When MT meets up with Palletforce CEO Michael Conroy, at a central London hotel rather than the network’s hub in Burton-upon-Trent, it is ahead of the big EV Cargo announcement.

So while Palletforce’s future is as the Express division of newly formed EV Cargo, our subject for the day is solely focused on the pallet network.

Conroy is, as per usual, chipper and, at times, mischievous as we chat. The interview itself is in recognition of its Motor Transport Awards success for Best Use of Technology and its Super Fork Lift trucks, super being a favourite word of Palletforce’s.

The forklifts have the latest weighing equipment and software on – and in fact Palletforce has evolved the technology since winning the title with The Pallet Selfie being the latest development– and Conroy is understandably proud of what his team has achieved and the recognition they have gained.

While the technology has boosted efficiency at the company’s central hub, and safety across its network, it is very much part of an overall journey of investment at the business that has been underway for years. An approach that Conroy sums up as ‘tightening every nut and bolt, half an inch’ to ultimately see major benefits across the network.

“At the same time [as the introduction of the uprated forklift trucks] we opened our superhub and our capacity is now 30,000 pallets a night.

“We’re around 60% utilisation and growing, so a bit of a way until we build the next one," he jokes, "but it has become our USP. The members love it."

Conroy adds: “When you have a regional hub strategy [as any of the network’s competitors do] you can’t get everything in the right place as you’re managing independent operators.

“Also, when you have a central hub that can handle everything, when a member is in trouble they will always go central. So as I said, it’s a big USP.”

It appears to be paying off, with Conroy stating that in the last few months [our interview takes place at the end of October] “every week is a record” in regards pallet volumes.

However he adds, “We don’t want volume at any cost. We want controlled volume. However, we do have double digit growth coming in, where we didn’t last year.”

Palletforce now has 98 haulier members across 116 depots with more announcements to come.

“You’ll see quite a few more via consolidation [of collection and delivery area], which if done correctly benefits the existing member too as they get more volume in a smaller area,” he says, adding that in other instances a new member will bring in growth and allow Palletforce to address underperforming hauliers.

“We have a simple motto, if you don’t want to be here you don’t have to be. Every penny, every pallet counts and you need to do the job,” he says.

Kinaxia Logistics

Palletline has made it known that they are limiting the number of Kianxia Logistics’ owned pallet hauliers allowed in their network.

Graham Leitch, MD of Palletline told MT earlier this year after the purchase of Palletline member AKW Group by Kinaxia Logistics that Macclesfield-based William Kirk, also owned by Kinaxia, was working its notice within the network.

This made it the third company owned by Kinaxia to be asked to leave by Palletline as part of a policy introduced last year – Panic Transport (returned to Pall-Ex) and Foulger Transport (now running in Palletways) are the other two.

Kinaxia Logistics 2

Leitch said: “Kinaxia is now delivering 7% of our freight; I believe one business that controls more than 7% is a potential risk. If that business changes hands that would leave a significant element of freight for our members to cover.”

However, Conroy who counts Kinaxia members amongst his network, described that position as “very negative”.

“A pallet network is a very diverse and open network. You have to be. If I genuinely thought a member or collection of members was working against the network I’d deal with it.

“But I cannot dictate, nor would I, to any business that wants to develop organically or through acquisition. As long as we are aligned in a common goal and a commitment to the membership why would we [have an issue with that].