One wintery day in March I went to Coventry to meet Parcelforce Worldwide’s National Sales Manager. With safety boots and a high-vis vest in hand, we signed in with three security guards before entering the Parcelforce Hub.  Parcelforce’s hub, when it was built twenty-five years ago, was the biggest workplace in the UK. The Ⅰ shaped hub stretches for a quarter of a mile and parcels take 8 minutes to pass through all the scanners and crossovers. The maximum weight the hub can handle is 30kg and the maximum length is 2m. Scanners record the size and weight, and this is calibrated for trading standards.

The impressive figures go on, 4500 individual trays can be circulating the hub at any one time and the hub can process a mind-boggling 40,000 items an hour. 56 trailers are unloaded and 106 are loaded at any one time. Most of the Parcelforce packages from all over the UK go through this hub. To look on from the observation platform above is like observing worker ants in their nest.

The information stored in the barcode on the label is all important. It’s called ‘pre-advice’. No label means the parcel goes around the system up to five times and eventually lands with a person who has to manually type the delivery postcode into the system. As long as the parcel has a barcode and it is firmly attached to the parcel it shouldn’t get lost or be delayed. There are a number of items in the lost property department. After strenuous efforts have been made to reunite them, they go to auction. 

So, to our parcels, from the firearms accounts. We have negotiated GTA members a discounted rate with no minimum amount to send. 1000 firearms packages go through the system each week. Ammunition will not be carried. The firearms must go by road, not plane, on a 24 hr am secure service. Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Scottish Islands go on an Express48 service by road and boat. 

The service is for sections 1 and 2 only (as defined by the Firearms Act 1968), imitation firearms, de-activated guns, antique firearms, paintball guns and inert projectiles (not prohibited by s5 of the Firearms Act 1968). Both the sender and the recipient for section 1 and 2 must be Registered Firearms Dealers.

They must be in plain cardboard packaging, not a plastic gun case, that is clearly labelled ‘strictly addressee only’ and ‘do not leave with a neighbour’.  

Firearms have a special team at the hub. Experienced people and Spaniels trained to sniff out and spot anything going through the network which seems amiss.  This team works very closely with Border Force, situated just a stones throw away, and also our Firearms Team contacts in the office, my ever-helpful, first port of call.  

Parcelforce cannot offer any international services for firearms traffic, including for stocks or gun parts, and ammunition or compressed gas can’t be sent through the system.  

Following earlier talks with the Parcelforce Firearms Team, the GTA negotiated and agreed on a rate of £13 per parcel on any ‘subsequent parcels.’ These are for those who send more than one parcel to the same destination, booked and collected on the same day. This equates to a saving of £3.20 + fuel (which is currently 15%) + VAT per parcel. You need to let the team know in advance that you would like this discount, by emailing [email protected] If you can organise sending your parcels to the same receiver at the same time, you will be quids in!

Listen up angling shops…

A new deal for additional accessories is now in place, and under review in four months’ time. Details are as follows but my advice is use it or lose it. The manual handling charge of £7.45 will be waived on all items between 1.1m – 1.5m. The maximum dimensions are up to 150cm or 300cm length and girth. 

Using the already-in-use rates, the maximum rate would be fixed at no more than £5.84 on 24hr, and individual companies would receive bespoke rates dependent on their own circumstances/volumes. For larger senders, I am sure we can get much better bespoke rates. 

Quotes via [email protected] 

Parcelforce advise you pack fishing rods in triangular packing, not tubes – a cuboid box is OK too, basically anything that does not roll around on the trays, as these would be manual due to packaging items and would attract a £2.95 + fuel + VAT fee.

Low-powered air weapons as defined by the act (air rifles, air guns and air pistols), together with lead pellets and other airgun and airsoft projectiles, can be sent but are subject to the following conditions: 

  • These items must be sent on an express48 service only
  • They must be sent via the Post Office only
  • They must be presented at the counter and enhanced compensation is not available.

My thanks go to the Parcelforce team for their time in showing me the colossal mechanism which gets our firearms from A to B.

To join the GTA and get a Parcelforce account which could save the cost of your membership and more, contact me at [email protected]

The Gun Trade Association Ltd. is registered in England and Wales under company number 0125465 at Bisley Camp, Brookwood, Woking GU24 0PB.
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