It has been over 30 years since the Motor Transport Awards began back in 1986 and throughout these three decades we have marked the achievements of individuals that have made an outstanding contribution to the road transport industry.
This recognition has taken many forms. During the late 1980s and early 1990s it took the shape of the Special Award, before disappearing for a while in the late 1990s. It returned again in the mid-2000s, firstly as the Lifetime Achievement Award, then as the Local Hero Award, before beginning a now uninterrupted run as the Service to Industry Award presented for the 12th time at the 2017 Awards.
Motor Transport has always sought to recognise the achievements of those that have made a significant contribution to the road transport industry, which is why we reveal the annual induction to the Hall of Fame in association with Scania at the Motor Transport Awards.
We do this to recognise the efforts and achievements of individuals in ensuring the UK logistics, supply chain and commercial vehicle industry maintains its class-leading standards and traditions.
All winners of the Service to Industry Award (see list below) are automatically inducted into the Hall of Fame as the individuals who have created a lasting legacy for of the highest standards and traditions in the industry.
Derrick Potter, chairman, Potter Group
The sale of Potter Logistics to WH Bowker in October 2016 saw the end of the Potter family involvement in road transport after more than 50 years. While this was the end an era as Potter Group relinquished its transport fleet and moved into property development, for chairman Derrick Potter the key fact was that the deal secured the future of the company’s 280 staff.
“I feel happy that in my tenure I've had colleagues around who've been able to achieve what we have and made this wonderful transition. We have a great future to look forward to,” he said.
While giving up control of the chemical, food and rail freight transport and warehousing firm he founded in 1965 and built into a highly profitable £26m a year business must have been a hard decision, Potter says the sale to Bowker was the best option for all concerned.
“Potter Logistics had grown very successfully, but it had grown in a number of areas, and actually had become quite a complex business,” he said. “There were a lot of tears shed by the family, about all our colleagues who are in the business. Bear in mind, they'd been with us a long, long time, and equally customers as well, a long time. We had decided we needed to find a like-minded company who saw the world like we did. Bowker came along and their vision was the same as ours.”
Naming Potter Logistics Motor Transport Haulier of the Year in 2015, the judges said it was a family business with a customer-centric ethos that had secured some very loyal, long-standing clients.
“We have a quite distinct structure,” said Potter. “We have the shareholders, we have the operating board, and then we have an advisory board in the middle that helps make the decisions for the long-term. Are we different? I blooming hope so.”
A leading light in the Transport Association, Potter has been a great believer in collaboration with other like-minded family hauliers.
“We used to bring 200,000 tonnes to our rail terminal at Ely,” he says. “We would use UK haulers to distribute them. We work with partners in other parts of the country. There are a lot of family businesses that are particularly good at knowing their own area, and their own customer base.”
Key to Potter’s success has been his caring attitude towards his staff, especially his drivers. Giving a special award to Potter in the 2015 UKWA awards, chairman Tony Mohan said: “When touring one of the company’s sites, I witnessed the fact that Derrick personally knew 100% of the staff. He understands that people are the most important part of a successful business. Over the 50 years, Derrick’s energy and enthusiasm has not waned at all.”
Potter is a farmer’s son, and he has always lived by some good advice his father gave him in the early days after he founded the firm with a single truck in 1965.
“He always used to say to me, ‘it's your responsibility to look after your employees’. He always believed in that. He would say, ’if you want something from somebody, give them something. You might give them your time, your expertise, might even give them some money. Then you have a right to ask for something back.’
“I always remember to say please, to say thank you, to say well done, and hopefully with a smile. They cost nothing, but they mean everything.”
William Stobart, former chief executive, Eddie Stobart Logistics
William Stobart (born 10 November 1961) is the fourth and last of Eddie and Nora Stobart’s children – and younger brother to John, Anne and Edward. Although he was the youngest by seven years in a family dynasty that has dominated UK haulage and logistics to this day, he shared a passion with his older brother Edward for all things trucks.
While his older brother Edward was fast-tracking his way up the management chain to become chief executive officer of his father’s business, William kept himself busy driving tractors, cement mixers and eventually a full-blown wagon driver – passing his test just a week after his 21st birthday. His first truck was a Scania 112 intercooler – and he would spend the next three years as a driver working for his brother before he started working on the traffic desk.
From Stobart the man starting gainful employment at the firm that bares his surname in 1977 Stobart the business went from strength the strength over the next three decades under the leadership of his brother. He’s carried out pretty much most roles at the business during this time and he developed an in-depth understanding of the business on every level during that time.
He left the business in 2001 to join WA Developments – a civil engineering and rail infrastructure business run by his old school friend and former brother-in-law Andrew Tinkler. But he wouldn’t be away from transport for long. In 2003 WA Developments bought Eddie Stobart Group – with Edward stepping down and William becoming managing director.
In 2007 Eddie Stobart Group was sold in a reverse takeover to the Westbury Property Fund, creating Stobart Group, and listing on the London Stock Exchange. Following the float, William became chief operating officer of Stobart Group. Over the next two years it would make three acquisitions: container haulier O'Connor Group; James Irlam & Sons and the chilled operation of Innovate Logistics out of administration.
In 2011 William (alongside David Irlam) stepped down from the board at Stobart Group to give him more time to focus on the core transport business – but that would pale in comparison to the sad events of that year – when his brother Edward died on the 31 March.
Despite the family tragedy the firm carried on from strength to strength: it entered a joint venture with fellow Cumbrian firm AW Jenkinson to form a 50:50 joint venture now known as Stobart Biomass. This joint venture has often been at the forefront of Stobart’s vehicle procurement strategy – leading on major orders with Scania (there have been five such deals since 2010 – most recently for 2,000 units in 2016). In 2012 Stobart acquired automotive logistics provider Autologic. However 2013 would prove to be a rather more turbulent year for the business, with the former Innovate chilled network closing and a boardroom struggle over the performance of the group.
In 2014 William made a return to the board at the newly formed Eddie Stobart Logistics. Stobart Group sold a 51% stake in the company to private equity firm Douglas Bay Capital – effectively taking the transport business into private hands with William as chief executive. A year after that deal, William stepped up to executive chairman, with former Tesco distribution director Alex Laffey taking chief executive responsibilities.
2014 was a pivotal year for William, with his son Edd setting up his own haulage firm – WS Tranportation – entirely separate to the Eddie Stobart Logistics business.
Stobart has never been afraid to lead with technology too: William has been a vocal advocate of the longer semi-trailer trial, and has also rolled-out roll-out of aerodynamic kits for its fleet developed in partnership with Wirth Research – the aerodynamics company founded by former Benetton Formula 1 chief designer Nick Wirth.
Eddie Stobart Logistics put in a strong financial performance under William and Laffey, disposing of the former Autologic business to BCA Automotive in 2015 and in the year ended 30 November 2016, revenue from continuing operations was £549m (2015: £468m) with adjusted EBIT of £41m (2015: 36m). In April it floated on the Alternative Investment Market in a blockbuster listing that valued the business in excess of £550m, and just before the IPO William stepped down as a director.
John Williams, group managing director, Maritime Transport
If Maritime Transport group MD John Williams secured his place in the Hall of Fame for his innovative approach of successfully combining container haulage with retail distribution, he cemented it with a pragmatic yet caring approach to drivers.
The rise and rise of Maritime started when Williams led the deal to acquire Maritime in 2001.
“I had this burning ambition to be my own boss, specifically to own a transport company, because that's really all I know. Apart from working here at the port for three years, and Securicor and DHL for five years, container transport is what I know.
“I wanted to get back to that, and so this opportunity came along to buy this transport company called Maritime Haulage, and I succeeded in buying it on September 4 2001.”
At the time it had 136 trucks and turned over £18million – “but I don't think it was making any money,” he recalled.
“It was in poor shape, and a week later we had the appalling attack in New York. We were out seeing customers and we were in a pub in Liverpool. I thought ‘I'm 43 years old and I've just mortgaged my house to provide the security to buy Maritime Haulage’. I don't think I slept that night.”
By 2009, Maritime had grown to a £70m annual turnover, without making any acquisitions – but that was about to change.
The credit crunch and subsequent collapse in container volumes brought two “spectacular opportunities,” said Williams. “DHL decided to withdraw from the container transport market. We were the only people with the capability - and the courage - to acquire it because the market was still rough.”
That was followed by the 2014 acquisition of Roadways, reinforcing Maritime’s position as the UK’s largest container haulier and completing its UK network of 23 depots.
“Container transport has always been seen as a really hard place to succeed, and a pure container transport company, operating on the old model, would become extinct pretty quick,” said Williams. “So in 2010, we decided to break into distribution with curtainsiders. We learned so much about utilisation, double-shifting, weekend working, Bank Holiday working and cross-utilising container trucks and distribution trucks and equipment. I think we were one of the few companies that have been able to pull this off on the scale that we're doing it.
“I hate to use the word ‘game-changer’; it's over-used, but it certainly was for us.”
According to Williams running a successful transport business doesn’t have to be complicated.
“We've concentrated on the simple things,” he said. “The essence of a transport company is the driver, the truck and the people that put the two things together. We focus specifically on that, so in terms of the drivers, we have what we believe is a strong driver culture here.
“We spend an awful lot of time with the drivers, getting to know them, listening to them.”
Williams has a policy of only using employed drivers and has over 1,400 on the books. Despite his reputation as a tough boss, Williams believes strongly in treating drivers fairly and providing the best possible facilities, rather than paying over the top wages, is the way to keep a loyal, committed workforce.
The driver rest and recreation areas at the Felixstowe head office would put many a five star hotel to shame, and Williams aims to upgrade other sites too.
“We've invested in great facilities and we're doing the same in Birmingham, Nursling and Leeds. We want safe, secure, spacious parking for our drivers so that they can get a proper rest and a proper shower,” said Williams. “We give them a smart uniform, and we give them death in service benefit. I think we look after our drivers as well as we can, and they genuinely believe that we look after them and care for them.”
Ray Grocott, chairman, Grocontinental
A larger than life character typical of his generation of entrepreneurial hauliers, Ray Grocott has served the industry for over 50 years.
Still chairman of Grocontinental, the highly successful distribution firm founded by his father, he has grown and transformed the business from a small regional haulier to a major international organisation.
Grocontinental – Motor Transport’s Haulier of the Year in 2011 – is today one of the country's leading storage and distribution companies with an annual turnover of £28 million.
As the son of the founder of Grocontinental, Ray has been part of the family business since 1950 and was the driving force being the development and continued expansion of the company. A true entrepreneur whose ambitions, innovative marketing and ability to take calculated risks in the early days of Grocontinental paid dividends.
Grocott plays an active role in business development for Grocontinental and maintains strong working links with the company’s continental customers.
He has remained true to the strong working-class values instilled in him by his pioneering mother, Nellie Grocott, who, when left widowed in her 30s, established the business in its early days. His feet have always been firmly planted on the ground.
In spite of his personal drive and ambition, he also has the humility to relate to people. He cares hugely for his staff and the community that his business operates within.
He is tenacious, generous, uncompromising, shrewd and instinctive. He won’t be defeated by bureaucracy and negativity. He is never afraid to speak his mind and will campaign tirelessly for what he thinks is right for his business and his industry.
Grocott has always been extremely proud and passionate about representing the road transport Industry. He is a past chairman of the International Road Haulage Association and is still active in both this organisation and the Transport Association. He is highly respected and is a true ambassador of the industry in both the UK and Europe.
Ray is a true philanthropist and is conscious of his responsibility to his local community. He is very generous and always looking to help people.
He gives generously to local charities and good causes and he is chairman of the local sports and recreation club where he has worked tirelessly to raise funds and leverage government funding.
In 1992 Grocott embarked on a charity mission to help Romanian orphans, co-driving one of the vehicles laden with bedding, clothing and food on the trip.
Michael Williams, former group chief executive, Dawsongroup
Mike Williams had been with the company for over 40 years before retiring due to health reasons in October 2016. Starting as sales development manager in the truck rental side of the business, his obvious talent and enthusiasm saw him rise to become managing director of Dawsonrentals: truck and trailer in 1979. Williams then worked tirelessly with customers, suppliers, service networks and his own team, to take that business to a position of dominance and reputation that was perhaps unusual for an independent, family-owned business in the rental and leasing sector.
As Dawsongroup grew to encompass other key asset groups, such as bus and coach, mechanical handling, vans, temperature control facilities, sweepers and finance, his personal drive and deep understanding of the rental and leasing business saw him elevated in 1993 to the position of group chief executive. Working closely with chairman, Peter Dawson, and his own carefully selected senior team of individual business managing directors, Williams has contributed to and overseen a period of consistent and impressive growth for the group. Noted for an acerbic wit alongside his drive and commitment to the business, Williams has been a formidable player in the industry throughout his working life. Demanding of those around him – both staff and suppliers – he has been a dominant figure on the rental and leasing landscape. That toughness however, has always been tempered by a reputation for fierce personal loyalty to his team, many of whom have now been with him for well over 20 years.
Asked a few months ago to sum up his success, he said: “Taking care of customers, being fair to suppliers and setting the pace for our team – fortunately they all know what’s needed and are very capable of delivering.”
Chris Hanson-Abbott OBE, founder, chairman and chief executive, Brigade
Chris Hanson-Abbott formed Brigade Electronics in 1976, after he was inspired by a strange beeping sound he heard emanating from the rear of a small truck on a street in Tokyo.
This was Hanson-Abbott’s Damascene conversion moment and he set about finding out who made the alarm. The answer was the Yamaguchi Electric Company who, impressed with his youthful energy and enthusiasm, granted him the UK and Europe agency for the alarm. Today the Japanese company remains a major supplier.
In the mid-1970s reversing safety had not been addressed outside of Japan, but it accounted for a quarter of all fatalities at work in the UK at the time. The Health & Safety at Work Act was passed into UK law in 1974: it was clearly the time to address the problem.
With support from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Brigade launched its first reversing alarm at the 1976 Commercial Vehicle show in London. According to Brigade, the reaction was mixed and the show ended without a single sale. To add insult to injury the publicity culminated in the Department for Transport announcing that reversing alarms contravened the Construction & Use Regulations – and were thus illegal. Apparently the reversing alarm was the same as a horn, and not ‘continuous, uniform and strident’. Undeterred, Hanson-Abbott continued, lobbying the government over a period of five years and challenging potential customers’ preconceptions.
Thankfully the government finally saw sense and over the years the legislative environment has evolved enormously. Today, road safety is at the forefront of operators’ minds – be it protecting vulnerable road users and pedestrians or staff and customers – and Hanson-Abbott continues to make devices that saves lives throughout the world.
Turning that world on its head, reversing alarms now face lobbying pressure as the source of environmental noise pollution. Hanson-Abbott addressed this moving into the realm of white sound – an unobtrusive sound that is easier for the listener to identify the direction the noise – and therefore the vehicle – is coming from. With advances in white sound coming in the late 1990’s Hanson-Abbott has transformed the very market he created over the past 20 years, eradicating the traditional alarm sound for a safer technology.
Hanson-Abbott is a passionate speaker and advocate for road safety who has built a world-leader in vehicle-based safety equipment. Even though he is in his 80s he is still very much involved in the business activities of Brigade.
SERVICE TO INDUSTRY WINNERS
2006: John Parry
2007: David Batty
2008: Ken Irlam (Deceased)
2009: Robbie Burns
2010: Dick Denby
2011: Stewart Oades
2012: Nikki King OBE
2013: Peter Carroll
2014: Des Evans OBE
2015: Theo de Pencier
2016: Glyn Davies
2017: Ray Ashworth