Company: Liam Connolly Road Freight Formed: 1979 Managing Director – Liam Connolly Sales and network development – Darren Connolly Location: Drummack, Lisnaskea The company has recently acquired a new premises in Lisnaskea and will be moving its groupage operation their in early May 2014.

Staff: 75 Management: Liam Connolly (MD) Bridget Connolly (FD) Andrew Connolly (Pallet Network) William Connolly (Full loads and Part loads) Darren Connolly (Sales and Network development) Fleet: 53 units and over 60 trailers (ranging from 18-ton rigid vehicles to full load artic lorries) Description: Liam Connolly Road Freight (LCRF) provides groupage services (i.e. from single pallet collections to full double-deck trailer collections) for over 300 customers throughout Ireland and the UK each day.

The family business offers a next day delivery service throughout Ireland, a 48 hour delivery service to all of the UK, and a 72-96 hour service throughout most of the main European countries.

It is a member of both The Pallet Network Ireland (which includes 23 depots across Ireland) and United Pallet Networks (which has 83 depots across Britain and Northern Ireland).

Double-deck trailers are shipped to LCRF’s pallet network hubs in Dublin and Birmingham, where the freight is spilt and distributed through regional carriers.

One thousand pallets per night are moved through LCRF’s Lisnaskea depot – a combination of what it puts through its pallet network and what it delivers direct off its own fleet.

Overview: Formed in 1979, LCRF began as a full-load operator. In 1997, the business decided to diversify with the addition of one courier van. By 2000, this had grown to nine vans covering the local area for the majority of UK courier companies.

In 2000, the company decided to move into pallet distribution. Darren Connolly explains that “business grew quickly and vehicles were added as we moved from providing local deliveries to covering the whole of Northern Ireland”.

The Pallet Network, based in Dublin, offered membership to LCRF in 2004. “This part of the business grew from inputting 15 pallets on the first night to over 200 pallets per night in 2014,” Darren reports.

As the Irish business expanded, LCRF decided to explore avenues into the UK for pallet distribution.

“In 2010 we joined the United Pallet Network (UPN). Again we secured the whole delivery and collection rights for all of the 32 counties of Ireland, and, again our growth in this market has surpassed what we had envisioned, with input of over 150 pallets nightly to the UK and similar volumes coming back for delivery around Ireland,” Darren states.

He adds: “As our pallet distribution division has grown we have also managed to maintain our full load and part load business with year on year growth.” Pallet networks are designed to handle consignments up to five pallets per drop. After that, they prefer if companies deliver direct off their own vehicles (i.e. a part load – up to 13 pallets, or a full load – between 13 and 26 pallets).

Earlier this year, LCRF was awarded the prize of being the best depot across the 23 Irish and 83 British pallet networks.

Benefits of family business: “You can keep things in hand and watch all aspects of the cost. It also allows you give the customers the personal touch and a more all round service.” Positives and negatives of operating from Fermanagh: “To be honest, we don’t see the fact that we are in Fermanagh as a negative at all. Northern Ireland is small country firstly and nowhere is very far away. Most of our work is either heading down south or across the water, so location isn’t really an issue.” How did you survive the economic downturn?

“We have been very lucky in that our business has continued to grow year on year even through the down turn. We were able to capitalise as businesses looked for more economical ways of distributing their goods, and we were able to offer services to match each individual’s requirements.” Access to finance: “Being a family business, we are able to keep things under control. Because of this, we haven’t had issues with credit. We have always had an excellent working relationship with our banks and finance companies.” Future plans: “Our main plans for the next two years are to expand our pallet network and look towards making more routes into Europe. We will also be concentrating on the introduction of our new storage division.”