Schmitz Cargobull decide to mothball UK plant

German trailer manufacturer Schmitz Cargobull will temporarily mothball its UK plant at Harelaw, Co Durham and move production to other sites in the group, following a company wide review of its operation.

The decision comes after a near collapse in sales across the entire European trailer industry during the past two years, and the manufacturer felt that nine production lines across Europe, all making similar products, was now too costly. Suggestions that a management buyout might take place proved unfounded.

A source at the Harelaw plant, who wished to remain anonymous, says production will stop in mid-July following completion of the current order book. It brings to an end 19 years' of assembly and production of reefer, curtainsider and dry freight trailers at the Co Durham facility.

As yet there is no confirmation of the number of redundancies expected among the 131-strong workforce, but employees involved in sales, finance, service, parts and remarketing are unlikely to be affected.

The company reassured UK customers that service will not be affected and that it "intends, when the semi-trailer market returns to normal levels in the UK and Ireland, that production at Harelaw will be reviewed".

The old factory has been up for sale for several months, and the three regional centres in Doncaster, Maldon and Warrington will remain open. Assembly of rigid products will remain at Harelaw, as well any specific modification required by customers. Before today's announcement the Harelaw plant had consolidated operations into one new-build factory and, over the course of three years, shed 175 jobs.