Despite the past few years seeing a prudent diversification programme to avoid having all its eggs in one basket, Gloucestershire haulier Cullimore Group has seen most of its baskets kicked over at once. MD Moreton Cullimore recollects his first visit to the group’s base the day after lockdown, “It was weird seeing 95% of the fleet parked up. It was like being there on a Sunday morning. It was very surreal to begin with.”
The early days were not just challenging on the business front, as keyboard warriors used social media to attack the group’s activities. “Some people locally were vehement that everyone must stay at home and it is very easy for them to fire rockets at us from their laptops,” he said. “They couldn’t understand why we had construction trucks still on the road. We were still running some of our fleet because we had orders for aggregates and concrete from water works, sewage plants, roads – all those infrastructure works are still a necessity.”
With the low point in business activity hopefully past, Cullimore is now planning for the inevitable recovery. Much of the tipper work dried up as construction projects halted to comply with social distancing needs, but there is a steady rise in activity as emergency works still need doing, and housebuilding slowly restarts.
Among the diversified operations, a handful of Cullimore’s curtain-sided trailers have been busy hauling organic flour for a local upmarket miller, but a plainly uneconomic offer of work from a major supermarket was turned down. Another diversified sector hopefully on the verge of recovery is imported furniture, Cullimore shifting container contents to showrooms.
Cullimore predicts “The only way the economy will push on is if businesses and people go out there, do the work and spend the money. One of the biggest enemies apart from the disease itself will be people being too negative, too protective and talking ourselves into a far deeper recession like we did in 2008. Hopefully by summer that feel-good factor will be back.”