By almost every considerable measure the 100 largest road transport operators in the UK have had another successful year. Average turnover is up 1.4%; average pre-tax profit is up 2.25%; the average number of people employed is up 1%. It just goes to prove that road transport –based logistics is one of the engine-rooms of the British economy, responsible for £27.8bn of combined business and the employment of some 334,000 people. You can view the Motor Transport Top 100 2016 as an online PDF or as interactive (mobile-friendly) tables.
|Turnover Previous Year
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Next year, however, the Motor Transport Top 100 will look considerably different. The impact of Brexit on the domestic, and international, economy is utterly unknown – with reports and predictions veering wildly from a country in denial ready to head off a cliff, to interpretations of key economic data showing that leaving the EU will not damage Britain. How that manifests itself will become slowly apparent in the 2017 Top 100, as the 2016 version of this list – thanks to the vagaries of accounting - is essentially a representation of economic activity in 2015.
Some 27 of the Top 100 reported year-on-year falls in turnover, while 38 reported year-on-year declines in pre-tax profit – these are proportionally slightly higher than in recent years, but not statistically robust enough to point to any lasting trend. There have been no major company failures in the Top 100 in the past 12 months, while the pre-pack administration at AM Widdowson in July means there is not sufficient enough data to include the latest incarnation of this list.
While the impact of Brexit on the Motor Transport Top 100 is the great unknown, what we are certain of is the sweeping wave of consolidation that is taking place across the industry. In 2016 we’ve seen six operators: TNT, UK Mail, Great Bear Distribution, Goldstar Transport, NR Evans and Macintyre Transport acquired. Next year, with any luck, they will result in combined legal entities with FedEx, DHL, Culina Logistics, NFT Distribution and Turners (Soham) – but until that happens the sextet remain as separate entries in this years’ list.
Waiting to replace them is (at the time of going to press): Stan Robinson; Fagan & Whalley; Arcese UK; ACS&T; JBT Distribution and Knowles Transport. The difference between 100th and 106th is just £2.2m of turnover, while the difference between 100th and 101st was just £81,842.
There are only three new entries in this years’ Top 100. Panther Warehousing and Meachers Global Logistics make it on the back of incredibly strong year-on-year growth, while the only ‘new’ business is BCA Automotive, the logistics division of BCA Marketplace that took the former Autologic business out of Stobart Group and back into the hands of its former chief executive Avril Palmer-Baunack in August of last year.
All this weight of evidence continues to prove that the industry is maturing; consolidating around major players that has benefited from a robust UK economy in recent years. What happens in the coming years in anyone’s guess.