‘Cash is King’ is a well-worn cliché, but is as true now as it has ever been.
Another truism is the fact that you can run at a loss for a while, but you can only run out of money once: the bank will pull the plug and you face insolvency and the failure of your business. This means that running at a profit must be the primary aim of any road freight firm.
Unfortunately we are now in the fourth year of a double-dip recession, with conditions being as difficult as many of our members can remember. But – and it is a very big but – there are businesses out there which are making a profit, so it can be done if you do the right things. Put simply, it has never been more important to know your costs and to minimise them; to know your customers and to manage them and to know where your money is and to manage it.
Easily said, I know, but common sense is not always common practice and the long and growing list of company closures contains many examples of people who have lost sight of those basics. While profitability is the overriding priority for any business, road hauliers must also remain compliant at all times, because if things go wrong here, there is a real risk that your Operator’s Licence could be threatened.
The O-licence is a pre-requisite for operation, but we constantly come across businesses which have lost sight of the need to maintain constant vigilance on performance. People become complacent, lazy or even careless and if this results in standards dropping, it only needs a single incident to bring your operation to the attention of VOSA. No one, large or small, can afford to lose sight of the undertakings they make when applying for a licence, but I wonder how many people can remember the key conditions, let alone all of them.
This is even more poignant if you have been through a public inquiry which has resulted in you having to agree to additional undertakings: if you make promises to a Traffic Commissioner you must deliver – otherwise disciplinary action against your licence is almost inevitable.
At first glance, sustainability may not be high on many operators’ agendas but it is a proxy for fuel saving, so it should be. Whatever your views might be on climate change or global warming, the most significant element of your operating costs is your fuel-spend. Yet, somewhat scarily, surveys of the industry always reveal a small, but worrying minority, who claim they do nothing to either monitor or manage fuel use. What planet are these people on? How do they know what their costs are? More importantly, are these firms the most likely to undercut rates and damage both their own prospects and those who do the job properly?
The RHA is here to help you to be profitable, compliant and sustainable in the most difficult of economic climates. Getting things right makes survival all the more likely. With the RHA’s support you can be a survivor.