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It’s never been harder to make money in the transport and logistics industry. With fuel costs rocketing and a raft of legislation dampening bottom lines, it’s heartening to see helicopter business Von Essen Aviation occupying the number three spot on our Hot 100 list. Founder Andrew Davis is not only pulling in sales of £22.6m, he’s also about to open the world’s first integrated hotel heliport.

Helicopters are all the rage in this year’s Hot 100: Bond Aviation Group’s (43rd) highest earning subsidiary, Bond Offshore Helicopters, has trounced the recession with a ten-year BP contract worth some £120m.

From oil giant BP to family-owned oil importer State Oil (19th), there’s no question that there’s money in the black stuff. Winston Soosaipillai and wife Arani’s £75m-turnover firm is one of the top 25 fuel retailers in the UK.

Nicholas Baker may well be a State Oil customer. He runs NJB Services (72nd), a portfolio of filling stations across Durham, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. Baker bought his first station for £1m in 2004.

Newcomers to the market would be hard-pressed to rival the might of Addison Lee (73rd), London’s leading minicab firm “by some margin”, says MD Liam Griffin.

The car industry may have taken a tumble but Tony Bramall’s car dealership, Bramall & Jones (41st), certainly hasn’t.

Family-owned haulage firm SAH (50th) is defying the downturn and making acquisitions in these tough times, while Colborne Garages (58th), has diversified into trade parts, bodyshop and commercial vehicles.

ES Group’s (4th) fleet of lorries transports stage equipment for megastar musicians such as Madonna and Bon Jovi. With subsidiary companies in the US, Australia and Japan, business is booming: sales hit £20.8m last year.

Port operator Victoria Group (9th) is also making a mint from its global clients, acting as custodian to three million tonnes of cargo each year.

Trust is a big issue in logistics. Clipper Group (30th) looks after fashion retailers, ensuring their clothing gets from A to B undamaged, while Richard Stevens runs vehicle-rescue firm Call Assist (85th).

Saving your clients money is key in a recession. Chris Howell’s DriveTech (55th) offers driver improvement programmes to fleet firms shelling out thousands on car insurance claims. Warranty Direct (44th) stops its customers getting “ripped off” by providing them with cheaper car and household-appliance warranties; and Norwich-based Air Livery (84th) revamps its clients’ aircraft, saving them millions on the purchase of new planes.

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