Cambridgeshire family firm Knowles Transport has joined pallet network Palletforce as part of a fresh drive to grow its business though more local work.

Knowles business development director Alex Knowles told the firm had moved around 130 pallets for the network on each of its first two nights earlier this week after taking on seven new drivers, a new three-man management team and a rental fleet of four trucks to handle the business.

“There are signs of the industry picking up at the moment and we’re looking to diversify, to grow the business. We saw this as a way of opening up more local customers and really dominating our homeland, which is our strategy over the next five years,” he said.

Knowles admitted the move was also intended to help turn around an 18% decline in turnover and a 25% fall in pre-tax profit in the year to the end of December 2013.

Knowles Transport will cover a number of postcodes in the PE area for Palletforce after the departure from the network of GE-BE Transport, and will be using two 18-tonners, a 7.5 tonner and an urban artic for the purpose, said Knowles - all initially rented.

He declined to say what turnover the firm expected from its pallet network operation but said he hoped the new operation would generate a margin of 7-8% within the next 18 months.

Commenting on the move, Palletforce chief executive Michael Conroy said: “This is a great addition to our membership. Knowles Transport is a hugely successful business which has its roots firmly planted in family values.

“We are delighted they see their future as part of our network,” he added.