Widdowson two_trucks (6)

While Motortransport.co.uk did not see as many industry insolvencies or closures in 2016 as in previous years, there were still a number of high-profile cases that shocked the transport sector.

A former Tip-Ex haulier of the year became one of the first business casualties of 2016 when restructuring firm FRP Advisory announced Pryor Group (pictured right) was up for sale.

The engineering and earth moving group had been poised to enter administration in January, due a severe shortfall in working capital and pressure on cashflow.

Fortunately, Hargreaves Services saw its potential and snapped up C.J Pryor (Contracts) and C.J Pryor (Plant) in March for £2.57m, in a move later described by Hargreaves’ MD as “good luck colliding with opportunity”. The sale secured 60 jobs.

Severe cashflow was blamed for Barry-based John T. Evans entering administration in March. It was a member of Palletways and the network stepped in to buy it back out of administration, enabling its two depots in Barry and Avonmouth to remain open with no redundancies after 100 staff transferred over to Palletways.

Towards the end of the year, Deloitte published a progress report claiming it had uncovered financial irregularities prior to Palletways’ acquisition and that the matter was now being investigated by the police.


The following month saw tachograph equipment and compliance software company Tachodisc enter administration, after years of declining turnover and net losses after tax generated, in part, due to the financial costs associated with its pension scheme.

The FTA was quick to acquire the business and said it would fit well with its current service and operation.

April also saw the collapse of Derbyshire-based Surfair Global Logistics, which called in the liquidators just months after losing a contract with DB Schenker – although its financial problems had been apparent for some time.

Distribution partner Landbridge Logistics stepped in to take over some of its work, although as a creditor it was also hit hard by the closure; the liquidators estimated it was owed more than £125,000.

Reasons later cited for its collapse included the owner’s inability to spend sufficient time at the business due to a family bereavement and an unexpected trading loss after inaccurate financial reporting.

The early summer saw a succession of companies going to the wall. James H. Yates & Sons entered liquidation at the end of May, shortly after a reader of sister magazine Commercial Motor said it was chasing payment from the Scottish firm.

BDO began to wind up the haulier, after more than 40 years of trading, and then Police Scotland confirmed it had received a report regarding fraud in relation to the company.

CNR Burrows Transport, Essex haulier Top Gear Distribution and waste disposal company Bale Group all succumbed to either administration or liquidation during May.

CNR Burrows operated up to 25 HGVs out of Tamworth and, according to one creditor owed around £200,000, it had been warned about its financial situation in the days leading up to its liquidation.

J. Clarke Distribution said it had contacted the stricken business, urging it to sort out its accounts shortly before it received a text saying it had lost a major chunk of business.

Bale Group was bought out of administration by Future Industrial Services for £2.1m immediately after Begbies Traynor was appointed in May.

The sale saved jobs and kept up hopes there would be a small dividend to unsecured creditors.

There was no such luck for Top Gear Distribution in Chelmsford. Begbies Traynor said it tried to sell the business as a going concern, but with no offers forthcoming it was placed into administration, with 32 redundancies and the termination of 300 contracts with subcontractors.

Pre-pack administration deals are a controversial arrangement, although on the surface at least, they appear to have helped haulage companies remain afloat this year.

An example is Gogar Logistics in Stirling, which entered administration in June but was quickly sold to Gogar Services the same month. Gogar Services was incorporated in April, shares the same director and has now been issued with a licence authorising 45 HGVs. KPMG said the pre-pack deal also saved 65 employees’ jobs and it kept the business trading.

Another pre-pack arrangement involved the Leicester freight haulier AM Widdowson (pictured top), which had been subject to a company voluntary arrangement since 2015. However, it fell into arrears with both its CVA obligations and its obligations to HM Revenue & Customs.

Birds London Eye

It was sold the same day it went into administration, for £2.5m to a connected party called Widdowson Logistics, a newly formed company in the Davis Haulage Group stable.

A report from Leonard Curtis said the business had been battling various problems ever since the CVA had been agreed, including contract losses, underestimated fuel costs and management systems that were not fit for purpose. HMRC wanted to wind it up, but it quickly entered administration and then was sold, saving 220 jobs and preserving the business.

Widdowson Logistics MD Damion Davis was interviewed by Motor Transport the following month and he admitted that following the CVA it was realised that some of Widdowson’s problems were far larger than anticipated. But as far as he was concerned, the issues had been resolved and his plan was now to grow the business.

This looks to have been confirmed following the recent news that Widdowson Logistics looked like it had bought the name, some assets and business of Birds Transport & Logistics (pictured left). Meanwhile, AM Widdowson’s unsecured creditors are thought to be £13m out of pocket following the pre-pack sale.

Finally, as the doors of 2017 were due to close, DHL was considering closing its DHL Freight UK business after a decade of losses.

In a letter from the company it admitted “fundamental changes” were needed to its UK operation. It could mean up to 600 jobs being cut and the closure of depots in Aberdeen, Newcastle, Wakefield and Bristol.