Next year the Top 100 will have a new number one. Last month Royal Mail floated on the Stock Exchange and – free of its ties to the public purse and the Post Office – the parcels, mail and post giant with a turnover of £7.7bn will dwarf all other road-based logistics providers in the UK.

Turnover Latest£138m
Turnover Previous Year£175m
Profit Latest£4.06m
Profit Previous Year£1.31m
Return on Sales2.61%
Return on Sales Previous Year0.86%

We’ve excluded it from this year’s Top 100 as it is yet to file a set of full-year accounts to shareholders – and with the possibility of a genuine, open market for mail movements, we’ve included TNT Post for the first time too. Privatising the Royal Mail means that DHL’s reign at the top will come to an end.

However, in compiling this year’s Top 100 it became evident that the world of road transport-based logistics is becoming increasingly polarised into specialisms. DHL is the big beast in contract logistics in the UK, but in October its Express division announced its intention to sell its same-day domestic business to Rico Logistics. Comparing DHL with Royal Mail is apples and oranges.

This year, the activity is outside of the number-one slot. Our biggest mover is Norbert Dentressangle. Now with TDG firmly bedded in, the distance between it and Wincanton at number two is probably one or two lucrative contracts. In the same vein, Stobart will make its move up the chart once Autologic has its time to bed in.

Outside the major 3PLs and the parcels giants, it is interesting to note how the market is fragmenting. Family hauliers are getting big, or getting niche. Bibby, Turners and Gregory have all made some serious acquisitions over the past three years. Downton is doing the same, but we’ve not included its recent acquisition, C&H (Hauliers), in its numbers. Malcolm Group and Great Bear are in there without the acquisition activity.

The chilled networks are almost as big as each other – Culina, Fowler Welch and NFT are bunched together tighter than an English slip cordon. The mid-range in the list all have their specialities – be it automotive, containers or tankers – before you get to the groupage market that does not have any economies of scale and struggles to top £40m a year turnover. The only elements these businesses share today in any competitive sense is that they need trucks and trailers to pull their customers’ goods.

Winning new business outside of an organisation’s core strengths is rare as hen’s teeth these days, so much so that you have to acquire to do it (like Potter Group did with House of James to get into the pallets market and make it as a new entry in 2013).

What is remarkable, however, is the growth in turnover: 72 firms in the Top 100 saw turnover increase year-on-year. Earlier this month, the CBI said there was “slow and steady growth” in the UK economy; if that’s so, next year should be an even stronger one for the Top 100 operators.

More importantly, 71 firms saw a year-on-year increase in profit. I’d bet that transport bosses would take slow and steady growth like this in the 12 months to come.

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Motor Transport Top 100 2013