Expanding Swindon-based firm Les Smith Haulage has laid the foundations for future growth by facing up head-on to the challenges of increasingly strict anti-pollution regulations such as London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone.
A member of the Fortec Distribution Network for the past four years, the family-run firm has expanded its warehousing from 30,000 square feet to 68,000 square feet across two depots and increased the size of its workforce by a quarter.
Substantial investment of around £60,000 in fleet upgrading and staff training has made it well-placed to deliver directly into London’s ULEZ, which will expand in 2021 to cover all of London between the North and South Circular roads.
With FORS Silver accreditation under its belt and most of its fleet – 34 out of 41 vehicles – meeting Euro 6 exhaust emissions standards, it is also future-proofing its business against the farther spread of restrictions on diesel engines in other UK cities.
Five cities have already been ordered to draw up Clean Air Zones – Birmingham, Southampton, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby – and another 28 ordered to draw up plans on reducing the levels of polluting NO₂ in the air.
Company Director Nick Smith said: “We are already being asked to undertake runs into London for other hauliers whose vehicles are not Euro 6 compliant and who would be charged £100 a day to enter the ULEZ.
“I can see this market continuing to grow because the investment required to upgrade to Euro 6 compliant vehicles is substantial. Already a number of smaller carriers are simply shutting up shop because the investment is so large.
“The industry is going through a huge shake-up and it will be a case of survival of the fittest as more and more regulations come into force, including the Clean Air Zones.
“We looked ahead and made the commitment to invest in both warehousing and Euro 6 vehicles, a decision which has definitely paid off. Being part of the Fortec Distribution Network, too, has also given us a competitive advantage.”
Founded in 1975, Les Smith Haulage is now run by its late founders’ sons, Tony, Danny and Nick, and has grown from a one-man operation to employ 53 people, including Tony’s son Craig and Danny’s sons Keiran and Ryan and Nick’s son Frazer.
Specialising in motorbike distribution, storage and delivery, the company has over the years delivered items as diverse as speedboats, jet skis and even a £25,000 bonsai tree.
Most of its fleet of 27 rigids and 14 articulated lorries are Iveco, with a few Mercedes and DAF and the company operates its own fleet of Moffett forklifts to aid in-store deliveries.
Nick Smith who is a member of Fortec’s member board added: “Whilst we class ourselves as a general haulier, our membership of Fortec represents an important part of our business and has played a key part in our continued growth.”