How one owner driver made it
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NO DOUBT who you know and what you know play an important part if, as a potential owner-driver, you decide to set up a road haulage business. And particularly so when there is a dearth of capital. _ Robin East, who has recently made the change from transport manager to owner-driver, is the first to acknowledge this and suggests that an element of luck is also required. However, he believes that you make your own luck.
Despite this contention, there was an element of chance in the manner in which Mr East became qualified to start his own haulage business. He was offered the job of transport manager for Beam in the early days of the company's development although he had no previous experience in transport management. Accepting this and reorganising the maintenance and records system after a public inquiry which he inherited provided the experience he required.
Moreover, as the company fleet grew from about ten 10-ton gross vehicles to about 50 units of all kinds so he broadened his experience and knowledge. After about four years as Bejam's transport manager at the joint Tempco/Bejam cold stores in Milton Keynes, he felt that he would like to have the control of his own destiny. It was then that he began to consider setting up his own business.
Possibly making this decision was one of the hardest tasks he had faced. Courage is needed to relinquish a steady, secure job and launch out into the comparative unknown.
What was not unknown to Robin, however, was the transport of refrigerated freight and he decided to capitalise on this knowledge by starting in this field. The first thing he had to do was secure some reliable work and this he was able to do with his own company.
With the promise of work to be done, he began to think of the kind of vehicle he would need and how he was to raise the capital to obtain it.
After a lot of thought, he decided to negotiate for the purchase of a DAF 2800
cive unit and the lease of a ar built to his own specifim. He admits that .perhaps tractive unit might be over ified for the UK haulage. le, but he thought farther id and realised that prob
expansion could be to tinental work, In that case, lecided on the vehicle he operates as Rokold Reinled Transport Vhen he approached a er for the purchase of the tive unit and lease of trailer, as suggested to him that he :acted Crane Fruehauf Fin) and eventually he found self signing a leasing cont for four years for the whole It.
■ lot of research and careful ulation of costs, revenue cash flow went into the mission before this 'wad, however.
irst he had to establish the iunt of work and the nue to be derived which he d rely upon and this had to confirmed in writing from m. Probably, just as ortant was the method of iicing and payment to be pted in order to establish a -1 flow adequate to enable to meet the regular payits necessary.
here followed an intensive ing exercise to confirm the joings which would be ,Ived in running the vehicle. was told that it was wise to lessimistic in calculating the nue and optimistic in foreing the cost when preparing la submission. In this way in be demonstrated that a stic view is being taken of subject and that the imum outgoings are being 'pared with the absolute imum revenue. Thus any suggestion that the project is being undertaken anything less than objectively is eliminated.
The actual presentation of the facts, too, is important. By marshalling them neatly and tidily in an easily understood, manner, a businesslike approach is shown that will have its effect on the recipient.
A visit to his bank manager before whom he placed a similar statement of cost and revenue enabled him to negotiate an overdraft facility of up to £5,000.
While all this was going on, he had to train for and pass his heavy goods vehicle driving test. This he did, at a cost of £200, with a local Group Training Association while at the same time negotiating with the Licensing Authority for an operator's licence.
As a newcomer to the road haulage business as an operator, he was granted a licence for one vehicle for one year.
As well as considering and taking action on the actual financing and operation of the vehicle, Robin gave a great deal of thought to the presentation and marketing with future expansion in mind.
Apart from the colour of the vehicle and trailer, even the type of lettering and its presentation was given careful thought. Perhaps even more thought went into the title of the enterprise. I was told that many names for the project were considered and rejected before the title "Rokold" was selected from a combination of "roll" and "cold." The formation of the initial letter represents the concept of a rolling circle.
Leaving his job in March this year, Robin had originally planned to begin operation on July 1, but Bejam asked him to be on the road by June 1. He was able to conform to this timetable and in something less than three months he has been able to repay the overdraft which he required originally.
I asked him if he had no misgivings about the possible escalation of operating costs as the vehicle grew older, but he assured me that provision had been made for unforeseen eventualities and possible mounting maintenance and repair cost by setting aside a sum of money each month till an agreed total had been reached. Anything taken from this fund would be replaced .after it had been incurred.
I asked: "What about the possibility of diminishing traffic. putting your monthly leasing ' payments in jeopardy?"
Admitting that this. was something which had to be faced, he told me that in that eventually he had arranged to go back to Crane Fruehauf to see what could be worked out. It was important to contact the leasing company immediately that this situation arose, he told me, before payments got behind.
He was emphatic about the operation being undertaken strictly legally; he would not have undertaken the project unless the operation could have been in accordance with the law.
Maintenance, both preventive and remedial, was dealt with by the dealer from whom he obtained the vehicle. It was based on an inspection, and service when required, each month. But if the mileage increased from its present level then the period of inspection would be decreased. Documentation was on the basis of the DAF system.
By the method of presenting his case and by the confidence which he had been able to impart to the sources of finance, he has been able to launch his own business with no available capital of his own.