Welch’s Transport has resumed normal service this week after being forced to cancel all non-contractual bulk collections and deliveries last week due to record freight volumes.
The family firm, which operates a fleet of 80 trucks, said demand over Easter, combined with the government’s decision to ease lockdown and allow non-essential shops to re-open just after Easter, created unusually high demand.
In a letter to customers last week, the Palletline and Hazchem member said it was suspending all bulk collections and deliveries (from 14 April) for the remainder of the week “as freight volumes are still too high for us to provide a reliable service".
“We are doing all we can to clear the backlog with extra shifts and resource but we will not be able to catch up this week. It added the suspension was due to “the unprecedented volume we have seen since the build up to the Easter weekend which has not declined”.
Welch MD Jim Welch told motortransport.co.uk: “We are back to normal now, although we had to suspend service to a small number of our non-contractual customers for several days last week.
“This is a sector-wide problem, which has been caused by the usual Easter volume spike coinciding with the stock replenishment of high street retail and the pubs, clubs and hospitality sectors, as they prepared to unlock on 12 April.
Welch’s Transport also reported its latest annual results this week for the year to 31 December 2020, which saw the company climb out of the red. Whilst turnover declined to £12.5m (2019: £14.1m), the company managed to turn a loss of £75,635 in 2019 to a pre-tax profit of £75,635 by the end of 2020, despite the pandemic.
The strategic report to the results said the impact of the pandemic peaked in April and May with revenues down by a third, 30% of the staff furloughed and 40% of the transport fleet off the road, resulting in “significant” losses in both months.
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However the firm made a rapid recovery. “By August use of the furlough scheme had all but ended, the fleet was back on the road and the majority of revenues had returned.
“A small number of customers involved in hospitality and high street retail were lost for good. Selling and business development did not pause at any point and there was reasonable success in bringing on new customers throughout the year,” the report said.
The company also took advantage of the slow-down in April and May to restructure parts of the business and finish “long overdue” projects resulting in improved levels of efficiency and productivity. It also stopped using agency drivers, giving the firm the added benefit of a “stable, employed driver complement”.
The newly-relocated Bedford transport operation delivered the business's strongest profit, closely followed by its Cambridge Truck dealership. The Cambridge transport operation also traded profitably, delivering an improved performance.
However the group’s Peterborough Truck Centre and its St Ives specialist movement and mobile crane hire operation both struggled to break even, due to the impact of the pandemic on their customer bases, the report said.
Looking ahead, Jim Welch told MT that after a quiet start, 2021 is now delivering record volumes.
“There was a noticeable upswing in mid-February building up to the last three weeks where we have seen record week after record week, volume-wise.
“This has been across the board from network volumes, through shared-user groupage to full load, for hazardous and non-hazardous freight,” he added.