Deliver to Stoke on Trent.
  • Minibus to Collect me from Stoke.

The transfers to collect the next car are the parts that need to be gone over and planned the night before. Leeds to Brough is a straightforward transfer, walk to Leeds station and then train to Brough. Accrington to Pennyford is more complicated. Using Google maps I start by working out the time I will get to Leeds. Then put in the postcode of the Leeds drop off and the Brough collection, the time I expect to be in Leeds and “Hey Presto” Google maps gives me a departure and arrival time. It also tells me how long the walk to the train station and the walk at the other end. You can then adjust your departure time and Google will recalculate the times. Directions for walking are also included. I never did find out how to save a journey once you had worked it out but a pen and paper for the departure times was good enough.

I did the same for the Accrington to Pennyford transfer with the time I roughly worked out I would be in Accrington, and it was a bit of a monster. I will list it further down as the day panned out.

The first part is easy and I’m dropping off the two drivers in Stallingborough near Immingham around 07.30. They are picking up two lorries being exported through Sheerness docks. Mostly motorway all the way to Leeds and the drop off is completed by 09.00. There is a train at 09.54 to Hull that stops at Brough. It takes around half an hour to walk to the station and I arrive in plenty of time. The train is on time and once on board I ring the customer to let them know an ETA for the collection. Off the train at 10.46 and it’s a mile and a quarter walk to the collection. Once all the checks are done it’s off to Accrington, should be there by 13.30.

The drop off is at a dealer compound so it is straight in and back out again and I am clear by 13.45. Another twenty minute walk to the station at Accrington. It’s going to be tight for time as the train is due at 14.08. The station is high above the street and it is like a mountain hike up the last 25yards. It’s an unmanned station and I have to negotiate the fickle ticket machine. You have to tap in the destination and if you get it wrong it’s back to beginning again. The spelling on my paperwork was “Pennyford”, however the correct spelling is “Penyffordd” which was why I struggled at the ticket machine. I have to get five trains to get there.

  • Accrington to Blackburn
  • Blackburn to Salford Crescent
  • Salford Crescent to Manchester Oxford Road
  • Manchester Oxford Road to Shotton
  • Shotton to Penyffordd

The longest wait between trains was twenty minutes, the shortest only four minutes so it was lucky that the trains were running on time that day.

There was a half mile walk at the end and I was there by 18.00. A quick collection as they were just having their evening meal and the drop off is in Stoke on Trent, just over an hour away.

On the way to Stoke my phone is ringing with the minibus driver saying that if I’m not there soon he will be going without me as the minibus is full and they are only waiting for me. He says some of the drivers have been waiting for two hours to get back to the yard. I say I will be there within fifteen minutes and that placates him. I still have about 30 miles to go, but he doesn’t know that. When I finally get there I lie that there was a big hold up for an accident in one of the villages I drove through. Plenty of shouting at me from the other drivers, some wondering if I am a slow driver others stating I am a lying bastard, all good natured I hoped.

There have only been two occasions when I have been treated like a second class citizen, not surprisingly both were in BMW dealerships. On one of these occasions I had to do a dealer transfer where a car has been sold by one dealer but is stocked at another of their sites. The job list had come through the night before with only two jobs on it. Leicester to Haverfordwest and then a collection from up in the valleys above Cardiff to go to York.

It was an 08.00 start and I was driven to Leicester, the driver dropping me off said he was in Leicester for the next hour if the job fell through. In I went, I was dressed in black workwear trousers and a company branded polo shirt I had ID on a lanyard and a backpack with my trade plates, spare phone, stick on phone holder, charging cables and food and drink for the day. I headed for the reception desk where the girl behind the desk looked at me like I was a piece of sh*t. “Yes” she said in one of these upper class snobby voices. I told her what I was here for and she said to wait over there pointing to a corner near the toilets. Over I went and she made a phone call hopefully telling someone I was here and get me on the road. I stood waiting and after about fifteen minutes I went back to the desk asking if anyone was coming to give me the keys to the car. She just said to wait over where I had been. I started to walk back and then thought, “I’m not playing this game”. The showroom was empty and I decided to go and sit in the customer seating area. I sat down and picked a car mag that was on the low coffee table. “You can’t sit there” she said. I ignored her. She said it again and I looked up from the magazine and said “I can’t stand for too long, doctors orders”. She got straight back on the phone telling someone that there was a trade driver sitting on their seats. A smartly dressed twentysomething chap appeared, a salesman I guess, and came up to me and stood in front of me and repeated that I couldn’t sit there. “Can you find the keys to the car that is going to Haverfordwest then and I wont have to sit here. Either that or find me somewhere else to sit. But I’m not standing in the corner by the toilets.” I said in my politest voice. As if by magic the keys suddenly appeared. “Can you show me where the car is please” Grudgingly he took me out into the forecourt and eventually he pointed to a silver BMW. The car still had its price board on the passenger visor and a sign on its roof as well. “Are you taking these off” I asked. He gave me the keys and walked off. I then noticed that instead of numberplates there were plates with BMW on them. “Excuse me” I called to Mr. Salesman as he walked off, He stopped and looked back. “Who is going to take these BMW plates off. “You will need to find a screwdriver and take them off yourself, the number plates are in the boot.” “Bugger that” I thought there staying on. I pulled off the price board and the roof sign and dumped them on the ground next to the car. Did all the checks, took all the required pics, put my trade plates on, set up the sat nav and put my backpack on the passenger seat. I gathered up the bits I had taken off the car and walked back into the showroom and up to the desk again. I put the bits on the floor in front of the desk and asked who will be signing to say I have collected the car. She said nothing and picked up the phone. I went and sat down where I had been before. This had the desired effect and she put the phone down and said that she would sign. I thanked her and said for her to have a nice day. Of I went on a four and a half hour drive to Haverfordwest. All the messing about had set me back and it was going to be 14.00 before I got there.

I had worked out the I needed to get a bus into Haverfordwest, a train to Cardiff and then a train up into the valleys. There was a bus into Haverfordwest at 14.40 and this was the one I had to aim for. When I arrived there was also a car transporter dropping off cars. I headed into reception and the welcome was better here than earlier. The difference was that they wanted the car I was delivering. It had already been sold and the customer was coming in in the next two days to collect it. One of the mechanics came out and checked the car over. He spoke rapidly in a very Welsh accent and I found myself nodding hopefully in all the right places. He signed for the car and off I went. I was walking off the site when the transporter driver shouted over to ask me where I was going. “Cardiff” I shouted back . “I can take you to Carmarthen if that’s any help”. “Yes” I said. I climbed up into the cab. “I’m not supposed to give anyone a lift in case you hijack my load, but as I’m empty, it makes no difference”. We spent a pleasant half an hour chatting as he drove. “He was finished after being out for four days and was heading back to base and then home for three days before he started again. I was dropped off on a roundabout and he gave me directions to the station. I thanked him, he had saved me at least an hour. Unusually for Wales, it wasn’t raining, in fact if was quite warm, I enjoyed my walk to the railway station. When I got to the station the train for Cardiff left at 15.00 so I had only a few minutes spare. It was to be a two hour journey and the train terminated in Cardiff so it didn’t matter if I nodded off. There were ten stops on the journey so it never really got up much speed. Once at Cardiff, I didn’t have a ticket to the next station so I had to go through the barriers buy a ticket and re-enter the station. This time I was glad there was a ticket machine. The station I had to get off at was Ystrad Mynach. There is no way I could have pronounced that at a ticket office. Trains were every fifteen minutes and it was absolutely rammed full. Nine stops in thirty five minutes. Standing room only until we got to Caerphilly where most people got off.

I had rung ahead to the customer and said my ETA was about 18.00 at the station and I would then walk up to their home. She said that I would never find it and that she would send her husband down to the station to collect me. She gave me the make and model of her husbands car and that he would be waiting for me. True to her word, he was waiting just outside the tiny station. Off he set, out of the village and along the side of what looked like a Welsh mountain. There were hairpin bends and we were getting higher all the time. “I can understand why you are collecting me” I said, “I would have taken ages to walk, even if I knew the way”. Their house was stuck on the side of what he called a hill, no other houses anywhere to be seen. It was a warm evening and they brought out a cold drink for me as I checked the car over. “It’s a lovely evening, but I’ll bet it’s a bit different in the winter” I commented. “Yes, we can get a bit of snow which blocks the roads and stops us getting out” he replied in a matter of fact way. All the checks done and signed for it was back the way he had driven up the “hill” then down towards Cardiff, on to the M4. There was no way that the car was going to York tonight and I rang the office to check, they said to bring it back to the yard for delivery tomorrow. It was around 21.00 when I got back to the yard, keys and plates dropped off and another day done.

Next time, another BMW dealership and more adventures in the minibus.

© 10210ken 2023