One of my most enjoyable trips out in the last few weeks was to attend the Agricon 2013 spring conference, which is the agricultural division of the Road Haulage Association.
It was fascinating to chat to members there and hear their concerns and how they are affected by what we do and what happens on farm.
Lots of questions about the time at which we load grain until on a winters’ night, many questions about how far have I’ve towed a milk tanker in the snow and the value we put on quality, local service. Unlike many in farming, they could all tell me the performance of their vehicles to two decimal places, margin over fuel cost and many other interesting and vital figures. The level of investment in telemetry, on vehicle cameras and the kit itself was all captivating. Then we got on to legislation – you think we have it bad!
Talk to a haulier about Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS). This is basically a system that calculates the risk of an operator not following the rules on roadworthiness (the condition of its vehicles) and traffic (drivers’ hours, weighing checks etc). It is a traffic light system and if OCRS is high, it’s more likely that your vehicles will be pulled over and inspected. In a way I suppose that it is much the same as how local authorities and the RPA operate with us – a bad mark and you have to work hard to regain a good name. With the age of earned recognition beginning to dawn, maybe we will be rated as green, amber and red farms.
Just before attending Agricon I was informed that the 14-month, £30,000 fight to gain planning consent to build a new reservoir had reached its successful conclusion. All I have to do now is gain a licence to move the Great Crested Newts, build a new pond for them, plant some new habitat for them, catch them (very carefully), spend a load more money and only then we might just be able to let the bulldozer loose!
Andrew Blenkiron manages the 4,400ha Euston Estate, south of Thetford. Principal farm enterprises are combinable and root crops, including sugar beet. In addition the estate supports let land, sheep, outdoor pigs, poultry, suckler cows, horses and stewardship