Fierce competition for southbound loads combined with rising operating costs saw Currie Solutions deliver a pre-tax loss for the second year in a row, its latest annual accounts show.

The Dumfries-based haulier, which has a fleet of more than 250 trucks and 500 trailers, posted a pre-tax loss of £130,900 (2016: loss of £148,770) in the year to 31 December 2017. Turnover fell to £39.9m, down from £40.1m in 2016.

In its strategic report to the accounts the company said trading conditions in the UK remained “challenging” across all sectors, adding that the Scottish market was “extremely price sensitive".

This forced the company to reduce pricing in some cases to retain business “due to the ongoing fierce competition for south bound loads”.

It added: “Rising operating costs are squeezing margins further, which is exacerbated by the ongoing and increasing driver shortage in the UK.”

The report said the company’s decision to rebrand in the period from Currie European Transport to Currie Solutions had been necessary to remove the “general perception” of the firm as a European haulier.

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It added: “We continue to operate strong European services but UK domestic freight services now account for approaching 70% of turnover so it has been necessary and important to get that message across to the market.”

The company said it had set itself the goal of improving margins but added that the UK market remained subdued.

Stephen Turner, Currie Solutions MD told MT that the company was responding to “very testing” market conditions in 2018 by focusing on the development of new and existing customer relationships, as well as by improving services in its UK and European markets.

Turner added: “Without doubt the driver situation has worsened during 2018 so far and is now the single biggest inhibitor to growth. Despite having fuel escalators in place the continual upwards movement in fuel pricing is obviously having an impact too.”