Lack of truck registrations through 08 and 09 hit the auctions

Auction houses have a tried and tested method to air the best of their wares. It’s called ‘the front row’. It’s the first row of trucks you see when you arrive. Front row trucks tend to be between three and five-years old, tidy, from known and trusted suppliers, and guaranteed to earn you a bob or two towards the retirement fund.

The front row also acts as a statement of intent by the auction house about their worthiness to the vehicle disposal business. “See the trucks, see how great they are? That’s us that is.”

They all do it to a fashion; BCA, CVA, FLAG, Manheim, Protruck Auctions, and even Malcolm Harrison Auctions when they hold a Saturday sale in a haulier’s yard. The best come to the fore.

It also serves as a preamble to the days bidding. In the build up rows of trailers and the also-ran trucks veering between the gaudy and dysfunctional occasionally raise a smile or a trader’s hand. The intermittent “provisional” from the auctioneer lets the buying public know they haven’t always met the asking price.


Bacon butties, crisps, tea, coffee and cigarettes are consumed in equal measures as the smart-casual army of buyers and dealers nonchalantly amble around the front row making and receiving countless calls about rolling stock, family disputes, and who’s bet what on the 2.30.

Employees from CAP and Glass’s Guide furtively note prices in the auction’s catalogue, ears straining to translate the onslaught from fractured speakers. Small groups congregate, talk and then disperse before they get caught. The auctioneer ploughs on.

Anticipation builds. Momentum comes and goes, people look at their watches. The front row hasn’t moved. More drinks are bought. Then, with two-thirds of the sale completed, the front row duly go under the hammer with buyers trade and the twitching and ticking their way to a price that can make your eyes water. Winners and losers treat the outcome of each falling gavel indifferently while maintaining a monosyllabic conversation on the blower.

But the traditional front row is under threat. The lack of registrations through 2008 and 2009 mean older, less appealing stock get to be centre stage. As the trucks change so do the buyers. These days there are more overseas buyers looking to take stuff off the island, less buyers looking to keep stuff on the island. Not so many end users willing to take a punt on older, possibly more troublesome, stock. Trade remains but they have become more pragmatic, choosing to buy things that meet orders rather than spending to accumulate riches down the road.

In the early late 1990s and early 2000s auctions were awash with rolling stock. Operators bought and re-bought every three years even if they didn’t want or need to. Dealers, trade, finance house and operators used every method for disposal. Auction was a quick and viable outlet and produced the returns people wanted. It seems crazy to think that those days saw the auction, arguably, at its height.

Not that it’s all over for the discerning public auction. They have contacts. Auctioneers know the market. Conversion rates remain stable. Asking prices are being met but the number of lots is down. Stock is older. No less reliable. But definitely older.

Stobart Group pulls plug on chilled division

Stobart Group has revealed it is to discontinue its chilled operation (once Innovate Logistics) “as a stand alone unit”.

In an interim management statement today (17 January), the group said the Eddie Stobart transport and distribution division continued to perform despite the economic environment, but its chilled operations remained very challenging.

It insists that the “change will not affect Stobart's national network solution for customers”. understands that in discontinuing the chilled operations depots in Newark, Linconshire and Haywood, Lancashire will close.

Overall trading within the Eddie Stobart transport division for December was said to be comparable to last year. However, the operator did warn that in the traditionally quieter January and February months the division will be focused on cost control.

Stobart Group bought Innovate's chilled and ambient business from administrator BDO Stoy Hayward for an undisclosed sum back in July 2008, while Harry Yearsley bought the frozen unit.