Stereotypes & misconceptions: What you might have already heard.
You might have heard that a career in transport is a wonderfully free and relaxing way of life, where your responsibilities simply include: honking your horn, attaching provocative bumper stickers to your vehicle, sleeping in service stations, and getting one (just one) very sunburnt arm as you drive a gargantuan truck around Europe. You might have also heard that a career in logistics involves getting lost inside a warehouse every single day. No matter which way you drive your forklift truck, you always end up back next to the huge boxes of toilet roll.
Well, don’t worry: you’re not going to find yourself dazed and confused in an endless maze of crates and pallets, and you’re not going to live your entire life inside a small truck cab.
How come? Because there are so many different career options in this exciting industry! So before you make the decision to get into transport and logistics, you should firstly discover what it’s really all about.
What is it really all about then? Tell me the truth.
It’s all about moving things, storing things and supplying things. And when we say ‘things’, we mean anything and everything, from people and animals to goods and services. Without the transport and logistics industry, we wouldn’t be able to get to work in the morning, or fly away on holiday, and international trade would certainly not be ‘inter-national’ anymore. Plus, you would never wake up to find a birthday card being stuffed through your letterbox.
Every person and every industry in the world is influenced by, and depends upon, transport and logistics. Consequently, there are so many diverse careers available in this exciting, fast-paced and ever-changing sector. People who work in transport and logistics are constantly kept on their toes. The industry needs to be flexible in order to accommodate the influence of public opinion, governmental decisions and environmental factors.
Loads of different skills are needed for the many different kinds of transport and logistics careers, but the one thing you really need is an interest in being part of an industry that makes the world go round (or makes things go round the world?!).
Sounds great, tell me more!
Strictly speaking, transport refers to the movement of people, and logistics refers to the movement of freight (i.e. goods, natural resources, mail etc.). However, this sector is not just about moving things around the world by road, rail, sea or air. It’s also all about managing the supply, demand, distribution and procurement operations too.
Freight and passenger services would not operate effectively without the processes, regulations and strategies that control and influence each activity. Big decisions need to be made and important conversations need to take place before things are transported halfway across the planet. This is where careers in supply chain, procurement, freight forwarding and distribution management play an integral role.
Before goods can be transported en masse, they normally need to be stored somewhere. People who work in warehouse, storage and inventory management are essential cogs in the logistics wheel. These guys make sure that the right goods are available and organised before companies export and ship large orders. After all, no company wants to get an order for six thousand fireworks at the beginning of November and then realise they’ve run out of bangers and roman candles.
Trade routes, railway lines, motorways and cycle paths don’t just spring up out of nowhere, and likewise their trajectories aren’t simply arranged in a haphazard, willy-nilly fashion. A lot of meticulous planning and organisation is required before any route can be constructed. This is where careers in transport management and planning fit in.
Transport and logistics operations tend to require a lot of vehicles, machinery and infrastructure (i.e. railway sleepers, overhead wires etc.). Consequently, a wide variety of specialist transport engineers and technicians are needed to put things in place and keep everything maintained and fully functional.
Understandably, after all the planning, management and behind-the-scenes departments have done their bit, it’s down to the people like HGV drivers, cycle couriers, train drivers, passenger service teams and postmen and women to actively move people, goods and services. This lot are the true core of the industry. They not only help the movement of things, but provide an efficient and friendly service to make sure everyone’s having a good time or everything is getting where it needs to be.
Fancy yourself literally or metaphorically behind the wheel? With such a vast array of career opportunities, there’s certainly a place for you as part of the driving force behind the transport and logistics sector.
Altaf K - Shift Manager
Altaf K is a Shift Manager at South London Mail Centre, supervising a shift of 150-200 people. This isn't the career he was expecting when he was growing up in a farming community in Pakistan. His priority at the moment is to see that his own children get the opportunity to go to university.
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