Macauley Christopher, client relationship manager at Premier Logistics (UK), is only 27 but has already been with the Coalville-based national pallet distribution and contract logistics firm for 14 years. The son of founder and MD Lee Christopher, he started young.

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“I started washing trucks and sweeping decks when I was 13 and have not really had a summer holiday since!” he says. “My dad instilled in me you will only get out of life what you put into it.”

Christopher, pictured, worked his way up through various parts of the business until he was 19 when he took “the leap of faith” into the office.

He says he never had any ambition to get behind the wheel. “My worry was that it would be ‘Mac’s got his licence, let’s send him out’,” he says. “It’s something I always steered away from.”

In 2020, a “back to basics” approach helped Premier trade its way out of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which it had entered in 2018 after a period of “unprecedented financial stress”, and put it on a strong footing to compete in the market.

 Christopher’s current role is to go out and win new business as well look after existing customers.


“Around six years ago, we turned over £25m a year with five or six depots across the UK,” he says. “We grew very rapidly on ad hoc, primarily pallet network, work and didn’t allow ourselves to build the correct culture within our business.

“So we had to make the tough decision to close certain depots and go into CVA. The suppliers voted for it and we paid ourselves out of the CVA within 18 months. That was a proud achievement as it was a five year deal. My dad is a very honourable man and he did not want to close the business down day one, and start it up again on day two.”

Christopher snr also wanted a sound business to pass on to his two sons who were by then both working in Premier.

Today the haulier is based at a 10-acre site with 200,000ft of warehousing in Coalville, Leicestershire plus a couple of satellite depots and turns over £12m a year with a healthy profit margin. Pallet network business now represents a much more sustainable 35% of revenues compared with 70% before the CVA.

“My focus for the longevity of the company is to grow our contract logistics business and make sure the warehouses are full,” says Christopher. “The Coalville warehouse is full which is fortunate as there are lots of empty warehouses around at the moment. That volume feeds our trucks and gets us to the right places for reloading.”

The relative profitability of wheels and sheds fluctuates depending on supply and demand but at present the warehousing makes more than the transport fleet.

“The fleet relies on volumes and we have not yet quite hit the capacity level we want,” Christopher says. “We are working on a large tender for a very reputable company which would increase our night activity by 40% or 50%. We would only need to add a couple of vehicles as we have most of the fleet in place so the contract would be a great addition for us.

“We are making money but not yet the money we want to be making.”

The warehouse is multi-user but only has three customers in the food, healthcare and packaging sectors as Christopher does not want to be working with “20 different customers”.

“That creates too much admin,” he says. “It is generating five to 10 loads a day for our fleet. We are then using Transport Association (TA) members to reload us back to Coalville.”

For five years the warehouse was dedicated to Jaguar Landrover. Christopher is thankful for the five-year partnership and wishes them well for the future. 

The transport fleet mainly carries food, construction, home improvement, packaging and healthcare products.

“We spread our risk quite well,” says Christopher. “When we look at new prospects we ask ‘are they recession-proof’ so we protect ourselves.”

Premier kept replacing vehicles during Covid-19 and the oldest truck on the fleet is three years old. That meant it avoided the hyper-inflation on new truck prices brought about by shortages of vehicles in the pandemic.

The truck of choice for Premier at present is the Volvo FH, making up 70% of the fleet, with the rest being a mix of DAF, Mercedes-Benz and Iveco.

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“Volvo is a prestige vehicle and our drivers love them,” says Christopher. “They also return the best MPG and our dealer, Volvo Truck and Bus Centre Leicester at Bardon, is on our trading estate for any warranty work.”

As the UK enters recession, margins are once again under pressure as customers look to cut costs and squeeze rates.

“We are working harder for less,” says Christopher. “We are having difficult conversations with customers about costs. We will not allow ourselves to get into a race to the bottom.

“There are a lot of companies going bust at the moment and we would be open to acquiring a business if it was in the right area. We are now on a firm foundation with a strong culture and if we were to acquire again I know it would work.”

At present Premier isn’t looking to spread its wings too far and an ideal acquisition would be within 30 miles of Coalville.

“That would be a good starting point,” says Christopher. “What we found difficult with previous acquisitions was the different cultures in different parts of the country. If we stay local we can touch it, feel it and we know how people in our area think.

“That would create volume, then we can look at strategic acquisitions around the UK.”

Premier quit another pallet network to join Palletforce in 2016 and covered most of the LE postcodes. Since then its area has shrunk but it remains in the top five for inputting volume into the hub and Christopher is happy to be a net inputter.

“I don’t want to deliver a lot of freight,” he says. “It is a very tight margin business. If we were located elsewhere in the country having a huge input and a small output wouldn’t work. But because we are only 40 minutes away from Palletforce, 80% of our freight goes directly into the hub. This cuts out a lot of handling and reduces potential damage.”

Premier runs 15 doubledeck trailers on the pallet network trunks but only one is a longer semi-trailer (LST).

“Because we are so close to the hub we don’t see a massive benefit from LSTs,” says Christopher. “Maybe it would be a consideration for later if we started to burst our trunks.”

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The company also joined the Transport Association in January 2023.

“Harry Campey [commercial and operations director of Campeys of Selby] helped us with that so a big thank you to him,” says Christopher. “It has been a massive benefit for us. We meet once a quarter to discuss industry challenges with a great bunch of like-minded family businesses.

“We do a lot of work with Campeys and Farrall’s – if we are in their areas they will reload our trucks back to Coalville. It is great self-help network.”

The self-help aspects of the TA extend to members sharing secure parking, bunkering and breakdown cover when their vehicles are away from base.

“We still have trampers who night-out and service stations are not really safe,” says Christopher. “We make sure they look for a TA yard because we know it’s safe and they have all the facilities. We have our own workshop, bunkers and AdBlue on our site and we provide those services to TA members.”

The idea of the TA forming some sort of buying group to pool buying of trucks and trailers has been discussed at recent meetings, and while it has so far been difficult to agree on a standard spec that would suit every member, the idea is gaining ground for the purchase – and possibly charging – of electric vehicles.

“Manufacturers have come to the group in the past and asked why we don’t do it,” says Christopher. “It is something that could come to fruition. Costs is always a massive challenge and we have 4,000 vehicles in the network so we would have huge buying power.”