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Driver shortage creates a bump in the road for haulier Jack Richards

PUBLISHED: 08:40 17 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:44 22 January 2018

Jack Richards & Sons MD Peter Brown at the depot in Fakenham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Jack Richards & Sons MD Peter Brown at the depot in Fakenham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2016

The boss of one of the region’s best-know haulage firms has warned that a shortage of drivers after Brexit and the industry’s poor image will hit the bottom line.

Business feature on the changes in the industry and the growth of Jack Richards Palletways in Fakenham. Picture: Ian BurtBusiness feature on the changes in the industry and the growth of Jack Richards Palletways in Fakenham. Picture: Ian Burt

Jack Richards and Son recently filed strong results for the 12 months to May 31 2017, with turnover up £4m on the year before at £45.9m and pre-tax profits up to £1.2m from £1m in 2016.

But managing director Peter Brown said the current year was proving tougher, with several bumps in the road.

He said: “This current year is pretty difficult in the logistics and haulage business. There is a really significant shortage of drivers.

“As an industry we 55,000 short, and as a company we have a huge battle to attract drivers as we grow. That’s currently draining resources and has cost us a lot of money this year.”

Business feature on the changes in the industry and the growth of Jack Richards Palletways in Fakenham. Picture: Ian BurtBusiness feature on the changes in the industry and the growth of Jack Richards Palletways in Fakenham. Picture: Ian Burt

The weaker pound has hit the firm with a double-whammy with the price of vehicles, which mostly come from the continent, becoming more expensive and making the work less financially attractive for European workers.

Mr Brown said: “Some of our Eastern European colleagues are going home because of the exchange rate, [as] if they are sending money home to relatives the amount has dropped significantly.”

The company has sought to solve its recruitment problems by using funds from the apprenticeship levy to bring through a new generation, and it has 12 apprentices on the books.

But the progression to becoming drivers was “something of a gamble”, said Mr Brown, with a driving test pass rate of 50%.

Business feature on the changes in the industry and the growth of Jack Richards Palletways in Fakenham. Picture: Ian BurtBusiness feature on the changes in the industry and the growth of Jack Richards Palletways in Fakenham. Picture: Ian Burt

Despite the challenges, the firm, a member of the EDP/EADT Top 100 list of Norfolk and Suffolk’s biggest companies by turnover, has continued to make progress and expand.

Mr Brown said: “Where we are continuing to grow is the logistics solutions side. We have evolved from being a general haulier to a slightly more specialised company which will take on the whole of a company or site’s deliveries. We take everything from parcels up to pallets.”

Jack Richards also stores, assembles and distributes products for two companies, a service Mr Brown believes suits East Anglia. “The model works well in East Anglia where warehousing rates are relatively low and it costs no more to dispatch and deliver goods from here than it does from any other part of the country,” he said.

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