Meet Waldron Commercials: winner of Technician Team of the Year at the Commercial Motor Awards 2017

George Barrow
March 23, 2018


Alistair Waldron’s enthusiasm for his job is infectious. Spend any time listening to the boss of South Wales-based Waldron Commercials talking about his passion for carrying out six-weekly inspections, routine servicing, stripping gearboxes and indulging in engine rebuilds, and you get an insatiable urge to don a pair of overalls and join him in the pit! The only other person we have ever encountered with a such a deep-rooted joy for wielding a spanner and a welding torch is celebrity truck fitter Guy Martin.

Enjoying your job is one thing, but what Waldron has managed to do is instil his passion for getting the job done right on his team of technicians.

And with them sharing his enthusiasm, knowledge and exacting standards, it is no wonder this independent maintenance provider picked up the Technician Team of the Year title at the 2017 Commercial Motor Awards.

But Waldron Commercials has not always had an award-winning team of technicians. Waldron’s wife and business partner Katie explains that when the company moved to its current premises in Tredegar eight years ago, it struggled to find quality technicians. “The staff we had were experienced but weren’t prepared to adapt to the situation they were in here,” she explains.

“There were individuals here that risked costing us the business. We knew we needed to make sure that staff we took on could be trained the way we wanted them to work. And that’s why they went down the apprenticeship route.”

Both Katie and Alistair are big advocates of apprenticeships, and indeed Alistair started his working career as an apprentice at a local bus workshop. “You have all those youngsters coming out of school each year, yet there’s only so many posts for shop assistants, office staff and positions in the army,” says Katie. “We decided we would raise awareness of the haulage industry, and let these kids know that there were opportunities with us.”

The Waldrons were well aware that it would be hard work for the first few years, but they took the decision that training youngsters would pay dividends in the long run. “I knew I would be able to mould them into exactly what I wanted for this business,” says Alistair.

The first group of apprentices - three of which are still working for Waldron Commercials today - were sourced through a local council training provider. However, that initiative has since ceased.

Realising that its labour tap was being turned off, Waldron Commercials took matters into its own hands and started recruiting its own youngsters. The decision was made to go into schools, sing the virtues of a career as a truck fitter, and hopefully attract some fresh blood. The scheme has been a success, helped greatly by 20-year-old mechanic Brendan Griffiths, who himself joined as an apprentice.

“He’s brilliant,” says Alistair. “He goes into the school assemblies, and any kids who are interested in learning more stay behind and talk to him. He is an incredible ambassador both for our company and the industry.”

“I just explain to them that the skills they can learn from working here will stay with them for life,” Griffiths tells us.

While the scheme has been a great success, and there are plans to add at least one new apprentice every year, Alistair is keen to point out that not every school-leaver has the right attitude. He says: “Some of them turn up here and say ‘how much are you going to pay me?’ Well, those aren’t the type we want. We are after passionate young people who will care about the industry, who will want to do a good job, and will make sure that the vehicles are safe. I like the kids who are spirited, and have a bit of fire in their belly, as I know I can channel their energy into what the business wants. They need to have the right attitude.”

Like much of the Welsh valleys, Tredegar and the surrounding towns have their fair share of social issues to deal with. Consequently, many of the young recruits come with some sort of emotional baggage or difficulties. “These kids haven’t had money thrown at them, haven’t had a private education, and often come with issues. But we take steps to deal with it,” says Katie. “Many a time we’ve had one of them up in the office, helping to sort their problems. Sometimes we feel like parents or social workers.”

In addition to teaching them a profession and instilling the Waldrons’ high standards on them, new recruits also learn other valuable lessons. “It’s not just about learning a trade here, says Katie. “We also encourage washing up, cleaning the toilet, tidying the canteen, and keeping overalls clean. The new ones look at me and say, ‘I’m not doing that’. I reply ‘well who do you think is going to do it?’ I jokingly say to all of them, ‘you’ll make lovely little husbands by the time you finish your training!’ It’s not just about learning a trade; it’s about life skills, and confidence building.”

The current IRTEC-accredited team of 10 technicians, which include four men in their 40s, four in their 20s and two teenagers, pride themselves on the quality of their work. This is reflected in Waldron Commercial’s 100% MoT pass rate, and the amazing customer testimonials it supplied in its award entry (see sidebar).

“We have never had a better team of technicians,” says Alistair. “There is very little, if anything, that they can’t do. They’re keen, they’re passionate, and they know that a truck doesn’t leave here unless it’s 100% right.”

Katie adds: “We’re so proud of them, and the older ones too, the way they have all developed as a team. It is thanks to them that we were able to put ourselves up against multi-branded companies in the Commercial Motor Awards. We are a little independent, and we got recognised by the industry, which is phenomenal.”

On winning a Commercial Motor Award: “We had the most amazing night,” recalls Katie, who rented a minibus to drive most of the team to and from the awards. “I can’t recommend the Commercial Motor Awards highly enough. Even if you aren’t up for an award you should go to it, as it is such a lovely event.

“The highly commended was amazing, but to hear our name as a winner of Technician Team of the Year was fantastic. We were just buzzing! And for the boys to see their efforts come to fruition was amazing. For them to know that the daily grind has led to something as prestigious as this is remarkable.”

About the Author


George Barrow

George has been writing about nearly anything with wheels for the past 15 years and is the UK jury member of the International Van of the Year and International Pick-Up Award.

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