Bretts Transport said it had taken steps to address “pent-up demand” for haulage services following the pandemic, brought about by an acute shortage of drivers.

The Cambridgeshire firm said it had boosted pay and conditions and modernised its fleet to attract and retain staff during current economic uncertainty.

Following the publication of its latest financial results, the haulier told that it had responded to the driver crisis by investing heavily in its drivers and equipment and this had both attracted and retained staff after an exodus post-Brexit.

For the six months ending 31 March 2021, the company, which mainly delivers staple food products, generated revenues of £6m, which was down by 53.3% compared to the 12-month period ending 30 September 2020, but a decrease of only 6.69% on a pro-rata, annualised basis.

During the period it made a pre-tax loss of £446,000, but it has since returned to profitability.

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James Cook, finance director at Bretts Transport, said October through to November were its busiest months, but with so many Covid-related restrictions reinstated at the start of October 2020 and then the second national lockdown in November, it saw a significant reduction in demand: “This was then compounded by the third national lockdown at the start of January 2021, thus impeding any ability to make any kind of recovery,” he explained.

“The hospitality sector coming to an almost standstill was compounded by the lack of availability to back haul from these destinations and therefore had an impact on our revenue generating ability by around 25-30%, with 15-20 vehicles being stood each day.”

The start of the new trading year for the business saw further challenges to address after Brexit led to “a massive pool of European drivers not returning to the UK”, according to Cook.

The enforcement of IR35 tax regulations also affected the availability of agency drivers and meant Bretts was forced to endure the same number of trucks standing in its yard every day at a time when volumes were meant to increase.

But Cook said the active steps the company took to attract and hold on to professional drivers has meant that the future looks a lot brighter now for the Guyhirn firm: “With this, plus with demand pretty much returning to normal from quarter two onwards during the new period, Bretts has been operating at pretty much full capacity that has returned the business to being profitable,” he said.

“The next publication of Bretts Transport financial figures will show a much improved and substantial profitable position.”