Richard Harris, a former aircraft engineer with the RAF and owner-driver, and now operations director for the busy East Anglian haulier, said, “We were looking for some new vehicles and this seemed like a great way to do it. We have had a mixture of marques over recent years, always with a strong DAF presence, so we decided to combine getting two really strong performers for our anniversary celebrations. They replaced two 10-year-old DAFs with over 2.4m kms between them. They look tremendous,” he said, “and the drivers love the comfort of the cabs and the power in the big PACCAR engines. That comes in very handy when you’re loaded up with wet, muddy spuds straight out of the field.”
Harris recognises the importance of the manufacturer’s dealer in his choice. Based in Norwich near one of the company’s bases, Ford & Slater has impressed him in the five years he has been with Drury’s. “I like DAFs anyway, having bought my own new 480 XF back in 2001, but when you get a dealer like Ford & Slater that clearly cares about customers and is prepared to help, then that just seals the deal for me. This dealer is always prepared to go the extra mile and help us out if we need anything, and they have gone out of their way to get to know us and what we need from them,” said Harris.
On a more pragmatic level, the new vehicles have also given Richard Harris an important opportunity to study the company’s latest venture, which saw it develop its own workshop activity into an independent business operation, in which a new MOT lane is due for completion very shortly. He has decided to take only one of the new DAFs on full R&M from the manufacturer, leaving the other to be maintained in Drury’s own service facility. “It will be an interesting learning curve for us, and will give me real-time information on just what we are doing and how well we are doing it. We are installing TomTom Telematics at the moment as well, because we need something we can roll out consistently over the mixed fleet, but are also using the DAF system as a check and measure on these two units specifically,” he said, adding, “I want to compare the results in terms of vehicle up-time and their general performance. The idea may come back to bite me, but I think it will prove overall to be a very valuable approach.”
The family business, based in rural East Anglia at North Walsham in Norfolk, has an understandable volume of seasonal farm produce business. It has seen them develop long-term relationships with big growers in the region, which in turn has sparked three acquisitions in the last 12 months as existing small hauliers who have wanted to retire or decided to drop the work. Of their current fleet of 27 vehicles, nine have come in the last 12 months as a result of such acquisitions. Overall however, the business only has about 30% of its business in agricultural products, with a list of long-standing customers around the region supplying the general haulage business.
After 70 years you’d expect a business to know what it is doing, and under Richard Harris’ experienced control, it clearly does.