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John Allison, Managing Director, first entered the freight industry in 1972 with Townsend Car Ferries and, five years later, was headhunted by a freight forwarder. He worked in direct haulage throughout the 80’s before starting Comfret in 1990, a move which coincided with the establishment of the single European market and the consequent liberalisation of customs procedures.
Founded in 1990, Comfret has over 15 years’ experience of successful transport operations into Europe and offers a range of flexible, reliable services tailor-made to individual customer requirements. Today the company runs a small fleet of 18-ton vehicles and smaller tautliners with up to 10-ton capacity. The mainstay of Comfret’s business is a daily London/Paris service on which five trucks are permanently engaged. The company works mainly for the freight forwarding industry offering a seamless collection and direct delivery service for partloads and groupage, in most cases without transhipment. In this way, on-wheels deliveries get the agent's goods to their final destination quicker and cheaper than going through depot. Consignments vary widely and include hazardous goods in limited and restricted quantities.
Comfret is, first and foremost, a haulier but also represents something of an industry hybrid in that it regularly acts as a freight forwarder and will routinely subcontract work. The company also makes vehicles available on demand to anywhere in Europe, which generates a great deal of repeat business. This often involves ‘sensitive’ goods such as computer equipment, exhibition materials or fine art where transhipment would be inappropriate.
Comfret services almost 400 customer accounts in a more or less 50/50 French/English ratio.
According to John Allison, founder and Managing Director, Teleroute has played a significant part in the Comfret story since the company’s very first day of operation back in 1990. At the time, the service was provided via the telephone-based Minitel system, a far cry from the user-friendly, always-on, webbased facility of today. Even so, Teleroute has always proved an integral and indispensable part of day-to-day operations.
The company’s loyalty to Teleroute speaks volumes in itself. Comfret finds Teleroute particularly useful when seeking a load for someone else’s truck and will also use it to scan for freight when sending a truck into unfamiliar areas. "Teleroute comes into its own when looking for consignments to fill a lorry - ‘stocking fillers’ as we call them. It very often finishes off a lorry, and it’s good to find freight along our route because it minimises negative mileage". "Teleroute is a quick and efficient tool and is an effective way of communicating with drivers by SMS message, or planning routes and calculating the German tolls," explains John.
"Teleroute has developed dramatically over the years with the addition of tools such as these, and I’m sure there’s a lot more to come out of it". "Teleroute is on from start of business to close of business every day. We use it to send SMS messages to drivers several times a day; for route-planning in Germany because of the Maut calculator; to advertise jobs when we subcontract; to advertise a lorry if in unknown territory".
"The other great thing about it is that it puts you in touch with new contacts whom you know are reliable and trustworthy". "We’re becoming more dependant on Teleroute as a market-place for freight. It tells us what’s going on out there. We regard it very much as a ‘weather vane’ for the industry and in that sense it helps us in our planning and enables us to improve our operational efficiency". "Teleroute has been the backbone of our business for over 15 years," he concludes.
Thanks to the blessing of broadband, the Teleroute system is always on and is consulted repeatedly throughout the day. Every week, Comfret gains around six loads via Teleroute, which accounts for around 8% of all consignments carried by the company. Based on an annual turnover of around £600,000, John Allison claims it is reasonable to estimate that Teleroute brings in around £50,000 worth of business the company would otherwise not have had, or would have had to work extremely hard to replace.
The alternative – running only part-loaded – would seriously undermine the company’s profit potential. Comfret spend around £500 per annum on the Teleroute service which equates to a highly impressive return on investment of 10,000%. However, the revenue generated through Teleroute is only part of the story. When you add in the time and expense saved by not having to ring round a list of international contacts to find freight to complete a lorry, the argument for making Teleroute a permanent feature of any freight or haulage business becomes doubly compelling.
"With the new pricing structure and the arrival of broadband, Teleroute is more cost effective than ever," concluded John Allison.