Step-by-step guide to starting a haulage company in the UK

By Billy Gardner - 

Discover our top tips for building the foundations of a successful haulage company.

Lorries parked up - Haulage Exchange

Today’s haulage industry is very different from the one that existed even 30 years ago. Where it once primarily centred around the transport of raw materials such as coal and metal, there is now a growing focus on consumer goods, spurred on by the online retail sphere. 

This has caused an influx of new companies to spring up, creating a highly competitive market for those looking to break into the sector. That being said, it’s still possible to start a thriving hauling business, so long as you go about it in the right way. 

Indeed, the keys to success are relatively simple: namely, that you need to establish a niche and keep your costs low. Of course, this is often easier said than done, especially for small companies who are just starting out. 

That’s why we’ve written this article to help you. Sharing our top tips for building the foundations of a successful haulage enterprise, we hope you’ll find it useful. 

Tip #1. Identify your niche 

When it comes to founding a haulage business, the best place to start is by deciding what sort of service you wish to offer. While there’s nothing to say that you cannot operate in a variety of different areas, it’s often helpful to establish yourself in a particular niche, to begin with, in order to differentiate yourself from your competitors and attract some more specialist clients before you seek to expand. This could include areas such as livestock, waste disposal, parcel delivery, vehicle transport, or a whole host of other options, but whatever specialism you select, do make sure that you do your research first. If there isn’t a large enough market out there for your services, you’ll struggle to get your idea off the ground. 

Tip #2: Decide on the size and type of fleet you want to build

When it comes to building a business, we would usually recommend starting out small as a precautionary measure, but this is entirely down to your discretion. Although it can be tempting to go all-in, statistics from the Road Haulage Association show that many companies operate on a lesser scale, with 87 percent having fewer than five vehicles, and 57 percent have only one. The reason this is a sensible way to operate at the outset is because smaller fleets mean lower overheads – a handy asset in a highly competitive industry. This still gives you the option of building your business as you go, albeit in a more organic and sustainable manner than diving in headfirst. 

Once you’ve settled on how many lorries or trucks you want, you’ll also need to decide whether petrol vehicles, diesel vehicles, or a more eco-friendly option will best suit your business, as well as what size and shape you would like your transport to be. These choices should be made with the services you offer in mind, to ensure that your fleet is ideally suited to the job at hand. Do be aware, too, that vehicles over 3.5 tonnes will require an operator’s license if you wish to use them as part of your business. 

Tip #3: Choose a location

No matter your niche or the size of your fleet, you’re also going to require an operational base, for both storage and maintenance. The location of this is important and must be chosen with great care. A key factor to take into consideration is whether or not there is easy access to important road routes, both for your own drivers and other companies who might deliver products to you.

You’ll also want to think about rental rates. While these are much lower for vehicle warehousing than they are for standard commercial properties, they still vary from region to region, with prices in London, for example, being around three times higher than in Scotland and Wales. Remember, the less you pay, the lower your overheads will be, so be sure to weigh up your outlay against any access considerations.

Tip #4: Work out your costs

Even after finding a suitable location, there is more to think about before you sign on the dotted line. It’s really important not to make any final decisions until you have taken into account all of the necessary considerations, and these include any regular costs you’ll be running. Along with staff wages, vehicle purchase and maintenance, and your rent, they will constitute a large part of your monthly outlay, so make certain that you factor them into your calculations. They include fuel, insurance, vehicle cleaning, and Vehicle Excise Duty, along with the costs we’ve already outlined above.

As you already know, vehicle insurance is mandatory, but it is not the only type of cover you’ll need. Public liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance are also essential, as is the employer’s liability once you hire drivers and/or other members of staff. With this in mind, you might find it easiest to get in contact with a company like Business Choice Direct when arranging your policies.

In addition to having proper insurance in place, there are certain other rules you’ll need to comply with, including tachograph legislation. This was put in place to stop drivers from working past a set number of hours, and flouting it can result in severe penalties.

Tip #6: Sign up to a freight exchange

Last but not least, we’d recommend signing up to a website like Haulage Exchange. Created to make managing freight easier, it is designed to make the entire process of running a haulage company simpler and more streamlined. As well as allowing you to check the status of your freight operations at any time, it has a number of other handy features to help you out.

These not only make it easier to find compliant and trustworthy drivers for your company but can you save time and money too. When it comes to entering the competitive world of the haulage industry, the key to success is laying the groundwork in advance, and with these handy tips, this has never been easier.

If you would like to see how Haulage Exchange can help your start up please give us a call on +44 (0)20 8896 6725 or fill our the form below and we’ll be in touch soon.

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