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JO Tweddall aims to be a long-term fixture on the

21st february 2013
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Page 22, 21st february 2013 — JO Tweddall aims to be a long-term fixture on the
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JO Tweddall aims to be a long-term fixture on the North East tipping scene, as founder's son Malcolm Tweddall continues to provide a good service to his varied customer base with the help of his trusty Foden Words / Images: Bob Tuck Early days and late nights is how Malcolm Tweddall sums up his life as an owner-driver tipper operator. But he does so with a smile and, so far as earning a crust goes, he wouldn't change his lifestyle — apart from, of course, increasing the rates he gets. "I'm doing some work now for the same rate I was getting paid five years ago," he says.

He'd also like to replace his seven-year-old steed with something identical but, as 450 Caterpillar-powered Alpha eight-wheelers haven't been made since Paccar closed the Foden line in 2006, that's one item on his wish list that unfortunately will never be granted.

Tweddall's 2005-registered eight-wheeler (now with more than 768,522kms behind it) has given highly creditable service and suffered far less downtime than its ownerdriver. During a trip to Liverpool in July 2008, Tweddall pulled into the Warrington service area thinking he was having a heart attack. "I felt absolutely dreadful," he says, "and although the paramedics said I hadn't had a heart attack, I was taken into hospital."

It was three months before he was back at work — minus his gall bladder, after being diagnosed with pancreatitis. "I didn't de-tax the Foden because I kept thinking I was going to come back to work," says Tweddall. "So as well as needing time to recover, it took quite a while to recover from not having any income for those three months."

Although the eight-wheel rigid used to be the preferred option for the tipping fraternity, they are becoming something of a rarity as the 44-tonne gross, six-axle artic tipper is a big winner when payload is considered, even though the big artics need careful watching when tipping — especially on soft ground — and there will always be situations where an eight-wheel rigid is the best truck for gaining access to certain premises. Tweddall's Foden Alpha is particularly light and enables him to carry a legal 20.5 tonnes, one tonne more than some comparable eight-wheelers.

Steering clear of the multinationals Another rare breed is the non-franchise owner-driver tipper operator. Tying yourself to one of the many multinational conglomerates is a relatively easy step to becoming an owner-driver, but Tweddall shudders at the prospect. "I don't like the idea at all of being a franchise holder," he says.

He claims the only good thing about his job is the Tweddall: Foden still flexibility. When work goes quiet, all a franchise holder has a huge amount of life can do is park up the motor and hope the phone rings Left in it soon. Tweddall, however, can go somewhere else for a load. On the day CM visited, the first five loads were for three customers with two other customers in the diary for the afternoon.

Of course, the phone doesn't ring all the time. And when the recession was biting hard, Tweddall needed a versatile approach. "I've got regular customers I work for," he says, "but in 2008 I spent about five months working the odd days every week for a local operator who had work for a self-employed driver. I really enjoyed doing that [but], while I did think of selling up, I didn't want to get rid of the Foden. I like this truck so much."

Never forgetting the price tag The bottom line for JG Tweddall, of course, is making the job pay. When new in late 2005, the Alpha cost about £80,000 and Tweddall paid for it through a three-year finance deal. The Foden won't last forever, but Tweddall doesn't feel so positive about taking on a brand-new eight-wheeler with a £110,000 price tag in the present climate. He has considered buying nearly new, but feels the Foden still has a huge amount of revenueearning life left in it. To that end, he is preventive maintenance: I m always looking around He's a strong believer in 1111!!!11111, considering fitting it with a new body. li the wagon and anything the wagon wants, it gets. I try not to leave anything and prefer to get it done straight away."

From school, he trained as a mechanic and even now does as much of his own maintenance as possible. This is generally routine work, although three months ago he set to and changed a front spring (during the day) so the truck was ready to go out and work the next night Local dealer Chatfields carries out his six-weekly inspections overnight, and Tweddall says mechanic Craig Spresser is knowledgeable and helpful when dealing with the Foden. "I was particularly pleased in the way he was able to sort out the vehicle's electrics," he adds.

The tipping game can be demanding in the type of varied adverse site conditions that can be encountered, but Tweddall handles his eight-wheeler with great sympathy.

This attitude (linked to spot-on maintenance) proves beneficial in keeping wear and tear to a minimum.

As a result, the ride and general feel of the Alpha gives the impression of being a brand-new truck — not one that is approaching eight years of life.

However, making operational savings is good business acumen and the Cat 450 does its best as its fuel read-out shows 13mpg at a leisurely 53mph cruising speed.

Tweddall has looked hard at his tyre replacements and, although he used to be a Bridgestone fan, he's recently been fitting Hankook, which generates a big saving.

There's always room for improvement Cutting empty running to a minimum is where he tries to get the best use of his flexible customer base, although sourcing backloads to the North East — especially from places such as Liverpool and the North West — is something he's trying to improve.

Like any owner-driver, Tweddall needs, and gets, support from the close family of his wife Clare, who is responsible for all the admin, plus children Brianna, Joseph and Chloe.

The Tweddall family are aware that even though the tipping game has given them a living for more than 40 years, there's no guarantee how long it will continue.

Although, as long as he can continue to earn his living by piloting his beloved Foden, you'll still find a smile on Tweddall's face.

"I wish that Paccar still made these," he says, a sentiment that is surely echoed by many others around the globe. • JOHN GEORGE TWEDDALL Malcolm Tweddall continues to trade under the name of his late father, John George, as a way of keeping the name alive. Starting out in the mid-1960s, John's first motor was a Bedford TK four-wheel tipper before he progressed to a Volvo F7. As a youngster, Malcolm spent many happy days riding with his dad and the plan was that father and son would go into partnership, which they did, running Foden eight-wheelers, until John was killed in a motorcycle accident about 15 years ago.

Cat in service Going onto the road new on 2 September 2005, M1 TWD has given its owner good long-term service. The 012 450 Caterpillar engine averages between 6.5mpg and 8mpg, and the only major hiccup it gave was after 605,000km. "Steam was coming out of the breather," says Tweddall, "and while we tried it with a new water pump, it was discovered that the head gasket had gone.

"Once the manifold was taken off, a minor crack was detected in the cylinder head, so a top-end overhaul was carried out."

Local Daf dealer ChaffieIds gave some discount but Tweddall still had a £6,000 repair bill. Another £3,000 was paid last year when the synchros were replaced in the ZF manual gearbox. "It began jumping out of second gear and although it didn't need it, I also replaced the clutch at the same time," he says. This repair was carried out over a weekend, so there was no vehicle downtime.

Specifying a Jacobs engine brake when new has proved a saviour in brake costs, with wear on both front and rear axles being very light.

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