Elddis Transport has reported "a solid financial performance in extremely challenging conditions" during 2020 and said it would continue with new site, fleet and IT investments into 2022.

Results for the period ending 31 December 2020 showed turnover was virtually identical to the previous year at £28,895,952 (2019: £28,682,212) while pre-tax profits were up 13.9% at £502,017 (2019: £440,633).

The County Durham based firm, which is a founder member of the High Cube Network and a Palletforce member, specialises in FMCG, general road haulage and warehousing and employs around 330 staff.

In its strategic report to the results, Elddis said its stable turnover and profits were testament to the ongoing commitment and hard work of its staff.

It admitted that the pandemic had a fundamental impact on the business but that March 2020 was one of the busiest months the company has ever known.

However, peaks in volume had to be managed against troughs acrosss the business, it said, especially during government lockdowns when the furlough system was utilised for a small proportion of the workforce.

"It was a tough year but we were lucky that our main customer base is in the consumer market," Elddis Transport MD Nigel Cook told motortransport.co.uk. "We move a lot of essentials around - some of our biggest customers are toilet roll manufacturers!

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“The driver shortage has hit pretty hard this year but we've reviewed the wage package and put forward what we think is the right level to maintain and attract drivers.

"There’s a lot of people just glad to be the right side of zero after last year. It’s been hard but we’ve come out at the end of it not dissimilar to the previous year when we didn’t have a pandemic. The turnover probably reflects that we had some customers where volumes reduced but others that worked the other way."

Asked about the current spate of bonuses and incentives being offered to drivers by supermarkets and logistics operations, Cook said: "If you're offering a £5,000 sign-on fee, what about all the drivers already with you? That will just put their noses out of joint. We’ve had a 'phone a friend' option for many years. We pay existing drivers a bonus over time for introducing new drivers. The logic is that if our current drivers are confident enough to put someone forward then they trust them to stay. They get so much after each month of service over a six month period.

"It’s been successful because it’s almost like having a recruitment agency for yourself. I’d rather pay our existing hard working drivers. Loyalty is very important to us. We have a couple of loyalty programmes with a bonus after a 10-year increment and a yearly bonus based on length of service."

As part of the strategic plan to grow the business, a new five-acre site was purchased in December 2020 in Newton Aycliffe. This is due to open later this year.

New racking was installed in both the main warehouses in Consett and the new Gamston site while IT investment continued with updates to driver PDAs. Further investment in two-way cameras in vehicles, remote tachograph technology, new payroll and HR software and a Warehouse Management System with barcode scanning are also planned.

Cook also confirmed that the firm is putting further investment into its fleet. "We put another 20 new tractor units on last year, a couple of rigids and 30 trailers," he said. "We’ve got 10 tractors on the road this year and another 11 on 1 September. Most of them are replacements. We’re continuing to invest and have orders for vehicles and trailers into 2022 because with the current market your have to look ahead.

"It’s hard work at the moment and we're working with our customers to manage cost increases. It’s not about profiteering, it's about making sure we have enough resource to provide the services our customers need."