Welcome to the Motor Transport Top 100 2017. This is the definitive list of the largest operators of commercial vehicles in the UK; by turnover; by pre-tax profit and by employee numbers. Our interactive tables, exclusive to Motor, provide the quickest and easiest way to benchmark the performance of logistics and transport businesses.

Now you can track the UK performance of DHL, UPS, FedEx and TNT against each other; or Eddie Stobart Logistics against XPO Logistics and Wincanton. For those in the parcel market you can see how DPD; Hermes and Yodel stack-up. How does your business compared to the competition. You can view the Motor Transport Top 100 2017 as an online PDF or as interactive (mobile-friendly) tables.

Turnover Latest£280,401,268
Turnover Previous Year£277,015,403
Profit Latest£10,903,856
Profit Previous Year£10,393,486
Employees Latest Year3,406
Employees Previous Year3,331
Sales per Employee£138,357
Change in Sales per Employee2.36%
Profit per Employee£6,061
Change in Profit per Employee1253.78%
Return on Sales2.95%

Motor Transport Top 100 2017 Analysis

On the face of it, the 100 largest road transport operators in the UK have had another successful year… however it comes with a ‘but’.

The Good: there’s plenty to be pleased about this year. On the most basic measures; average pre-tax profit is up 4.5% and the average number of people employed is up 75 to 3,406. These 100 companies contribute some £28bn to the overall economy of the UK, and employ some 340,500 people.

There’s more to be glad about: 65 of the 100 businesses listed saw year-on-year increases in turnover. Concerns over the Brexit state of the economy appear not to have stifled growth. Yet…

The Bad: More than one third (35) of the Top 100 saw year-on-year turnover fall and almost half (48) saw a year-on-year fall in pre-tax profit. That’s the largest number of pre-tax profit fallers since the recession, and way higher than the 38 who saw similar falls last year.

This could be put down to several reasons. Operators, particularly of the largest fleets, have splurged capital outlays on new trucks like crazy since the introduction of Euro-6. And particularly in the past two years. There’s plenty of evidence from both the SMMT and the OTC to prove that. Relinquishing some of that built up cash on the balance sheet is no bad thing for the road transport industry at large, particularly if the most logical assumption is that it is being spent on technology.

That has though resulted in an average return on sales of 2.98% - way below the 4.02% demonstrated in the same survey last year. When the industry operates on wafer thin margins such fluctuations are accentuated.

We’ll have to wait and see as to whether this profit position is sustainable in the long-term, or a one-off as the result of Euro-6. If it’s a new norm then the industry should have some concerns about its long-term profitability and cost-base.

The acquisition activity… We expected a fair bit of churn in the Top 100 this year: we’ve said goodbye to Great Bear Distribution, NR Evans, Goldstar Transport and Macintyre Transport. Thanks to the vagaries of corporate restructures and financial reporting these four have merged into parent entities Culina, NFT Distribution and Turners (Soham) respectively.

TNT and UK Mail remain separate listings for now. FedEx’s integration of TNT continues slowly (see notes), with both businesses remaining separate legal entities in the UK, where as DHL is yet to fold UK Mail into the framework of the family just yet… we should expect more clarity as 2018 unfolds.

Outside of M&A activity there has still been a bit of churn towards the bottom end of the rankings. There are eight ‘new’ entries into the Top 100 this year, with operators in the £20m to £30m playing musical chairs. The difference between 100th and 101st (apologies to JBT Distribution) is about a semi-detached house in the south-east of England, or £329,414.

One thing we haven’t acknowledged is average turnover growth, which is up 1% year-on year. However, the Top 100 never adjusts for inflation. In 2016 (of which the vast majority of financial reporting in the Top 100 covers) UK inflation stood at 0.64%. So the market outgrew inflation, just.

In 2017 inflation currently stands at 2.58%. There is every chance that in real terms, the value of the 2018 Top 100 could be much lower than this 2017 iteration.

PDF version

pdf icon.png

View the Motor Transport Top 2017 as an online PDF. The PDF will open in a new browser tab. Use the icons at the bottom to navigate through the pages, zoom in, or print.


Interactive tables version

spreadsheet 1

View the Motor Transport Top 100 2017 as interactive tables. Fully responsive on mobile devices.