During the last few weeks of 2023 two of the best-known truck fleets in the region have disappeared from the road.

Great Blakenham-based Magnus Group called in administrators in November and shortly before Christmas Bomfords Group, based just over the Norfolk border in Harleston, followed the same path.

East Anglian Daily Times: Bomfords Group called in administrators shortly before Christmas.Bomfords Group called in administrators shortly before Christmas. (Image: Newsquest)

The Road Haulage Association is the body representing the industry and has seen similar stories across the country.

Figures from the RHA show that by Christmas 463 haulage firms across the country had called in administrators during 2023 - twice as many as in the previous year.

RHA managing director Richard Smith said: "Increasing cost pressures are reaching breaking point for many hauliers. Our members say things are getting even tougher as the economy struggles and firms go bust.

"Freight volumes are down by 10-15 percent with fewer goods being moved around as the cost-of-living bites.

"The lead up to Christmas – traditionally a bumper period for operators moving retail goods – was the worst since 2008, according to members."

East Anglian Daily Times: RHA Managing Director Richard Smith.RHA Managing Director Richard Smith. (Image: Road Haulage Association)

He said many hauliers operate on very tight margins - typically their profit margin is only about 2% - so any changes to costs or wages are difficult to absorb.

While the current state of the economy is bleak for operators - the continuing shortage of drivers should make it easier for those who lose their jobs to find new work.

However there was no guarantee that job vacancies would necessarily be in the same part of the country - and any redundancy was inevitably unsettling for the family of anyone caught in it.

And the collapse of multi-vehicle firms is only one side of story of decline - figures show that there are now 1,300 fewer operators' licences that have been issued by the government's Traffic Commissioners than there were at the start of 2023.

Some of those are believed to be owner-operators who have come to the conclusion that the industry is just not worth operating in any more.