ISSUE TWENTY FOUR: WITH 148 PAGES OF FIRST-CLASS HEAVY HAULAGE CONTENT, WHAT MORE CAN YOU WISH FOR? HEAVYTORQUE, BRITAIN’S BEST LOVED SPECIALIST TRANSPORT TITLE!
Issue 24 (October 2020) is now in the very capable hands of our printers, and we expect to have the magazine back, and in full circulation by the 07th October.
Should you have missed out on our little teasers, please find herewith seven extremely good reasons why this is a must-buy!
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COVER STORY: A LIFETIME’S EXPERIENCE
NORTH YORKSHIRE-BASED GCS JOHNSON, IS ONE OF THE BEST KNOWN AND MOST RESPECTED SPECIALIST HEAVY HAULAGE COMPANIES IN THE UK. BOB BEECH VENTURED TO ITS HQ, SITUATED JUST OFF THE A1M, TO HEAR ABOUT THE MODERN-DAY OPERATION AND THE ISSUES FACING THE INDUSTRY AT PRESENT.
A combination of experience and track record are essential qualities in specialist heavy transport, the knowledge and ability to carry out complex operations, lifting, transporting and possibly installing a heavy load at its final location, take time to amass. Few responsible companies would entrust this type of work to a haulier that was unable to prove that it had the ability, the equipment, the planning and organisational skills to carry out this type of work safely and competently.
GCS Johnson has a lifetime of experience and accumulated knowledge which has won the confidence of both its customers and many other heavy transport companies in both Britain and Europe. The modern-day operation is a far cry from the simple one-truck operation set up by company founder Geoff Johnson and his wife Mary, more than 50 years ago, striking out on his own with a second-hand Guy Invincible and flat trailer after working for his father for a few years. After concentrating on long-distance general haulage, the purchase of a used low-loader trailer heralded a move into specialist work, this in turn led to specialising in heavy haulage and in time bigger capacity equipment was purchased, along with the recruitment of drivers and other staff.
The 1970s were a very busy time for heavy industry, especially in the North East and the proximity of Johnson’s operation to both Tyneside and Teesside meant that it was in the right place to win business from the many specialist fabrication companies, steel mills and shipyards, along with the many construction and heavy plant companies, both in the area and elsewhere in the UK.
RADICAL CHANGE RANGE
AT LAST VOLVO’S NEW RANGE GETS THE BOB BEECH EVALUATION. HE GOT THE CHANCE TO INSPECT AND TEST DRIVE THE IMPROVED FM/FMX AND THE REVISED FH.
The launch of the new Volvo FM/FMX and the revised FH range was scheduled to take place in Gothenburg in early March, unfortunately the event was put on hold because of the COVID 19 pandemic. Holding a public gathering of this magnitude would have been a potential risk for all involved and the company wisely chose to postpone proceedings until better times. Subsequent events proved this to be the correct course of action.
Thankfully we were given such an opportunity to have a look at four of the new models and get behind the wheel in early July. The trucks are the first to arrive in the country and were a cross-section of models and specifications. The FM and FMX models have undergone the most radical changes and now have a brand-new cab design.
REMEMBER YOUR MANNERS!
MANNERS TRANSPORT IN NORTHUMBERLAND SPECIALISES IN THE MOVEMENT OF AGRICULTURAL MACHINERY, AS WELL AS THE DISMANTLING OF OLD COMBINE HARVESTERS. JON HARLE HAS BEEN TO VISIT THE OPERATION, BASED ON A PICTURESQUE FARM IN THE NORTH EAST OF ENGLAND.
Northumberland is often referred to as ‘England’s best kept secret’ by the county’s tourist board! And a visit to the yard of Manners Transport, about five miles west of Alnwick, shows you why. The lush green fields and woods around the site are teeming with wildlife and alive with birdsong. The rolling hills of the Northumberland National Park are on the doorstep, and the few stone farm buildings that can be seen look like they’ve been part of the countryside for hundreds of years.
But it’s not always been this quiet. This was the land of the Border Reivers when during the late Middle Ages, desperate men on both sides of the Anglo-Scottish border would send out raiding parties to capture livestock and food from their neighbours. And the site of the Battle of Flodden, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of English and Scottish soldiers in 1513, is only 20 miles to the North. But it was another battle, in AD875, between the Saxons of nearby Whittingham Vale, and a Danish army heading inland from the coast, which gave the name to the farm where Manners Transport is based: Battle Bridge.
COPING WITH WINTER
BACK IN JANUARY THIS YEAR, HEAVYTORQUE TOOK A TRIP TO NORWAY COURTESY OF SCANIA, TO TEST DRIVE SOME OF ITS PRODUCT RANGE IN PROPER SCANDINAVIAN WINTER CONDITIONS AND TO SEE HOW THE LOCAL OPERATORS ARE ABLE TO KEEP WORKING IN WEATHER CONDITIONS THAT WOULD BRING THE UK TO A STANDSTILL IN A MATTER OF HOURS. BOB BEECH REPORTS.
There was a selection of vehicle and trailer combinations available to try out, running at gross weights of 60 tonnes. Some aspects of the vehicle technology on offer might well be of interest to UK heavy haulage and abnormal load specialists suitably adapted. They do things differently in this part of the world, but the vehicles and equipment deal very well with the tough conditions, otherwise the country would literally come to a standstill for almost half of the year.
WREKIN AND A-ROLLIN’
WREKIN ROADWAYS IN SHROPSHIRE WAS ONE OF THE FEW HEAVY HAULAGE COMPANIES THAT WAS ABLE TO CHALLENGE THE BIG THREE OF PICKFORDS, WYNNS AND SUNTERS DURING THE 1970s. JON HARLE HAS BEEN TALKING TO FORMER DIRECTOR ROBERT JAMES, THE SON OF FOUNDER DAVID JAMES.
The Wrekin is a prominent lump of rock, rising more than 400m above the Shropshire Plain, just a few miles from Telford. It’s a well-known landmark, and is visible from miles around. Local folklore suggests it was named after a giant called Gwendol Wrekin ap Shenkin ap Mynyddmawr, but fortunately David James went for the shorter version when he named his fledgling transport company Wrekin Roadways.
David James was a farmer during the Second World War, but started a muck-shifting business in the late 1940s. It was called GD James, because his proper name was George David James, although no one actually called him George! He owned a small fleet of tippers, bulldozers, scrapers and graders, operating from his premises in Foundry Road, Wellington. One of his first big jobs was the construction of the football pitch at Bucks Head, the home of Wellington Town Football Club, and the precursor of Telford United. He bought his first low-loader, a Scammell, as a way of moving his own plant, but then started moving plant for other local companies. And that was the start of what became Wrekin Roadways. In the early 1950s he moved to new premises on Holyhead Road in Ketley, near Telford, beside the old A5, and in the shadow of the hill after which the company was named. The site incorporated a filling station and a transport cafe, and was a well-known stop for lorry drivers heading to and from Central and North Wales.
BOOSTING THE ENERGY SECTOR
A DOMINANT PLAYER IN ABERDEEN’S OIL AND GAS ROAD TRANSPORT INDUSTRY, COLIN LAWSON TRANSPORT HAS DELIVERED STEADY ORGANIC GROWTH DURING 23 YEARS IN BUSINESS. JOHN HENDERSON VISITS A WELL-ESTABLISHED OPERATION DEDICATED TO QUALITY STANDARDS AND SERVICE CONSISTENCY.
Quick and comprehensive responses to customer requests are just one of many reasons why Colin Lawson Transport has carved an enviable niche for itself, in the competitive arena serving Aberdeen’s oil and gas industry. During the morning of HeavyTorque’s visit, managing director, Colin Lawson and his team are busy planning for an 8.2m wide load movement from Peterhead to Aberdeen. Prior to the route reconnaissance, Lawson and his team list a staggering number of pinch points, all from memory. These are communicated directly to the ‘reccy’ staff, prior to their departure. “Street furniture is always of interest to every abnormal load operator, particularly on routes between industrial premises and ports. UK councils and the respective agencies, rarely take heavy haulage movements into consideration when planning new infrastructure such as pedestrian crossings and overhead traffic lights,” Lawson notes. Listening in, I’m staggered by the attention to detail involved and their observations on route changes – all noted during recent driving spells.
THE LONG HAUL
BASED IN THE PORT OF IMMINGHAM, JOHN SOMERSCALES IS PROBABLY THE LONGEST ESTABLISHED HEAVY HAULAGE COMPANY CURRENTLY ACTIVE IN THE UK. BOB BEECH TALKS TO ITS PRESENT MD, AND THE FOUNDER’S GREAT GRANDSON, JOHN SOMERSCALES.
It’s virtually impossible to predict the potential lifespan of a business, especially when the founders are starting out in a most modest way. Many hope to see the enterprise grow, possibly creating something that could be handed on to the succeeding generations. But when the original John Somerscales started out in transport way back in 1900, based at Keelby in rural Lincolnshire, he could never imagine that he was laying the foundations for what is now probably one of the oldest specialist transport businesses in the UK. Furthermore that, 120 years later, his great grandson would be in charge of the same enterprise, a thriving operation now based at the Port of Immingham, able to undertake all manner of specialist transport tasks.
The first operations utilised heavy draught horses taken from the family farm and the first proper transport job involved the movement of round timber from Stallingborough to Ogles saw mill at Grimsby. It charged the princely sum of one pound and five shillings for two loads, hopefully rates have gone up a bit since then! The invoice for that first job has been retained for posterity and has pride of place in current MD John Somerscales’ office – a constant reminder of times past and what can be achieved with effort, willpower and a bit of knowhow. The long history of the company mirrors the history and development of industry and trade in the region, as the demand for road transport in the area has changed through the generations.
The modern operation has a fleet of 20 tractor units, a mixture of 6×2, 6×4 and 8×4 and around 60 trailers of all sizes. The docks and ferry port provides quite a bit of the regular workload, but the company has an extremely wide customer base enjoying long-standing working relationships with many clients.