They could never have anticipated an anniversary year like this. The Trafford Park-based freight forwarder talks growth, diversification and turning 40 in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak.
When you’ve been a freight forwarder for 40 years, there’s a lot of history in the rear view mirror. And yet, as France Line International Transport Ltd (known as France Line) celebrates its past, its sights are firmly set on the present and future.
The independent European freight forwarder was established in May 1980 by four French hauliers who wanted a sales agent in the UK to provide them with backloads into France. As a result, for much of its history, the business focused purely on handling export loads from the UK to France.
Over the past decade, however, Managing Director Marie Boyer expanded the company’s capabilities, applying its expertise to a growing range of services and countries. France Line introduced import services from France, before extending its geographical reach to all the other main Western and Eastern European countries, including Germany, Poland and Romania. New cross trade lanes have opened and turnover, profits and staff numbers have increased accordingly. All are reasons to celebrate as the businesses enters its fifth decade, but no-one could have predicted Coronavirus, which has put formal celebrations on hold whilst the company steps up to play its part during the outbreak.
(Almost) business as usual
“We’re facing an enormous challenge right now,” explains Marie, “but I am extremely proud of the way we have remained able to operate all of our road freight services, including our import/export core services between the UK and France, at as close to ‘business as usual’ as possible, for standard freight and also express cargo.”
Marie and her team continue to respond positively to the current unprecedented situation. “Most border closures and additional restrictions by governments across Europe do not apply to freight movements,” she says, “but the restrictions are leading to considerable delays at border crossings. We are, however, continuing to serve our clients to the very best of our abilities throughout this difficult period.’’ Marie acknowledges that keeping communication channels open has been just as vital as maintaining freight channels. “We are receiving regular updates from our French offices and all of our local commercial partners and hauliers throughout Europe, and we’re working hard to ensure we pass that on to our customers quickly. We know they really appreciate our reliable news on developments that affect their supply chains.”
Marie added: “Self-isolation and panic buying means that we have seen booming demand for certain products and we have had an increase in our existing traffic of long life foodstuffs and paper tissue for example’’.
France Line for the future
It’s this collaborative, supportive approach that has seen France Line grow for the past 40 years. Once the outbreak is done, Marie has plans for further expansion “without compromising our core values of customer service, quality and reliability”.