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Return Loads and Groupage – Maximising Haulage Efficiency
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By: Lyall Cresswell Email Article
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With the price of fuel rising dramatically, the haulage industry faces some of its toughest years in recent memory. Owner operators and haulage companies are looking for ways to keep their businesses afloat as running costs rise and the economy weakens.

There is nothing that can be done to halt the rising cost of fuel – what matters is that you make the highest return on every haulage job that your company runs. Improving the efficiency of your company can take many forms, but two of the most effective ways of increasing profit are through the careful use of groupage and return loads on as many haulage jobs as possible.

What is groupage?

Groupage is the process of combining numerous smaller loads into a single shipment. The benefits are obvious – more deliveries in a single journey gives the maximum return on investment on the fuel and the man-hours that must be paid for that journey.

What is a return load?

A return load is an additional haulage job that is taken on the way back to the depot after the main job has finished. For example, if a haulier takes a delivery from London to Manchester, rather than driving back empty to London once the job is done (leading to so called "dead miles") he can instead pick up a delivery to take back to London.

How do I use groupage and return loads in my company?

First, make sure you spot every opportunity your company has to use groupage or pick up a return load. Since you will be logging the dates, locations and cargo details of every job your company takes, this is surprisingly straightforward; with each job your company takes on, look out for any long return journeys with empty loads, or any deliveries where the vehicle that is likely to be used will not be filled to capacity.

Once you have begun to keep track of opportunities, you need to find the loads to go with them! You can start by making contacts with other haulage and delivery companies in your area, and seeing what the possibilities are for groupage with them. If you have regular deliveries to a particular depot, try and make contacts there to see if they can link your drivers up with return loads.

Finding a return load or groupage opportunity for every job your company take on is a beyond the power of a single person, but luckily, you don’t have to do everything yourself. There are numerous online networks that deal in groupage and return loads, allowing companies around the country to register haulage jobs that need doing and scheduled deliveries that could benefit from groupage or a return load. By signing up to these, you can be connected to numerous other haulage companies around the UK (and in some networks, in Europe or worldwide).

It doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to make groupage and return loads a part of the day to day running of your business. It can have a significant effect on your profits, and in today’s challenging marketplace, good use of return loads and groupage may soon be necessary for the survival of every haulage company.

Lyall Cresswell is the Managing Director for the Transport Exchange Group. Haulage Exchange, their freight exchange for the 7.5 tonne and above market, offers an independent environment for its members to exchange loads and manage their return loads.

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