Beware surprise haulage charges

By Robert Harris

FARMERS selling grain should plan contract tonnages more carefully to avoid unexpected charges, following the recent introduction of 40t gross weight trucks.

A recent change in the law means many artics can now carry 27t of grain, 2t more than before, says Andrew Graham, a farm business consultant at Strutt and Parkers Salisbury, Wiltshire, office.

Most contracts are rounded up to the nearest 50t or 100t, he notes. “A 200t contract used to be a straightforward eight loads. Now it is 7.4. Farmers could be hit by capped (part) load charges on the last small load.”

Typical charges vary from £2.30 to £5.50/t, he says. In the example above, this could add £25-60 to haulage fees.

However, Gary Sharkey, of merchant BDR Agriculture, says many lorries carry at least 27t fully laden. Seven of these would be enough for a 200t sale, since the amount of grain collected would fall within the 5% tolerance on a UKASTA contract.

“There is likely to be more of a problem on 100t contracts,” he suggests. Rather than taking part loads, hauliers will want to fill their trucks, he suggests.

“Four lorries could collect at least 110t. We would pay for the extra at the spot price on the day of collection. Alternatively, farmers could agree the exact tonnage.”

FW farms manager John Lambkin, at Easton Lodge, Lincolnshire, favours that approach even though he recently made more money by loading bigger lorries.

“We sold 125t of feed wheat forward for collection in January at £78/t. Five 27t lorries collected 135t. I was paid in full though the spot price had fallen to £70/t. I won £80, but it could easily have been the other way round.”

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