Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Logistics of Transporting Children

I can’t call something The Logistics of Transporting Children without at least acknowledging the devastating trade in human life that goes on around the world.  We believe that governments, business, charities and individuals should do all they can to Stop The Traffik!

The humble Peugot 106

The transporting of children that I am referring to happens predominantly around Christmas time.  It is a challenge that would vex most distribution managers and load planners.  The seemingly simple task of loading two small people and two adults into a family car often leads to frustration late departure times, late arrivals, rushed cold meals, indigestion and grumpiness.  Mrs Al of The Logistics Project and I can at times be found alternating disbelieving stares  at the back of a Peugeot 106 and the pile of “kiddie stuff” piled at the rear bumper (fender).
Organising your load to your vehicle is a bad logistical principle, certainly in commercial logistics you don’t book a 7.5tonne truck for an 18tonne load because you’ll lose any profit in the fuel costs incurred by the shuttling backwards and forwards and customers won’t love it.   Equally ignoring the load size when loading the vehicle can lead to loading 15feet of shelving sideways across a 6 foot horse drawn cart in downtown El Fasher….. me?!…..I had walked away giggling by this point and let some Sudanese ingenuity make up for the lack of a spanner (wrench). (I will post pictures of this another day).
But we are stuck with the vehicle we had when we were just two adults blissfully unaware of the support component required to run a small child.  Nappies (diapers), Pushchairs (strollers), Babywipes (I don’t know what these are in the US), bottles of milk, jars of food, spare clothes, dummies (soothers), back up dummies (back up soothers), in car toys, destination toys, favourite toys …..oh my, oh my, oh my.  Never lose the favourite cuddly toy that allows baby to sleep otherwise your baby surely must fall under some kind of carriage of dangerous goods legislation.
So when you are stuck with a particular load bed to fit all your materiel in or on what do you consider?  What simple principles of load planning can we follow in the loading of children and their support component that may make your next visit to family more enjoyable?
Clarkson demonstrates....
thanks to Clarissa Draper for the photo.
1.         An evenly distributed load that allows the proper function of both vehicle and driver.  It is tempting to pack the children’s bouncy activity play centre in behind the driver’s seat but a driver with their knees up around their ears.  No fun at all; but fun to see others do.  Nor do you want a load that is dangerous or just plain annoying. The phrase the UK highways agency  uses is "restrained and contained".  Restrained referring to anything on the outside of the vehicle (do not be tempted to strap the children to the roof rack on this principle) Contained referring to materiel inside the vehicle we all have experienced that loose object rolling around the vehicle for 2 hours of country lanes which just drives us crazy.
2.         Priority & Function Sure those little fluffy toys pack out nicely and are easy to fit into almost any gap but the first dirty nappy (dookie filled diaper) will inform you that you should have packed the slightly less flexible pack of Pampers.  It is also worth considering operational issues and interdependent function; if you pack the travel cot – place the mattress in the must pack pile.
3.         Build your load ahead of time - In the RAF we called these chalks, because you would draw a chalk square on the ground the size of your load bed and see how much you could fit in it.  It saves paying truck drivers waiting time for excessive rearranging of loads.  If you have the load in your head it will take far less tweaks to make it fit around that unexpected wheel arch.  (I always used to reduce my chalk by 5% of the expected load bed to make room for the truckers sleeping mat and tea set in Niger just to make sure I never went short of space.).  In loading children get acquainted to the little areas within a folded pushchair (stroller) that you can stuff “Mr Squiggles”or “Barney”.
All too often in disaster relief and development settings you don’t get the ideal vehicle and you do have to make do and shuttle or even if you have to split loads across multiple vehicles., give a thought to whether it makes more sense to have a little of everything or whether you transport category by category.  For instance in an NFI (non-food items) distribution you can’t start until you have a reasonable amount of each item.  In a mass vaccination campaign don’t take the vaccines out first and wait for needles as it will test your cold chain   particularly if you have a hold up on the second trip/vehicle.  In a disaster relief setting it makes no sense to truck your education sets up hand in hand with food because hungry children don’t concentrate.
So next time you load the children for any trip, consider that these are skills that will make you invaluable as a competent aid logistics load planner.  If you find that load planning software means a tissue to dab away the tears perhaps The Logistics Project can help.


  1. A great post that I wish I had written...

  2. Thanks Michael, I hope we get a new installment of A Humourless Lot soon. Al