Welch’s Transport’s move to newly acquired premises in Bedford and a continuing shortage of drivers during 2019 led to deepening losses and a 1.9% reduction in turnover.

However, in its latest financial results, the company said the relocation represented a sensible long-term investment and the new site was performing satisfactorily by the end of the year.

In the year ending 31 December 2019, the haulage and logistics firm reported a £14.1m turnover, down from £14.4m in 2018.

It made a pre-tax loss of £75,635, compared to a loss of £38,256 the year before.

The company said that despite the fall in revenues, underlying trading performance had improved, particularly in the group’s two truck dealerships.

But it also said that its three transport depots, in Duxford, Bedford and St Ives, had “a mixed year”.

Its business review stated: “Whilst the Duxford and St Ives operations traded profitably, the Bedford operation recorded significant losses in the first half year.

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“This was attributable to the relocation to newly acquired premises in Bedford in March 2019, which impacted on the financial performance both before and after the move.”

It said that the move did not affect customer service levels, but added: “Acquiring the site necessitated purchasing a limited company, which had recently sold its trading businesses other than the target premises.

“Consequently, significant fees were incurred in completing the purchase, which along with substantial investment in the new site, both of a capital and revenue nature, meant that in overall terms the group disappointingly recorded a loss-making performance for the year.”

A struggle to find skilled HGV drivers also remained a challenge and the company said there was continued pressure on improving levels of pay and terms and conditions, along with subsequent attempts to recover rate increases from customers.

Welch’s Transport said 2020 had started strong, but Covid-19 and its effects had significantly affected performance from late March: “During April, 40% of the HGV fleet was taken off the road and 30% of the staff were placed on furlough,” it said. “Given the strength of the business’s balance sheet this is not of immediate concern as regards liquidity.

“However, the directors believe that the lifting of the ‘lockdown’ will be a long and drawn out process and that a deep and long-lasting UK, and indeed global, recession will follow.”

The directors declined to comment further.