Lack of new owner drivers coming through harming used truck market

The used truck markets lives and dies by the strength and prosperity of its customers. Those entrepreneurial folk that come into the market willing to risk life, marriage and mortgage help make used truck vendors profitable.

Right now there is a real lack of new blood, and its starting to have an effect. Heads of used truck departments at manufacturers and the independent trade are, as one, concerned that the lack of wannabe operators and owner drivers is producing unwanted slack in the system.

The reasons for the lack of ‘go-it-alone’ business people buying and running a truck are plentiful; poor rates, obtaining finance, and real lack of opportunity and growth. As the saying goes, how do you make a small fortune from haulage? Start with a large fortune.

Known owner-drivers tare either selling up and returning to paid employment, retiring altogether or giving up the industry entirely.

Peter Gunnell ran two trucks for more than two decades – driving one and employing drivers for the other on an ad-hoc basis. “I got my first truck, a second hand ERF B-Series, in 1985 and hauled hay through that summer for a local farmer with a low-loader.

“From that I got offers to move machinery and then some plant. By 1988 things took off enough and I got a second motor. There was a bunch of use who ran trucks and we all became good mates, sometimes a cross word or two as we competed for work, but disputes never lasted.”

Peter regularly sourced trucks from the used market and usually from a few noted dealers. “I loved ERFs and Fodens. I could work on them and sort most things out, I traded in every three-or-four years,” he said.

Peter kept going until 2007 but his own health started to falter. With work starting to thin out and the lack of reliable drivers, it forced his hand. “It was sad to part with my last truck, a 2000-registered Foden Alpha but I had little choice,” he said. “Still, got a few quid for it.”

Now, those boys who ran with him in their own trucks have gone too, he recalls. “I don’t think any of us left on our own terms but that is the nature of transport. When times are good, they are very good, when times are bad…”

Out tomorrow! Commercial Motor 25 October issue

The latest issue of Commercial Motor magazine will hit the news stands tomorrow, packed full of the latest industry and legal news to ensure that you are in the know.

This week’s issue (25 October 2012) includes:

-    Our verdict on the new Volvo FH: We put Volvo’s latest offering through its paces.
-    The full story of what happened to Eat More Chips firm D Mortimer & Sons after it fell foul of the taxman.
-    The latest legal cases: a Doncaster operator that had 36 prohibition notices for three trucks in the last five years, and a worker who was injured  by an overturning flatbed.
-    CM’s Buyers' Guide to reversing aids, including cameras, alarms  and ultrasonic systems.
-    Smiths Mechanical Services profiled: why the Welsh heavy haulier swears by Volvo’s 540hp 13-litre engine.
-    The latest on the HGV Road User Levy Bill, DHL Supply Chain workers' strikes, the Exelby Services relocation gets the green light.

Pick it up at newsagents tomorrow or take advantage of our CM subscription offer.