..and no, I don’t mean I tool along with War and Peace propped open on the dashboard. What strikes me as I make my journey to work, largely on motorways these days, is how vans and trucks have become mobile advertising hoardings, with a sprinkling of mission statement thrown in.
Years ago, if you were in the business of moving stuff from one place to another, you would call yourself a haulier, and your lorry would say something like “Thos. Jenkins, Hauliers, Derby”. There would be a phone number, and, if you were at the cutting edge of technology, a fax. (By the way, what is the point of putting phone numbers on the side of trucks? Do people say, as they speed past, “Oh look darling, there’s an Eddie Stobart – just scribble down the phone number, will you?”) Now, however, the vehicle has to make a statement. So, forget being a haulier- you are in distribution, or, better, logistics. You don’t want anything as obvious as your own name as the identifier of your company. You need to have a name that is preferably meaningless, and you need to combine it with a statement about what you do. So now, you may go on the road as something like “Interlock Logistics – delivering quality to the nation”. Recently, of course, no activity has been considered worthy unless it contains the “solutions” tag. So, as we have seen, supermarkets now sell “meal solutions” instead of meals, hardware stores sell “DIY solutions” instead of tools, and one insurance company I noted wanted to sell me “risk solutions”. It’s all documented fortnightly in Private Eye, though not in the online version, I notice. This raises the stakes, of course, as haulage now has to become “logistics solutions”, and the mission statement becomes ever more complex as companies struggle to present themselves as distinctive. Thus, a firm that might have got by with “Perkins: Refrigerated Distribution” a few years ago now has to have “Ice-spire: Delivering Coldchain Logistics Solutions to the Frozen Food Industry Community” or some such abomination.
There are some compensations to this thin reading diet on the road, though. I forgave one catering company its incorrect use of the apostrophe in “Caterer’s” for its notice on the back of the van “No cakes are left in the van overnight”. My favourite, though, is the firm of electricians I often spot on the way to work. Their logo is unmistakeable – a silhouette of a head with an aquiline nose, with a deerstalker and pipe. The name of the company? “Mr Ohms”.
My Motorway Reading by Dr Rob Spence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.