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Transporting steel is second nature to A Hingley Transport, which is celebrating 45 years in business Words: George Barrow! Imayes: Toni Cunningham "There's nothing anyone could teach this family about running steel," says Dave Taylor, transport planner at A Hingley Transport on the outskirts of Dudley. Established in 1968 by Arthur Hingley, the family-run business is now owned by his three sons Alan, Ray and Keith, who have continued to develop A Hingley Transport into the largest privately owned steel carrier in the Midlands. With a fleet of 80 trucks and 160 Slidaflex, flat and curtainsider trailers operating across the country, delivering raw materials and component parts to some of the UK's largest manufacturers, they are true experts in their field.
"We're one of three old family businesses that operate out of the Wolverhampton rail terminal — Hingley, Highfield and Haywood, the three Hs," says Keith. "We've always had a good business here, and we're known as one of the best in the business at transporting steel," he continues.
Taking on work at sites in Dudley, Womborne, Round Oak and Wolverhampton helped put Hingley on the map. The firm's reputation within the steel business led to A Hingley Transport winning a significant contract with former steel giant Corus, which took over production at those sites, forging a relationship that continues to this day under Tata Steel UK. No through a contract with Norbert Dentressangle, the company operates 22 trucks exclusively on Tata Steel business, with 12 vehicles running 24 hours a day at Tata Steel's Round Oak rail terminal nearby.
Moving cars With more than one million tonnes of steel transported by the company each year, Keith admits it is a busy workload, but says the core nature of the job has largely remained the same.
"Work has always been hard, but it's harder than ever because of the add-ons like timed deliveries. The job hasn't actually changed, and for the drivers it's actually got easier. It's luxury now compared to the old days. There are no running repairs at the side of the road, all [drivers] have got to do is look in the back and check that the load is safe," he explains.
Maintenance was a big part of the Hingley business, with as many as 15 mechanics within the firm. Keith himself started out in the garage, working there until the age of 21 before taking to the road. "Dad never gave us much money, but you had a roof over your head and a car on the drive. There were no starting or finishing times to the day, we just all got on with the family business," he recalls.
A one truck kind of man A Hingley Transport used to have a fleet of Scania tractor units, a decision that was based around their reliability. Keith says: "When we had our own garages, Scanias were the best and easiest to work on. We tended to stick to one truck because you would have a stock of spares — it wasn't the done thing to go and buy a load of Volvos [when you had a fleet of Scanias]."
That policy, however, changed in 2000 when work from Corns increased, making the economics of running a much larger fleet a lot harder to justify and manage.
Finance manager Dave Smith says: "You have to look at the economics of running a truck and their whole life costs. When the contract with Corus started in 2000, our fleet was predominantly Scania and maintained in-house, but overnight our fleet virtually doubled. The practicality of doing our own maintenance became uneconomical. We looked at pricing trucks with full maintenance, and Renault came in with an offer that enabled them to take on our workshop staff. We transferred 12 to 15 mechanics, who continued to maintain our whole fleet of tractors and trailers."
Reliability is key In recognition of the company's 45th anniversary, a new Renault Premium 460 was added to the fleet in the company's original blue and red colours, and yet more Renaults will be added over the summer. Four new Euro-5 trucks have already been put into service at the beginning of June and eight more are scheduled in the coming months, a decision that is in part affected by the pending arrival of Euro-6.
Letting the market settle first "We expect to buy as many as five Euro-6 trucks next year, but we need to secure Euro-5 trucks to stem the tide of price increases," Smith says. "We'll let the market settle down a bit next year and update our fleet accordingly. But we've got enough life in the vehicles to keep us going for two to three years on Euro-5." Hingleys are making their mark within the company.
now successfully taking on the demands of Driver CPC and heading up the company's training business.
passed on. • Brothers united Each of the brothers has done their time on the road, and now head up different elements of the Hingley Group, which incorporates haulage, vehicle recovery, driver training and a successful trailer manufacturing business. Ray Hingley oversees the recovery business as well as the trailer manufacturing, youngest brother Keith works on the day-to-day transport side of the business, while eldest brother Alan is MD. Despite employing more than 100 people, it remains a family business, with sisters, sons and spouses all involved in the day-to-day operation. Trailer business Another developing part of the A Hingley Transport business can be found in nearby Lye, where trailers for both the fleet and external customers are manufactured. The relationship with what was M&G Trailers goes back to the days when Arthur Hingley used to deliver their trailers for the owners, and family friends, Malcolm and Geoff Woodridge. Following the takeover by A Hingley Transport, the business was run by Geoff Hingley until his death two years ago, but now continues to manufacture skeletal, curtainsider, tipper, flat and drawbar trailers for a range of customers. The Slidaflex trailers used by A Hingley Transport have been specifically designed to carry heavy coils in excess of 20 tonnes as well as smaller slit coils, and the company has also recently designed and built a new lightweight trailer for the steel industry that has the potential to carry a 32-tonne payload at 44 tonnes. A Hingley Transport and the new Renault Listening to operators has been key to the seven-year development of the new Renault Euro-6 range, launched with much fanfare to 9,000 operators, dealers and media in Lyon on 11 and 12 June. Among them was Ray Hingley senior, who gave CM his first impressions of the new T range. A Hingley Transport was one of two UK operators — the other being Nigel Rice Transport— to test the new vehicles. It had had a preproduction 530hp tractor unit on the road for 12 months before the launch, clocking up around 2,000 miles a week.
Renault Trucks president Bruno Blin promised that the new Euro-6 range would be up to 5% more fuel efficient than the outgoing range, a bold claim backed by Ray. "We were getting 9.3mpg running to South Wales with steel at 44 tonnes," he says. "Our Euro-5s are doing around 8.2mpg. It also used no more AdBlue."
Renault has put a lot of effort into keeping the weight of the new truck down, and Hingley has been getting the same 28.5-tonne payload with the new unit.
Blin also pledged the new cabs would make drivers proud to be seen in them, another point Ray agrees with. The T unit was mainly driven by driver Stella, who thoroughly enjoyed the experience, he says.
Another key aim for the new range, according to Blin, is to minimise total cost of ownership — Ray says "downtime was nil" in the 12 months A Hingley Transport ran the truck.
To avoid drawing attention to the new vehicle — which was camouflaged throughout its test period — it was kept at different premises away from the rest of the fleet and maintained in-house, rather than being sent to the Renault dealer.
"It performed well," says Ray. "It was checked over every month; it proved to be a good motor."
Based on its experience with the new truck, Ray plans to keep buying Renault: "We've had no major problems." TIGHT SECURITY Security was tight throughout the T range's stay with A Hingley Transport: Alan Hingley denied all knowledge of the test truck until he and his brother were given the go-ahead to talk to CM at the official launch. At night, the truck was locked away in secure premises away from prying eyes. And while on the road during daytime, driver Stella had to fend off many enquiries from curious truck spotters, pleading ignorance every time. Both the exterior and interior of the cab were heavily disguised, and she kept the curtains closed whenever she stopped.