Mark Bennett

Five minutes with…

Mark Bennett, VKVP Haulage

Mark Bennett

Operations Director

VKVP Haulage

What prompted your move to VKVP Haulage?
It was an easy decision to join Vlad and the team once the offer was made. I saw it as an opportunity to build something for the shareholders, challenge myself, and prove that I was capable. The support has been tremendous, and we have made significant progress in the last four years. However, we are always critical of ourselves and therefore, we look to improve year on year. It is enjoyable and rewarding, and the aim is to carry on growing.

What have been the game-changers in the industry over recent years?
There have certainly been game-changers and challenges.

We have recently witnessed the significant impact of an HGV driver shortage on the industry. The reasons for that are all well documented. However, this situation and the increase in volumes to heightened levels as we came out of lockdowns have, in truth, given container hauliers a boost in terms of getting rates to a level somewhere close to where they should have been for years. Long may this continue. Nonetheless, I fear it could fall away at some point if we let it.

VBS bookings at the ports were a frustrating introduction to start with and can, at times, still be so. However, I cannot imagine what it would be like now if we did not have these systems in place. At least everyone is in the “same boat”, and it is visible for all to see.

It is becoming more common for shippers and receivers to increase their opening hours. Traditionally Saturdays, Sundays and night deliveries and collections were rare, but now you see that many of the trucks can earn as well at the weekend.

DVS (Direct Vision Standard) in London is just the first of many such schemes introduced. While installing the truck equipment is costly, most people understand we must recover these costs, and the system upgrades are paid for on an ongoing basis.

On a negative point, the congestion on the roads our drivers face daily is worse than ever and getting worse still. I do not envy the job they do at all.

What role does technology play in your operational strategy?
I am very much old school. However, I do realise that technology needs to be embraced. We mustn’t standstill. Our processes need to keep pace with the growth, negating the need for more staff.

We operate with Fargo Systems’ TOPS, and it is an excellent tool that keeps us at the forefront of operational visibility and efficiency. In 2022 we plan to develop with Fargo Systems and their TopsTMS® products. Many customers need their PODs as soon as possible, and we need to make sure we can accommodate this; if not, you can lose business very quickly.

Many of our customers now link to us electronically to send bookings and track their trucks. And in the last two years, we would have been lost without the technology to support our teams’ home/remote access working.

Busier than ever on the recruitment front, what do you look for in a potential VKVP employee?
Well, firstly and obviously, do they have the experience and knowledge required to fill the post we are trying to fill? After that, it is always important to me that any potential employee has the passion and drive to grow in their role and potentially progress in the business. We are a company of young people, and they will be the future.

Transport has never been and never will be a 9-5 role. Unfortunately, outlooks have changed in recent years, and it isn’t easy to sell the benefits so much now. We are very progressive and offer the staff many personal benefits, including focusing on employee well-being, supporting happier and healthier employees and the workplace environment.

As a fan of grassroots football, any predictions for this season?
As you know, I do like to watch local football. I try to get out to watch a game most midweeks and on Saturdays with an occasional visit to a pro match. I particularly like watching Felixstowe and Walton as my son plays there. It is an enjoyable place to go and watch entertaining competitive football—a real community club run by a fantastic committee of dedicated people. I have been pleased to see their recent success, and it would be awesome if they could gain promotion via the play-offs this season.

I would also like to see Chelsea retain the Champions League this season!