Bankruptcy surge among French hauliers in Q3


Some 558 French haulage firms declared themselves bankrupt in the third quarter of this year, a recent workshop on the economic well-being of the sector revealed.

More than two-thirds of the firms were liquidated directly by commercial courts, rather than placed under judicial administration in the hope of being rescued - the majority of them being single truck owner-operators. 

Over the year, to end-September, the number of French companies going bust in the sector totals 2,357. 
The surge in bankruptcies is largely attributed to the combined effect of severe downward pressure on road haulage rates, itself the result of shrinking volumes of freight, over-capacity and the growing impact of cabotage on the French market. 

Nor is it only small operators who are feeling the pinch. This summer, in an unprecedented show of unity, 14 trade bodies representing French road haulage firms of all sizes, launched an appeal to France’s new Socialist government to address rising business costs or see the sector decline further. 

The Transport et Logistique de France federation (TLF) claimed that if nothing was done, in 2013 taxes would account for more than 50% of its member firms’ turnover. "No economic sector can survive with such costs," said the TLF’s chairman, Patrick Bouchez. 

The appeal has fallen largely on deaf ears. In recent months, the government ended the exemption of employer contributions on overtime work (in firms employing 20 or more staff), a move which the country’s biggest road haulage federation, the FNTR, estimates will cost its members €21 million. 

Fiscal legislation which allows employees to work overtime without paying income tax, has also been abolished. This works out at a reduction in truck drivers’ wages of around 4% - which has added tension to already difficult negotiations between haulage firms and employee unions on a new wage deal. 

Last week, employers saw their 'take it or leave it' pay increase offer for 2013, averaging 2.2%, rejected by Unions who are demanding a 5.4% rise after the salary freeze this year.