Amtrak goes into administration again

I know there are a few same day courier companies who’ve been subcontracting to Amtrak who will have had their fingers burnt, yet again, on this one. A bit of homework could probably have avoided most serious losses.

Yes, Amtrak Express Parcels has gone bump for the second time in 20 months. This time it’s Netfold Ltd, the ‘white knight’ that bought the business from the administrators of Amtrak Express Parcels Limited in January 2007, that’s been put into administration.

This one caught me by surprise a bit – I predicted last summer that one of the parcel networks had less than a year to survive, but not Amtrak. As it turns out the two companies that I’d earmarked as possible contenders for the wooden spoon have both reported increasing turnover and profits, the one that I predicted would do great things this year seems to be in terminal decline and now Amtrak, acquired on presumably very good terms from the administrators, has gone into administration.

Alarm bells first started to ring in April when I noticed that Netfold Ltd had failed to file its accounts by the due date. It may seem slightly naïve of me but I’ve always held the belief that a company that doesn’t file its accounts by the due date is either suffering from incompetent management, Read More…

Posted under Courier Business

Posted by Alec at 4:29 pm, August 26, 2008

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DHL to move urgent mail by speedboat

I’ve been meaning to check up on this story since I read it a couple of weeks ago.

The story as a whole is quite interesting and just goes to show that high fuel prices and congestion can certainly help to focus minds on getting freight off the roads. It was this line that caught my interest though: “international courier firm DHL is looking to move urgent mail from central London to Heathrow by speedboat to avoid congestion in the capital.”

I’ve been unable to find out any more information on DHL’s proposed scheme, an email to their Press Office went unanswered, but it’s certainly an intriguing possibility. However, I looked into the feasibility of a scheme like this a few months ago and quickly discounted the idea as being of little value to the same day courier industry or to any other Read More…

Posted under Fuel Prices, Uncategorized

Posted by Alec at 12:12 pm, August 25, 2008

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National Road Pricing Scheme a possibility again – apparently

This report in the Telegraph claims that the Government are going ahead with plans to test satellite-based tracking with a view to using it as the basis of a national road-pricing scheme.

It was also the Telegraph that broke the story last October that these plans had apparently been shelved, or “back burnered” as it was put. It’s now clear that far from being shelved the plans for tests into the viability of national road charging are now at an advanced stage, with trials set to start in January 2010.

Personally I see little problem with the concept of a national road-charging scheme, however it seems clear to me that these trials will be a multi-million pound waste of money with huge potential profits for consultancy firms but little, if any, chance of the plans actually reaching fruition. It seems entirely likely that there will be at least one change of government before any national road-charging scheme is introduced and I don’t believe that any party will have the political will to see this through.

It’s only necessary to look at what’s happening in Manchester at the moment to see that motorists and the business community will use any argument possible to promote Read More…

Posted under Fuel Prices, Protests & Strikes, Tolls, Charges & Fines

Posted by Alec at 7:49 pm, August 18, 2008

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The Growing Dangers of Late Payment for Businesses that Pay Late

In the current business climate most same day courier companies are more concerned with how quick they can collect the money due from their customers than they are with whether they pay their suppliers late. Quite often all the money coming in goes straight out to the ‘important’ creditors – fuel card company, van hire, landlord, drivers’ wages etc, leaving the ‘less important’ suppliers to wait for their overdue payments.

I’ve warned many times of the dangers of running businesses like this and it seems from anecdotal evidence that some companies are finally having to count the cost of paying their suppliers late.

With the soaring cost of fuel and the general slowdown in the economy it seems that some transport company owners have decided that it will be more profitable to cease their transport operations and concentrate on collecting the outstanding debts accumulated under the late payment legislation.

The Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 (see http://www.payontime.co.uk for further information) gives businesses a statutory right to claim daily interest from other businesses for the late payment of commercial debt. In addition businesses have the right to a compensation payment of between £40 and £100 for each invoice which is paid later than agreed terms. If no terms are agreed then the terms default to the later of 30 days from the day the service is performed (for pre-agreed amounts) or 30 days from the date the cost is confirmed.

Both the interest and the compensation payments are chargeable on each invoice paid late, are payable on demand and are claimable up to six years after the date they become payable – i.e. up to six years after the payment becomes late. They are payable even after the initial debt has been paid in full.

Companies are potentially storing up a time bomb by paying their customers late. As an example, a courier company which carries out 5 local jobs per week for a customer over a 6 year period, each one of which is invoiced on a separate invoice and each one of which is paid late, could potentially issue a claim after 6 years for £62,400 against that one customer in late payment compensation charges alone.

If a company issues just 25 invoices each week which are paid late Read More…

Posted under Courier Business, Courier Financial Issues, Late Payment, Legal Issues

Posted by Alec at 2:34 pm, August 16, 2008

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The end of the road for biodiesel in the UK?

Same day couriers and other transport companies are increasingly turning to biodiesel to avoid the soaring cost of fuel. Some entrepreneurial transport companies have even started making their own biodiesel both for their own use and for resale to business associates.

In 2002, after much lobbying and with the approval of the EU, the UK introduced a lower rate of duty for biodiesel. At the time the biodiesel production was limited to a few enthusiastic companies who mainly produced their biodiesel from waste vegetable oil (WVO), used cooking oil from Fish & Chip shops etc, and before the introduction of this welcome ‘subsidy’, were able to produce fuel at a price that was slightly higher than traditional diesel fuel.

The introduction of the reduced rate of duty sparked a lot more interest in the production of biodiesel, increasing the demand (and the cost) for WVO and pushing biodiesel producers towards the use of virgin vegetable oil (VVO), which is anyway easier to process.

Move forward to 2008 and suddenly biofuel production seems a lot less ‘green’ than it was. Higher oil prices have increased the viability of fuel production from VVO and farmland throughout the world is being turned over to the production of oil and ethanol producing crops, forcing food production onto previously uncultivated land and leading to deforestation, worldwide food shortages and ultimately increasing the levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The UK Government had already announced that biodiesel will be taxed at the same rate as normal diesel from 2010 but it had been hoped Read More…

Posted under Fuel Prices

Posted by Alec at 4:10 pm, August 14, 2008

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RHA bleating over M4 toll road plans

I’m becoming more and more irritated by the insistence of the RHA that the country as a whole should help hauliers run their businesses profitably.

This article about the proposed M4 toll road demonstrates my point perfectly. It reports ‘warnings’ from the RHA that “plans for an M4 toll relief road would cripple haulage businesses delivering into Wales and seriously damage the economy”.

RHA regional director Mike Farmer is reported as suggesting that a private company builds the road and then the Government repays it back over a period of time, based on traffic counts on the new road, or “shadow tolling” as it’s known.

While the PFI shadow toll suggestion is certainly workable, it’s hardly a fair solution to the problem. The A55 extension across Anglesey is funded by just such a scheme, the 20 mile stretch of dual carriageway is expected to have cost every Welsh resident over £130 by the time the road’s been paid for in 2026. This is for a road which provides no benefit whatsoever to the vast majority of the Welsh population and is mainly used by foreign hauliers who pay nothing Read More…

Posted under Tolls, Charges & Fines

Posted by Alec at 11:39 am, August 13, 2008

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Are High Fuel Prices Good for the UK Transport Industry?

Two months ago I wrote that I was starting to think that high fuel prices may be a good thing for the same day courier industry. I’ve revisited my original post in the light of the recent drop in fuel prices, recent statistics about car use and the exit from the business of quite a few less profitable owner-drivers and courier companies and I still stand by my opinions. In fact I’d go as far as to say that I’m a bit disappointed that fuel prices are dropping again so soon.

The effect on the same day courier industry has been largely mirrored, or possibly even magnified, in the transport industry in general.

The RHA and the hauliers are still, of course, bleating about haulage companies going out of business because of high fuel prices. The reality is that the only haulage companies who are suffering because of high fuel prices are those who didn’t have the foresight to tie their customers into contracts with provision Read More…

Posted under Fuel Prices

Posted by Alec at 6:34 pm, August 12, 2008

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Drivers Left Stranded by High Fuel Prices

This report by the Sunday Mirror made me smile – both because of the apallingly inaccurate reporting and because it reminded me of a couple of conversations I’ve had over the last few months – one with an experienced same day courier who really should have known better.

According to the Mirror the recent high fuel prices have been causing more motorists to cut back on servicing their cars and because of that more motorists have been stranded by breakdowns.

Apparently an AA spokesman warned: “More and more motorists are running their cars until the warning light comes on.

“Apart from the risk of breaking down on a busy road, it also causes longterm damage to the car.”

I don’t think that I’ve read this particular AA survey, I certainly can’t find it on their website, but I’d guess from the next paragraph of the Mirror report Read More…

Posted under Fuel Prices

Posted by Alec at 7:49 am, August 11, 2008

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