Small tipper fleets face rates disaster
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by Derren Hayes • Hundreds of small tipper operators are close to collapse because they can no longer absorb the continuing fall in rates caused by a steady decline in work.
With many already working at the limit of their overdrafts, the decimation of the roads programme and the downturn in the construction market are expected to spell the end for many small firms. Tippers standing idle for days at quarries and hauliers running at a loss have become a regular occurrence, particularly for ownerdrivers and those operating 2-8 vehicles.
Bob Stacey, secretary of The Road Haulage Association's Tipper Group, says it's a country-wide problem but is particularly bad in Devon, Cornwall and Scotland.
Aggregates firm ARC, which runs 29 quarries in the South-West, has been advising hauliers to get out of the business because there are too many competing for less work. ARC Western's distribution manager Chris Day says: "Rates aren't being cut deliberately but are being forced down by operators themselves— undercutting is becoming increasingly evident."
George Harris, who runs Avonbased Harris Transport with his brother James, has started to sell part of the sevenvehicle fleet that has taken 18 years to build up, and he faces the prospect of cutting jobs. "I know for a fact several hauliers at the quarry where I work are on the bread line." he says. "It's survival of the fittest at the moment and rates are likely to decrease again this year."
Paul Maggs of Paul Maggs Transport says: "You have no choice; either you park up or work for less money. Lots have already got out or are struggling and it's only a matter of time before more do."