Artem Rozhkov, the founder of «Lodgex», has been engaged in boat transportation in Russia for 9 years. We met him during the exhibition in Düsseldorf and talked about the subtleties of yacht delivery in Russia and why transportation costs more than in Europe.
- Artem, tell us about the most complicated boat project in the last year.
- Usually, the complexity of our projects is directly related to the size of the cargo.
- That's easy to understand.
- That's what I used to think, too.
- So it's not true after all?
- In fact, there is another difficulty - exotic routes. For example, last summer we took two boats, they were not supersized, but we had to take them to Yakutsk along the «Lena»highway. If you find her pictures on the Internet, you'll get scared. Cars on glass in the mud - people have been» sitting in these «traffic jams for weeks. When we got the order, we started to find out how things really were. I think we got the information that it wasn't so bad and we risked sending the car.
There are 8,000 km of roads, of which 2,000 are dirt roads with small rivers, streams that need to be crossed forwards. There are no bridges. If the weather is dry, you will drive normally, but if it rains, the water level rises and you have to wait for several days until it falls.
Anyway, we have gained invaluable «geographical» experience and safely delivered the boats.
And if to tell about the projects more connected with oversized cargo, last year we remembered the transportation of Hausbot from Saratov to Tyumen. If the yacht has, let's say, the shape of a triangle, then the Hausbot has a square section. It is wide at the bottom, and its height also remains not small.
- In practice, what is the difficulty of such transportation?
- Let's say the Hausbot width of 5.5 m stands on the trailer, at a height of about 50 cm from the ground - the trailer is low. The width of the lane is 3-3.5 meters, it will not fit in its lane anyway. If he passes through the city in transit, the kerbs, some small signs become an obstacle for him. If we drive up to repair the road, we are interrupted by roadblocks that put us on the curb.
- How, in this case, can we bypass all these obstacles?
- When we agree on transportation, then we apply a cargo scheme, and the coordinating organization, in theory, should check everything and give the correct route, but in practice this happens very rarely and, basically, the passage of all these things falls on us.
In transporting the houseboat, we've had a lot of problems with passing through repair sites. When we drive a yacht, the bumpers are not a problem for us, because the whole width of the yacht falls on the top, and such cargo as the houseboat is hard to carry, they «protrude» at all its height and width.
After this transportation we decided to make a special semi-trailer to order, which allows us to transport objects with this geometry. Thanks to special hydraulic cylinders we can lift the load on the trailer by 60 cm. We passed an obstacle, we lowered it.
- How was the Hausbot brought in after all? Did you hire a special transport?
- No, in that case we waited or asked the road workers at night to remove the bouncers so that we could pass. Or we looked for alternative ways of detour, but it is not quite right, because in this case we deviate from the route set by the special permit.
- Road transport is one of the most precise in time. But here you describe the process - repairs, curbs, eliminators... It's not clear how you can meet the declared schedule.
- Usually, when we name the transit time of the cargo from the place of loading to the place of unloading, we calculate the whole route. We see what mode of movement the car will have, we lay down a few days for force majeure. If you make all the permits official and transport them legally (many people drive illegally, it's no secret for anyone), you can very likely calculate the entire route and minimize force majeure.
- Is putting a few days on force majeure a feature of Russian transportation?
- We simply have a different system of permitting documentation than in Europe. In Russia, when we issue a permit for transportation of large-size cargo, we get a specific route with a specific road. To put it crudely, it says where you should turn right and where you should turn left.
In France, for example, there are three types of permit - one type allows you to carry goods up to 3 meters wide, it operates on a wide network of roads. The other type allows you to carry loads up to 4 meters wide, it works on a smaller road network. In other words, they do not give an exact route, but a map with roads that can be driven in any direction.
If you drive up to a closed area for repairs, you just watch how you can get around according to the permit. Drive around and drive on.
We're gonna have you standing around waiting.
A similar system works in all European countries, and these permits are reusable and they are valid for 3, 5, 6 years. In Russia we get permission for every transport, which makes it very difficult.
- And what about the quality of Russian roads, has it improved in recent years?
- Somewhere has improved, while somewhere it has also deteriorated. In Russia, it seems to me that the transport system will never get to a uniform state so that the roads are at least roughly the same everywhere: just bad, not very bad.
We have repaired the road, went to fix it somewhere else and while they are fixing it there, it is time to go back and fix it again in the old one.
That's how it all happens all the time. We can't come up with the technology to do it once and for 20 years.
In general, there are fewer difficulties associated with transporting to the Far East. We use air suspension machines, long-haul tractors with high rubber - all this allows us to drive on rather bad roads.
But, of course, in Russia due to the poor quality of the road surface and the weather conditions the service life of a truck, for example a cargo truck, before the start of a serious repair is about three years, and in Europe 7-8 years. Partly it gives an answer to the question why transportation in Russia is more expensive than in Europe. Although it seems that fuel is cheaper in Russia, we can save on something else. But we buy European equipment and overpay customs duties, and in three years we have to get the spent money back, because the cars need to be repaired by then.
- What is the main difficulty in the process of yacht delivery?
- The delivery of a yacht is always a non-standard process, it is always a specific customer who needs a special approach. It is not a lucky barrel - it hit its branch, to hell with it.
The yacht hit a branch, scratched the hull - it does not matter if it is 1 millimeter or meter - the fact itself already leaves a sediment on the client.
That's why the main difficulty when transporting a yacht is to convey to the driver all the responsibility with which he has to do his job. Any mistake not only causes direct material losses, it also has a strong impact on the image of the company.
- What's the matter with the staff turnover?
- The most difficult thing for us is to find qualified drivers. Some time ago I was always firing people, I needed disciplined people who understood what they were doing and why. They have a double responsibility. Firstly, they carry expensive cargo, secondly, they work with expensive cars. A tractor costs about 100-120 thousand euros, a specialised trailer costs the same amount. The price of the new truck is commensurate with the cost of a yacht.
We have been selecting the team for a long time, but for the last two years we have no staff turnover at all. Nobody quit, everybody is happy.
- How did we do that?
- First we picked the optimal team, then we raised their salaries well, so that they would not be interested in going to the competitors. At the same time, of course, we demand from them, but now everyone is coping.
- What new things have been introduced into the company's work?
- There used to be few transport companies that could transport yachts, for a while we were the only ones. Now the competition is growing and we have to compete by reducing prices. Doing it at the expense of our profit is not interesting, so we have to reduce our costs. The first way is to save fuel, we started to switch to Euro-5 trucks. They, of course, require a lot of investment at the start, but it pays off. In addition, we have installed fuel consumption control systems. Usually they are installed to see if drivers steal fuel, but it also turned out that we are actively stealing fuel from gas stations. You fill the tank with 400 liters, you don't fill 20 liters. Thus, having installed these systems, we removed the temptation to steal fuel from us and detected the network of stations that fill up honestly.
The implementation of these systems - at that time we had 6 cars - cost us 180 thousand, 30 thousand per car.
A year after installing the systems, we have estimated that we have saved about 2 million rubles.
Naturally, such savings allowed us to reduce tariffs, because in this case we do not lose our profits.
- What are your plans for the future?
- The plans include the installation of video recorders with the possibility of online viewing what is going on in the car - at least screenshots. But our coverage area of cellular networks is not so large yet, and through the satellite channel comes out a bit expensive.
All this is necessary so that we could better control the driver's driving mode, and he wouldn't be able to cheat us. What happens is, you can always see who's to blame. We want to have independent sources of information to understand who does what in our company. In addition, often traffic police officers unreasonably extort bribes, in this case it is useful to have a video recorder.
For transport companies there are systems when three cameras are installed - one forward and two «rear-view»cameras - so that you can see what's going on ahead and control the cargo. The data is written to the hard disk in the truck, and is stored for 2-3 weeks, then wiped up and further in a circle. When installing such a system, you need to have access to the machine to find out what happened. Given our geography, when drivers leave for two months, it is not always real. In our case, it's the remote solution that's needed, and I don't see it yet.