Welcome to the 2018 Motor Transport Power Players, the editorial team’s take on who will be the key influencers – including some of those who are up and coming in the industry rather than the established names – on the transport and logistics industry this year.

We have decided to rule out politicians, regulators and trade associations this year just to shake things up, as while roles such as the senior traffic commissioner, transport minister and head of the DVSA are vital, they are, by nature, immutable.

Hopefully this year’s list will be food for thought and perhaps a little controversial, so feel free to let us know what you think and who should be in next year’s line-up.

Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla

The Tesla boss certainly generated a lot of publicity with the launch of the Tesla Semi, the world’s first – and possibly last – electric long-haul truck. With the electric vehicle company burning through money like a 1990s merchant bank, the cynics suggested the Semi was nothing more than a PR stunt to attract more investment.

So why is Musk in Power Players? The answer is that even if the Semi never turns a wheel in anger, it has got people talking about the long-term problem of how the world will shift heavy loads over long distances in a future when diesel either runs out or is no longer allowed because of its carbon emissions.

While we here at MT seriously doubt a 38-tonne truck with 14 tonnes of batteries is the solution to this problem, every transport operator needs to start thinking about truly sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels (and that includes natural gas, which is a very attractive medium-term low-emissions heavy truck fuel).

John Williams, MD, Maritime Transport

Attracting and retaining good-quality drivers has been a headache for many operators in recent years. But Maritime Transport MD John Williams has taken major steps to ensure that his company is offering drivers a rewarding career.

Not only does it look after its existing driver workforce by providing high-quality toilet and shower facilities and competitive wages, it is also working on getting new blood into the industry through various driver training schemes.

John Williams

Maritime Transport has teamed up with Scania to offer drivers that qualify through the manufacturer’s driving school a place on its year-long driver training programme. Drivers receive regular assessments, structured career progression and access to a long-term mentor.

Ex-armed forces personnel are also offered career opportunities at the container haulier, assisting with their transition into civilian life.

Lloyd Dunn, CEO, DX Group

2017 was a hell of a year for DX Group. With an £80m loss to its name and a share price that has plummeted 90% since 2015, the eyes of the transport industry will be firmly fixed on new boss Lloyd Dunn as he tries to turn the business around, quickly.

Lloyd Dunn resized

Dunn has previous with business transformation, having been at the helm of competitor Tuffnells’ rescue in between 2002 and 2014, and has a personal tie to DX after his business Nightfreight was sold to the operator in 2012.

Surrounded by a new leadership team including fellow Nightfreight co-founder Russell Black, Dunn has the power to help one of the UK’s most recognisable delivery brands to sink or swim after years of difficulty. Lending the business £5m out of his own pocket suggests Dunn is feeling confident in the business’s durability, but only time will tell.

Charlie Shiels, CEO, Arrow XL

ArrowXL is one to watch this year. With former DPD man Charlie Shiels installed at the top of the two-man delivery business and an impressive growth trajectory that has seen annual turnover increase by half (49%) since 2013, we’re expecting great things from the former YodelXL, freed from its sister company’s infamous brand.

charlie shiels arrowxl

From a low of 2013 where it made a loss of £7m, the ship has been turned around and back in profit, culminating in a £2.7m pre-tax profit on £82m turnover in the year to June 2016 (its latest published figures as MT went to press). This from a habitually loss-making business is to be applauded, and despite a fire gutting one of its biggest sites last year, Arrow shows no sign of stopping.

Its AskXL tracking software and web app has revolutionised two-man delivery in the country and its customer-centric ethos has won two MT Awards, to date. After assuming the CEO role, Shiels said he has “big plans for the future” of ArrowXL.

Alex Laffey, CEO, Eddie Stobart Logistics

Family firms have been synonymous with road haulage for four generations, but Eddie Stobart Logistics entered a new phase of its illustrious history in May 2017 when it broke away from Stobart Group and listed itself on the AIM stock exchange. Before the flotation, William Stobart stood down as a director, ending the Stobart family connection with eponymous haulage company founded by Eddie Stobart senior in 1970.

Laffey, who has 25 years’ experience with one of ESL’s largest clients, Tesco, came into the business in 2015 and is an example of the new breed of professional logistics bosses who were not born or brought up in haulage (think also of finance man Adrian Colman who runs the only other large listed British logistics firm, Wincanton).

Alex Laffey

There is without doubt a place for family firms in the transport industry – they can make decisions for the long term without worrying about pressure from shareholders for short-term profit – but they can suffer from difficult access to funding and problems with succession as the next generation often don’t fancy the high risk and low rewards of haulage.

Nigel cook, CEO, Elddis Transport

With Brexit proving to be a cause of great uncertainty, smaller operators such as Nigel Cook’s Elddis Transport are to play a vital role in keeping the wheels of the UK economy turning.

A former MT Haulier of the Year, the company is putting “strong and stable” into action. Last year it recorded a turnover of £25.6m, and Cook said he was focused on steadily expanding its customer base.

Nigel Cook Elddis transport Consett Ltd

“We’re trying to slowly grow the business, in a controlled manner, making sure we’re profitable, which is the most important thing, and we manage the cash flow to make sure the business is successful,” Cook told MT last year.

Whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations, operators such as Elddis Transport – and MT readers in general – are sure to provide a consistent and vital service to the UK economy, without fuss.

John and Steve Cartwright, Joint MDs, Tiger Trailers

When brothers John (left) and Steven (right) left the family firm Cartwright Group and said they were going to set up a rival trailer builder Tiger Trailers, they were met with a degree of scepticism. With the UK market already awash with product from domestic and overseas trailer builders, was there room for a brash new start-up to set up a new manufacturing plant from scratch? As it turns out there was, and Tiger’s first three years have been so successful it has just relocated to a bigger factory to cope with demand. Even better news is that Tiger’s success hasn’t been at the expense of Cartwright Group, which has just had a record year.

Tiger Trailers John Cartwright L and Steven Cartwright r

Tiger has benefited from some former Cartwright customers keeping faith with it and giving it initial orders – but no one can build a successful business on favours alone. Rather, the Tiger has roared due to genuine innovation in areas such as moving deck double-deck trailers and producing a quality product at the right price. Reports of the death of British manufacturing have been exaggerated.

Peter Fields, director, Kinaxia Logistics

Kinaxia Logistics has existed for a few years now – with its 2015 purchase of Lambert Brothers bringing it to wider attention – but it was in 2016 that it started to disrupt the market, and in some cases cause friction in its pursuit of a number of pallet network members.

Peter Fields Kinaxia Logistics resized

It represents more broadly a wave of new consolidators in the SME section of the road transport market – James Dolan Group signalling similar intent with its purchase of Dooley Rumble in November – that are offering those with grey hairs an exit strategy.

With BC Transport becoming haulage company number nine under the Kinaxia brand, Fields has promised yet more activity to kick off the new year.

If the past year is anything to go by, there may well be another member of Kinaxia by the time you read this.

Martijn de Lange, CEO, Hermes UK

Martijn de Lange stepped into Carole Walker’s role as CEO of Hermes UK in November. That in itself would be quite a task at this MT Award-winning business.

The new boss has spoken of the advantages of having the former UK boss Walker running the Hermes European operation, but a true test of de Lange’s abilities will be how he negotiates the emotive issue of workers’ rights.

martijn de lange

This has seen the company come under fire in the mainstream media, receive scrutiny from a select committee, HMRC getting involved and legal action from the GMB union.

There was a pause due in part to a referendum and then a general election, but the issue is far from dead. Depending on how well de Lange navigates the treacherous waters ahead, the potential is there not to simply affect just how Hermes runs its operation but the wider sector and road transport as a whole. That makes de Lange a power player in our book, and a man who could have a profound effect on many operators in the logisitcs sector.

David Batty, fleet manager, Abbey Logistics

Abbey Logistics appointed the highly experienced Batty as its fleet engineer to bring some extra technical expertise to the fast-growing tanker company. Batty, also chairman of the influential British (formerly Brewery) Transport Advisory Committee, is evaluating a range of natural gas tractor units, a line-up from which DAF is notably absent.

David Batty Abbey Logistics resized 1

Abbey has been a long-term DAF customer and it would be a significant step in the development of gas trucks if Batty recommends the operator – twice MT Haulier of the Year – goes for Iveco, Scania or Volvo gas trucks.

Batty is a hard-headed engineer, not a fluffy environmentalist, so he would never go for gas just for green window dressing. Gas trucks would have to justify themselves on commercial, technical and driver acceptability grounds against established diesel vehicles before Batty would add them to his hard-working fleet.

We all eagerly await the outcome of his rigorous evaluation.