Retired soldier Eddie Dunnigan on how his 24-year career in the armed forces helped him to forge a second one in logistics…
Hi, my name’s Eddie. I’m based in Warwickshire and I’m an owner driver. I’ve been driving for just over seven years but I’ve been in logistics all of my working life. The value and importance of logistics is something that I grasped from a young age.
I joined the army at 16 where I studied catering, logistics and distribution. During my career in the forces managing large projects and supply chains was an everyday occurrence. In the para brigade, for example, it was by no means unusual to cater for 8,000 troops. Sourcing the most nutritious food while sticking to a set budget was a constant challenge but one which I found hugely satisfying. So too was catering for dignitaries including the royal family at a later posting at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. It was a great privilege but whether it was cooking for a boy soldier, an officer in the air corps, or the Queen -who I catered for on atleast one occasion -it was the ability to plan and to organise which always helped me to deliver.
By the time I left the army in 1989, I quickly realised that my skill set and experience was transferable to the freight sector. So when I returned to civvy street, transport logistics seemed to be the natural career choice. I’d done a lot of driving in the army. It was where I first learned to drive and where I developed advanced driving skills. In my role, in catering logistics, driving vehicles in difficult conditions became a daily necessity. And so whether it was driving Land Rovers in the Libyan desert or taking them up Mount Blanc, it was a challenge that I always relished.
I’m approaching my seventieth year now and I’ve no plans to retire.But please don’t misunderstand me -I’m not working because I have to. I’m couriering because I love the job. It’s hard work, mind you. Not a career for the work-shy. You’ve got to be prepared to graft at it if you want to be successful in logistics.
My background in the army has proved to be invaluable in this respect. It instilled a strong work ethic in me, which has stayed with me all my life. I treat every job like it’s my first and always give 110 percent to the contractor and the client.But sometimes hard work can only take you so far – particularly in logistics which is a very competitive field. I’m sure that most of you reading this will know what exactly what I mean. Increased fuel costs and burdensome regulation can make for impossibly tight margins, while nobody in the sector gives you anything on a plate. When you start off it’s tough. You can go days without a job, and I’ve seen people give up after a few months of operating.
Seven years ago and a few months into my courier career, this is where I found myself. And while I never once contemplated throwing in the towel, it quickly became obvious that I needed some job security. I found it in the form of Courier Exchange (CX), one of the UK’s leading freight exchange platforms.
I’ve been with CX for as long as I’ve been a courier. The Exchange has been wonderful for me and my business in three ways. Firstly, it’s provided me with a constant supply of work -even in the quietest times of year such as August and the Christmas period. Secondly, it’s allowed to build a comprehensive network of contacts with trade-only businesses. Thirdly, and most crucially, the Exchange has enabled me to be my own boss. This is really important to me. Without CX, I don’t think I could work a nine to five as my wife is disabled. The flexibility of the job gives me the time I need to care for her, and also to spend time with my two grandsons, who live with me too.
And the best thing: it recognises and rewards high achievements. I think that’s incredibly important as everyone gets a boost when others tell them they’ve done a great job. I’ve been nominated for owner driver of the year on four occasions now, and while I never won it, being nominated shows that my work is greatly valued b my peers. That’s extremely satisfying, I can tell you.
So what does a typical day look like for me? Well, I’m always up by 5am and after making breakfast for my wife, and making sure she has everything she needs, I leave the house. Thanks to the contractors I’ve met on CX, I normally have jobs lined up days in advance. My regulars are very good in that respect. But on the rare occasions that I don’t have one pre-booked, I turn on the CX Mobile and wait. It tells my regular clients and any other interested parties that I’m at home with an empty van. Usually therefore I’m on the road before the rush hour starts.
The dozen or so regulars that I work with are all world-class companies, who provide me and my short wheel base van with a continuous steam of work and what’s more they always pay on time. Jobs are interesting too. One day I could be ferrying an entire Aston Martin engine from Preston to Shoreham air field, another I could be transporting complex aircraft parts from one end of the country to the other, while the next, I might be carrying a bulk shipment of wine or champagne for a wedding. It really is a mixed bag and it’s that variety that find to be most satisfying.
I love the mobile app too. There’s a tendency in the media and on TV to stereotype the older generation as a bit clueless whenit comes to technology. Not me. Not only do I use the App every day, I work with software developers in the Exchange to test apps in their earliest stages. I doubt I’d be given that opportunity anywhere else. So I can say hand on heart that that mobile app is very useful. Everyone uses the Exchange slightly differently. For me the Mobile App really comes into its own to secure backloads which can make all the difference to bottom line.
Typically, when I win a long distance load, I’ll call three of four of that guys who I work with and invariably, they’ll arrange a backload on my behalf. But when this doesn’t happen, an hour or so before I’m due to complete a drop, I’ll update my status on the Mobile App to say that I’m going home. More often than not this will prompt one of my regulars, or perhaps a company that I don’t know so well, to call me. As a result, it’s very rare that I travel home empty or unhappy.
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