UK: "2012 to be the most challenging year so far"

Eardley International, based in the UK, have extensive experience of refrigerated haulage both in the UK and Europe and operate currently in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain on a weekly basis. The company specializes in time-critical loads, within the fresh produce, meat and dairy industries, although they also carry processed foods and a range of other goods.

Eardley International operates a modern, well maintained fleet. The drivers are trained and experienced in transporting temperature-controlled products. The company runs 26/33 pallet fridges, all of which are fitted with thermographs to monitor and record the temperature of goods.

All vehicles are fitted with GSM technology to enable accurate load tracking. In the unlikely event of a problem, the company provides 24/7 cover of the office telephones.

Owner, Graham Eardley started the company back in 1997 as a "one man band" owner/driver. The company evolved from livestock transportation to refrigerated trucks carrying meat from the UK to Spain and Portugal and returning with fruit and vegetables.

Graham says, "The trade has never been as difficult as it is right now. There are fewer exports of British goods to Europe causing a natural imbalance in trade and transport. This is due to the economic situation. British goods are too expensive for countries such as Spain and Portugal." He goes on to say there have also been less fruit and veggies coming into the UK since Christmas.

One of the main issues in the transport sector at the moment is the rising price of fuel. Graham says there has been an increase of 2 pence in the diesel price in the last week alone. This combined with the pound/Euro exchange rate is not a good thing for trade with Europe. A few years ago fuel made up a third of costs, whereas these days it is more like 40-50 percent.

Graham does not expect the situation to change in the near future. "I expect 2012 to be the most challenging year so far. We will see a reduction in the number of haulage companies within Europe in the coming year. Certain companies, for example those from Eastern Europe, who came on the scene backed by EU grants, are starting to find it difficult to carry on. Fresh produce producers will need to start considering transport costs as a priority instead of as an afterthought."

On a brighter note though, Graham says there have been many positive changes in the industry through the years. "The establishment of the EU has been a very positive step. Border relaxation and free trade have given the industry a huge boost. Within this, UK haulers are seen as trustworthy and reliable and can therefore provide added value to European transport services."