At just 22 years old, Charlie Morgan has grown a man-with-a-van courier service to an 18-truck fleet. Passionate, enterprising, and eager to address problems besetting the haulage industry, he is looking to challenge stereotypes and encourage young people to become hauliers. Interview: Jared Smith.
Q What is your background? And what led you to pursue a career in the haulage industry?
A I used to go out in the passenger seat with my step dad when he was a self-employed lorry driver on weekends and nights. And my passion, really, grew from there. I was always fascinated by vehicles, and I always wanted to be a lorry driver. During my teenage years, I then took an interest in business and wanted to put the two together.
Q What first ignited your interest in lorry driving?
A Roadtrips, definitely roadtrips. My family used to travel to France twice a year with a caravan.
Q What did you do when you left school before starting your business?
A I joined the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy (PJEA), but I dropped out after just six months. February rolled around and I passed my driving test, allowing me to drive a van. I wanted to start my business instead of learning about business.
Q When was Charles Morgan Transport established?
A Officially, as a limited company, in March 2019. But I had been a sole trader since October 2016, using my van to offer a courier service.
Q How did you find being your own boss when you started in 2016?
A Really good fun. It was hard work, because the insurance was so expensive—I think it was £19,500 for the year—but I learned a lot of discipline.
Q How does it feel to run your own company at age 22? What are the main challenges?
A I haven’t had a chance to think about it! It’s been very fast-paced, very full-on. I’ve had to learn a lot.
Q If you could time travel and meet your 16-year-old self, what advice would you give?
A I’d like to say ‘Enjoy yourself a bit more’; but I’ve enjoyed my professional life! I’d definitely say this: ‘You can trust anyone but don’t trust everyone.’
Q What are some of the main challenges that the UK haulage industry faces today?
A Obviously, there is the driver shortage. But it’s more than that—a ‘driver shortage’. We employ someone now who drives a van on a category B licence (which you can drive a car on) and who wants to learn to drive articulated lorries. Because of Covid, though, there’s such a backlog that he can’t book his theory test until November. And until he passes his theory, he can’t train. Training then takes another six to eight weeks. And after he trains, it will be another six to eight weeks until he can take his test. That’s six months for him to get his licence. Younger people like me can be quite short-sighted: if we need to wait six months, you know, we are probably going to work elsewhere.
Q Would you say that the main factor contributing to the driver shortage is the lack of young people entering the industry?
A I would say so. The older generation are retiring and the younger generation are not replacing them.
Q What is Charles Morgan Transport doing to help alleviate these challenges?
A We’re offering a personal development programme to younger drivers, and we’re trying to map out for them where they could be in, say, five years’ time. I also pay premium for insurance so that I can insure anyone aged over 19 (other hauliers insure anyone over 25). I don’t think there’s any difference between someone who is 19 and has passed their test and someone who is 25 and has passed their test, you know. We need to open up gateways for young people to enter the industry, or it’s not going to go well. I think everyone is so tied up in today that they’ll only see the problem when it’s too late. I’m only little Charlie. I’m trying to fix the problem, but it’s going to take more than me.
Q That’s an interesting insight. Anything else?
A At the moment something we’re looking at is getting more vans. This would allow us to employ more people with car licenses: they would start in the vans and work their way up gradually to their Class 1 licence. It’s the Class 1 drivers who are in demand at the minute, not Class 2 drivers, but I think this is one way to address the problem.
Q Do you think that young people are eager to enter the industry but cannot?
A I think so. I imagine they’re perhaps even more inclined to enter the industry than 25-year-olds. If you’re 25, you might have more commitments, you know; you’re not necessarily going to want to change careers, especially given the cost to get a licence—I think it’s £4,000 to take both tests. It’s expensive at the end of the day for Joe Bloggs!
Q Have you been able to speak to young people?
A No; but I’ve been asked to talk at prisons about the possibility of having a career in the industry. As you know, when young people come out of prison, they often go back. It would be nice if we could create a pathway and show them that they’ve got a ten-year development programme that they can focus on. I really want to help them, you know; I’m passionate about people and seeing them develop.
Q How has Brexit affected the industry?
A It’s a weird one actually. For the first month or two after Brexit it was quite touch-and-go with everyone getting used to the new customs clearance at the ports. But after six to eight weeks we were used to it. It’s all different, but you adjust.
Q That’s good! What are your plans for the future?
A We’re going to stay as we are for the next six or seven months, running the 18 vehicles that we have as efficiently and as effectively as possible. Then after Christmas—in February or March—I think we’ll be doubling the fleet. We’ve been buying trucks here and there, but I’d like to have some strategy going forwards and grow the businesses in a more sustainable way. It’s not rolling the dice anymore.
Q Where do you see yourself in five years?
A I might have to email you my answer for that one! At school I used to say ‘In five years’ time…’, ‘In ten years’ time…’; so it’s unlike me not to know. I have a goal for myself at 30: I’d like around 500 trucks and to be operating trains and ships. I’d like to get into the public transport and courier industries, too.”
Q So would you say you’re in a period of taking stock before taking your next steps?
A Definitely. I think I’m going to struggle over the next six months to just sit on my hands. I’m going to have to sit on my hands! There’s so much opportunity to grow but you can grow too fast sometimes. I think we’re just on the cusp now.
Q Anything else that you would like to add?
A Just that I recommend the career! There’s not many jobs where you can see the world. I find it’s like going on holiday—but maybe that’s just me.