We talk to a driver who saw pallet networks on their first night â€“ and spent his last night in the business at the best of them.
Paul Allingham has recently retired from 21 years as an HGV driver, with the last 11 of them spent night trunking for TPN depot Eezehaul.
â€œDriving is a very responsible job but if you like travelling and you love meeting people, itâ€™s a wonderful career,â€ he says.
Paul has wide experience of the industry. He remembers being at one rival network Hub on its first night of operation, and has worked at three different TPN central Hubs over the years.
â€œIâ€™ve seen TPN grow, and the operation thrive. I often wonder what people who have never seen the Hub night operation would think to watch it. You canâ€™t imagine the speed and efficiency of it, with so many HGVs being loaded at once and the forklifts flying everywhere. Itâ€™s remarkable but done so skilfully and safely.
â€œThe guys on the ground have such knowledge as well. You drive in and they instantly know which depot you are from and which bay you should proceed to. Itâ€™s all very slick and well organised.
â€œThey are a very friendly crew. When they heard it was my last night, they gave me a lovely send off.â€
Paul has done many jobs â€“ and many driving jobs â€“ in his career, but he says none of them were as fun or fulfilling as working for TPN depot, Eezehaul.
â€œItâ€™s a lovely place to work. I had some fantastic colleagues which made it all easier, and I particularly liked the female balance in the management team. It changes the culture and takes away the hard edge that you find in some businesses.â€
He says those outside the industry have no idea of the diversity of product carried through networks. â€œPeople ask me what I carry in the truck and I can only say: â€œPretty much everything.â€
Although many HGV drivers say they feel unvalued, that has not been Paulâ€™s experience. â€œI always did the job to my level of satisfaction, and was always professional. I had bosses who respected that. I always felt very appreciated at Eezehaul. They were very good to me, and not just professionally â€“ they also helped me through some tough times, personally.â€
Paul is now gearing himself up for a life of leisure but says retirement is a complex transition. â€œItâ€™s more of a shock to the system than you would imagine, suddenly not working. Iâ€™ve also realised how very tired I am, emotionally, mentally and physically. Iâ€™m going to give myself at least six months to rest.â€
Then he says, heâ€™ll dedicate time to his â€œseriously expensive hobby. I love fishing. Iâ€™m going to be out by the water.â€
In the longer term, Paul says he will help out as a relief driver for Eezehaul and keep his hand in with his old life.
â€œDriving is a great life if you are suited to it,â€ he says. â€œIâ€™ve been very lucky to have had great colleagues, and a great career.â€
Eezehaul financial director Jane Jones says: â€œWeâ€™ll really miss Paul. Heâ€™s a lovely man and has been a great asset to Eezehaul.â€
Final words from Paul? â€œThanks for the experience. Iâ€™d be happy to come back.â€