R Swain & Sons is “reinvigorating” its client base and seeking new markets this year after returning to the black in 2021, according to its latest annual results.

The company, which is based in Rochester, Kent, is the largest flatbed operator in the UK and specialises in heavy haulage, specialist lifting, container haulage, bulk solutions and general haulage.

It employs around 460 staff, operates a fleet of more than 400 vehicles and has depots in Rochester, London Gateway, Manchester, Swadlincote, Hatfield, Horley, Swinton and Tilbury.

In its latest annual results to 1 January 2022 the haulage firm announced a return to the black, delivering a pre-tax profit of £763,083, compared to a loss of -£1.4m in 2020. Turnover also rose to £57.7m, up 12% from £51.4m in the previous year.

In its annual review of the business the company said trading was “in line with expectations and ahead of the prior year, despite the continuing Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown during the first quarter of 2021”.

The company battled with a range of challenges through the year, which added to costs, according to the report.

It said: “A shortage of drivers caused by several factors, including the continuing effects of the UK leaving the European Union, the rate of pay being insufficient, and lockdown measures impacting employees' outlook and demand, all resulted in several pay adjustments for our workforce thus increasing our operating costs.

“There have also been significant increases in vehicle and trailer costs during the year, which has forced us to pass higher rate increases onto our customers.”

The directors also paid tribute to their staff for the “exceptional efforts and dedication” they displayed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“They have ensured that the business has been able to react quickly and effectively in continuing to play its essential role in servicing the UK supply chain whilst also improving operational performance.

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“The directors were pleased to recognise employees efforts, in particular drivers, through the award of a loyalty bonus payment made in December 2021.”

Plans for this year and beyond include strengthening the client base and seeking new complimentary markets, to build on the success already achieved this year, the report said.

“This is now naturally leading to further innovation around the introduction of electric lorries to aid sustainability in its trading environment and as part of the wider community.

“Careful financial management has allowed the group to maintain both operational and financial stability and leaves the group in a strong position to grow its operations profitably and progressively,” it concluded.

Earlier this month Swain announced the acquisition of Nottingham-based Proctors Transport (Langar) and W Coy & Son, which boosts the services it can provide in construction and specialist movements.

The purchase came after it won a number of contracts in building materials distribution.

The new additions give Swain nine specialist sectors within which it can provide distribution services.

Proctors was established in 1969 and is a long-standing haulier for Tarmac. It holds an international licence authorising 40 HGVs and 70 trailers out of its Langar operating centre.

Proctors acquired W Coy & Son in 1989 and with it a significant agricultural contract, which it still holds today.