Clawing back the losses: Will the bubble burst again?

This month our operator has ended a relationship with one of its biggest customers, and explains the reasons why

We parted company today with our biggest non-local authority customer.

From my end at least, it has been coming, but I like to think there was genuine surprise and a bit of sadness on its part. I can’t imagine I will ever get divorced; we’d probably end up arguing who had to take the kids! However, I am reliably informed that if you do, make it as amicable as possible – and this business relationship has ended in the perfect way. It really wouldn’t surprise me if we ended up, figuratively speaking, back in bed together in 12 months’ time.

The work was clean, the drivers liked doing it, and the customer settled its invoices on time. To end the contract is undoubtedly a big risk, and one I may or may not live to regret. Why, then, have we gone our separate ways?

The answers are multiple. The first one being that the tail had started to wag the dog a bit too much for my liking.

The back-office side of the job was becoming more and more onerous, but there were two main reasons:

1. I was quoting work for the back end of 2023, and in my opinion, there are too many variables, with the work being mileage, and the fuel escalators I had built in for 2022 looking very optimistic to say the least.

2. I think I can earn more money easier and with less risk elsewhere.

I wrote the above two days ago, and I now have the Editor of this magazine putting his piña colada down and pressing me as the deadline is due.

I sit looking at my schedules for next week. There is more work than ever out there, and rates seem to be rising faster than fuel and inflation.

The work I quoted for last year, which I am duty bound to honour, is now a severe thorn in our side. I have heard multiple of examples of operators (not brokers) chucking work back and saying they are unable to cover it, and taking more lucrative work elsewhere. That is something I have never done and never want to either, but it is sorely tempting.

While we should all make hay while the sun shines and try to claw back some of our collective losses from the past two years, will the bubble burst again? Or has the number of operators and drivers shrunk to such a degree that those of us that are left will be able to make a better living?

I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess, but suspect the answer lies somewhere between the two. Whatever happens, it’s five weeks and counting until the end of term.

I do know that the work I have booked in over the last couple of months looks a lot more profitable and likely to cause less of a headache than the jobs that have been in the diary for over a year.

Good luck.