by David Jones
A Kent-based haulier, one of the largest in England, has joined a new venture which aims to revolutionise the UK haulage industry.
Privately-owned R Swain, whose head office is in Rochester, has linked up with four other similar businesses under the new brand Harlequin Logistics.
The group will target huge, lucrative national contracts which have previously only been accessible to large corporations.
Swain, which also has sites in Burton upon Trent and Manchester, will be joined in Harlequin by John Raymond from South Wales, Yorkshire's Prestons of Potto, Scotland-based Currie European, and Jack Richards, whose head office is in East Anglia.
The company will be managed by its founder and managing dirtector Paul Smith, who is widely considered to be the UK's leading expert in haulage collaboration.
Paul Burridge will combine his responsibilities as commercial director of R.Swain with a board position in Harlequin Logistics.
Harlequin will target manufacturers and retailers with a substantial UK transport spend.
It aims to win the type of huge national contracts which historically have been accessible only to big corporations such as Wincanton, DHL, Eddie Stobart and Norbert D'Entressangle.
Mr Burridge said: "R.Swain will continue to operate on a stand-alone basis for its existing customers, but will now also be able to compete for big national deals under the Harlequin umbrella.
"The five hauliers involved are all well-known, long-established companies, with good reputations.
"Between us we have over 3,000 pieces of kit and 16 depots, so we can offer a truly national transport product.
"By adopting this collaborative approach, based on the combination of our regional strengths, we will all reduce empty mileage from our fleets, and enjoy commercial and environmental benefits across the board.
"Other than Stobart, there are very few large-scale, asset-based transport providers out there anymore.
"The big PLC's prefer to act as brokers, and earn their margin from sub-contracting work to small hauliers, often at poor rates.
"This approach often results in shoddy service, and since the recession has encouraged buyers to open their minds to a wider range of possibilities, we are confident that Harlequin will make a real impact."