In October 2002 I started a new direction in my career, leaving behind passengers, tickets and lost property and entered the world of logistics! I had applied for several positions in the road transport arena, but with my previous 14 years experience at Bassetts being in passenger transport, I was never going to find it very easy.
Throughout 2002, Sainsbury's had been building a modern distribution centre in Stoke on Trent and the contract to run this site had been awarded to Power Logistics, a relatively unknown concern from the USA.
After a comprehensive interview process I was delighted to be offered a position at the site as one of six Transport Team Captains, reporting to the Transport Manager and effectively running the outbound transport operation on a shift basis. However, this was all to be in the future, because the Stoke site in October 2002 was still undergoing the last stages of construction, after which a period of testing, training and further recruitment would follow.
The next six months was a fantastic learning curve, where the small transport team looked to develop procedures and implement training in readiness for the Business Ramp Up.
As if to assist with this process, the site initially ran a small cross-dock operation where goods from other DC's was brought to Stoke, re-configourated and then despatched to various stores in the Northwest. When I started there was a small fleet of about 10 trucks already in use being made up primarily of end of contract motors from various other Sainsbury sites and a couple of hire trucks.
This small operation meant that some of our time was occupied managing this real life distribution function with the handful of drivers already employed, whilst the remainder was given to recruiting new drivers and admin staff, writing procedures and training manuals, and learning how the Transport Dept fitted in with the rest of the site's functions to ultimately ensure the efficient and delivery of produce to over 200 Sainsbury's stores.
On occasions there was the opportunity to do a store delivery, and I rarely missed my chance to get out and about. ERF EC11 V870 KFM is seen here on the A55 just outside Rhyl during June 2004 with one of the new fleet of curtainside trailers allocated to the Stoke disribution centre.
During mid 2003, the Stoke site began to ramp up activity in a gradual process to become fully operational. This was a time of much recruitment which eventually saw a team of some 140 drivers, and a transport admin/ supervisory team of nearly 20.
The profile of stores for which the DC supplied goods rose each week, along with the range of products, or SKU's as the retail world calls them.
As this build up took pace, the orginal fleet steadily grew with further acquisitions from other Sainsbury DC's and avaried range of hire trucks. Sub contractors were also brought in to assist on the busy days and also to undertake those runs which could not be done in a single driver's shift. Besides store deliveries, many trunks were sent from Stoke to other DC's in the Sainsbury's network.
In the Spring of 2003, Sainsbury's Stoke received its first new tractor unit - DK03 EYA a (MAN) ERF ECT. Whilst this vehicle was not used in the true sense of a demonstrator, this truck was the shape of things to come. The vehicle featured in ERF's own advertising, as at this late stage in ERF's life, such prestigous and large orders like that of Sainsbury's needed to be broadcast.
In December of 2003, the Stoke site received the new fleet for which we had waited, and ardently worked for. This new 53 reg fleet comprised of approx 45 new ECT's, all 6x2's fitted with the comfort-shift gearbox.
In my opinion, these trucks looked so much better than the plain white units that eventually replaced these.
This ERF publicity photo was taken at the Stoke site and I was fortunate to be the driver for the shoot. However, the windows were covered with black celophane and hence curtailed my modelling career forever!
I took this photograph on the ERF stand at the 2004 Commercial Vehicle Motor Show held at the NEC, and shows two of the (colour) chose Red adverts.
The initial fleet allocated to the Stoke site was basically a few hand me downs from other DC's in the network. V865 KFM was one of several ERF EC11's operated, although not necessarily one of the drivers' favourites.
Not surprisingly, the few Scania's in the fleet were most popular and here V455 LFR, a R380 is seen in August 2003 waiting its next shift.
X337 DLG was one several ERF ECS's at Stoke during start-up, and was the standard issue at the time for the Sainsbury's fleet. Basically a M.A.N., these ERF's had a very dinstictive look in the Sainsbury's livery.
In December 2003, the Stoke Distribution Centre was allocated a new fleet of tractor units: ERF ECT's. These 53 reg motors were serviced and maintained by Beech's Garage in Stoke on Trent, less than 2 miles away from the DC.