Hauliers are being forced to work "harder and smarter" because soaring fuel prices are eroding their profits, an industry expert has warned.
With the UK having the second-highest diesel prices in Europe transport companies are facing enormous pressure on their bottom lines.
"The coming year is going to be extremely difficult for transport companies," said Lyall Cresswell, Managing Director of the Transport Exchange Group.
"After weathering the recession so far businesses are now faced with sky high fuel prices and little prospect of those coming down.
"Even businesses that have grown their turnover will be facing a challenge as their increased fuel bills are eating into their profits.
"There seems to be little room for manoeuvre as now it appears that the Conservatives’ pre-election talk about amending fuel duty has been put on the back burner by the new coalition Government."
Chancellor George Osborne first suggested a Fair Fuel Stabiliser tax and Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said he would consult on it as part of his pledge to end the "war on motorists". However it did not appear in the coalition’s programme for Government published last week.
"Hauliers are left with few options other than to look long and hard at how efficient their operations are – they need to make every mile count," said Mr Cresswell.
The relentless drive for efficiency is fuelling a surge in popularity of exchanges such as Haulage Exchange and Courier Exchange, both run by TEG.
Members of Haulage Exchange, TEG’s sophisticated online platform for vehicles of 7.5 tonnes and above, are alerted by text or email whenever a suitable load or journey that matches their requirements is posted on the Exchange.
"By using an exchange, members can wave goodbye to the days of trucks running half-full or even empty on return journeys," said Mr Cresswell. "It helps protect their bottom line.
"I am firmly convinced that 2010 is the Year of the Exchange as the many pressures on transport companies intensify."
Equally, using an exchange helps members keep customers happy by providing a trustworthy solution if a customer comes along with an extra job when all their own fleet is committed elsewhere.
Members of both Haulage Exchange and Courier Exchange, the world’s largest trading exchange for the sameday delivery and express freight industry, are carefully vetted to reassure other members they will receive a job well done.
Checks are carried out on both their creditworthiness and statutory documentation and both exchanges encourage members to post e-Bay style feedback about the service they received after organising an exchange.