Devereux Transport and Distribution increased sales by 6.4% last year, but profits dipped into the red after the Billingham-based firm settled an HSE fine following a fatal accident.

The company reported revenues of £13.9m for the year ending 31 March, an increase of £835,000 on the previous year’s results.

Gross profit was £1.9m; however, it made a pre-tax loss of almost £93,000 after it received a fine, which it is understood related to the death of lorry driver Christopher Barnes.

The 69-year-old fell more than seven feet onto a concrete floor at a customer’s premises while he was unloading his lorry in April 2018.

MD Ken Devereux told the whole incident was still “very raw” and that it had given the customer its own safe systems of work, including working at height.

In a review of the business for the trading period, the company said that although sales had increased, rising fuel costs caused a small drop in its gross profit margin.

“Company overheads have increased slightly, with the company generating a net trading profit for the year excluding the exceptional item,” it said.

“The company’s trading results for the year are in line with the expectations of the director.”

The haulier also pointed out that a potential risk to the business was the national shortage of HGV drivers, but Devereux said availability was now better and it was receiving “quite a lot of applications for the time of year”.