A special relationship with the dealer underpins this operator's trust in Scania
1st May 2022
For the majority of youngsters signing up for a Scania apprenticeship, the training they receive represents their first step into the transport industry. Not so in the case of Stuart Black, who joined Scania's Newbridge branch near Edinburgh as an apprentice technician more than 20 years ago. For Stuart is a third-generation member of a family haulage firm which has been providing a bespoke range of transport services for approaching 50 years.
Originally known as Thomas Black, the company changed its name to J & G Black under the stewardship of Thomas's son, Ian. A number of years after that first father-to-son transition, Stuart, by then a fully qualified Scania Technician, entered the business.
"At the time, which was 2007, we were running just four trucks," remembers Stuart. "In its heyday, the company had operated as many as 35, but for a variety of reasons, we had downsized. While my father was quite happy with the business as it was, our customers were demanding more from us. Opportunity was definitely knocking, no question about it."
Stuart began his career working for Blacks as a driver but also spent some of his time using the skills he had learnt at Scania maintaining vehicles. In true family firm fashion, he also did anything else that needed doing. "That's just the way it was; we just did whatever had to be done," he says.
Stuart would ultimately purchase the company from his father ("I bought him a Scania 143 as a retirement present," says Stuart) and in 2018 rebranded to its present name, Blacks Haulage Solutions. "I wanted a name that better reflected what we do, and transport solutions sums it up " says Stuart.
Based on the A800 in Bathgate and near to the M9 motorway midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow, the company is ideally situated to serve customers throughout Scotland. The firm built its foundations working for the fishing industry, specialising in the transportation of farmed fish, which it carried in insulated containers to processing plants. "We still do that," says Stuart. "Our fishing industry services go beyond that today, and now we're also involved in taking salmon feed to the farms and collecting consignments of fishmeal from the docks in Grangemouth. We do other work too, including logging and container transport."
Today, Blacks Haulage Solutions operates a fleet of 16 trucks, all but one of which carry the Scania badge. "I made a decision to change to another make of truck back in 2011, and that turned out to be the worst decision I ever made," says Stuart. "So now we are firmly back on board with Scania."
Having gone from 4 to 20 trucks in just 14 years is a considerable achievement, one Stuart Black puts down to commitment: "We do what we say we'll do and never let anyone down," he says. "I tell our transport manager to never take on any work we can't handle, and that's stood us well over the years – we tick all the boxes for our customers."
The Scania complement of the Blacks Haulage Solutions fleet comprises four 16-litre V8 tractor units, with all others equipped with Scania's 13-litre six-cylinder engine.
"Our latest Scania trucks are an excellent vehicle," comments Stuart. "It's good in all respects – performance, fuel, driver comfort and safety – I'd say Scania is still a few steps ahead."
That view is shared by Blacks Haulage Solutions drivers: "Around 50 percent of our drivers are out all week," explains Stuart. "They live in the cab while they're away and they are delighted with them. The Scania cab provides excellent accommodation, and we equip our vehicles with extras such as fridges, microwaves and more. That really makes a difference when you're out on the road for a long period of time. I believe it's extremely important to look after your drivers and give them the best you can. It's not easy to find good drivers these days, but we have a great team – they are key assets of the business. I always say that a happy driver is a good driver, so looking after them well is a big factor for us. That's why we give them a great truck!"
Underpinning Stuart's confidence in the brand is his relationship with his local Scania dealer. Previously known as Scania Newbridge but today operating as Scania Edinburgh, the branch handles the majority of Blacks Haulage Solutions repair and maintenance work. "Each truck we buy comes with a full three years repair and maintenance (R&M) contract," says Stuart. "While we look at some of our vehicles on a case-by-case basis after that three year period, we have a number of trucks, particularly our V8s, on extended R&M contracts.
"The advantage of a Scania R&M package is that you can rely on your vehicles being maintained by people who know what they're doing. Scania's Technicians are thoroughly trained and do a great job; they are true professionals. I know things are done properly at Scania Edinburgh, as I've been in that situation personally. They are a great team, both staff and managers, and having been on both sides of the fence I'm proud to be associated with them. We need dealer support 24/7/365, and that's exactly what we get; service, assistance, parts deliveries – I just can't fault them.
"Our work takes us into remote areas up the west coast of Scotland. There's little in the way of service to be had up there, so we need the ultimate in reliability – and I believe the combination of a Scania truck and the backup we receive from Scania Edinburgh gives us just that. I don’t think we'd get the levels of support we enjoy anywhere else. They really go above and beyond to help us every time; it really is a special relationship."