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Poetry in motion

With a name like Burns what other headline could we use…?!

1965: It may have been the year that saw the Beatles top the charts with I Feel Fine, but 200 miles north of Merseyside in Burdiehouse on the southern fringe of Edinburgh, a gentleman by the name of John Burns was feeling a touch of trepidation. For in October ‘65, John decided to take the plunge and start up in business as a one-truck  haulier.  At the time, John’s son David W Burns, whose name the company bears today, was working as a fitter for Pentland Garages, a major automotive dealership and transport group based in nearby Straiton.

A year or so later, David encountered a brand new truck in the Pentland paintshop.  “Whose is that?” he enquired of his boss.  “It’s yours – you’re going to start working with your father,” came the reply.  “Getaway,” said David, “My dad couldn’t afford that.” “I know,” said the boss. “But it’s yours all the same, and you’re going to start paying for it when you’re earning!”

Recounting this exceptional tale to us is David Stewart, the Son-in-Law of David W Burns and today one of three directors of this now well established family firm – the other two directors being David W, who at 73 is still active in the business, driving every day, and his wife Margaret.  David Stewart’s wife Sandra is Company Secretary, and their nephew David Reid completes the company’s line-up of relatives.

“It wouldn’t happen today, would it?  But it’s true.  John was being helped by Pentland to grow his business.  And it certainly started something for here we are 53 years later with a fleet of ten trucks – that’s the largest we’ve ever been, and not bad since we focus on serving a select band of customers, including some blue chip names, rather than chasing any business at any cost.”

With their sleek lines and wide radius corner curves, designing a livery for a modern day can be challenging to say the least.  But by adding bold, plunging white stripes to the sides of the blue-base cab, Burns has cracked the code for sure.  Additional detailing includes white stripes across the grille struts and pin striping on the grille, bumper, cab sides and infill panels between the wheels.  There's a curly wurly flourish on the cab front quarters and the bottom of the doors and the company's 50 year logo takes pride of place above the doors. There's alloy wheels, naturally, and a personalised plate.  Finishing the job off is orange vivid sign writing on the sides with a red drop shadow to emphasise the letters and numbers, the Burns name large on the front of the Highline cab and the truck's own name – Yankee Clipper – emblazoned in orange beneath the Scania badge on the grille.

All in all, the effect is dramatic; ultra clean lines simultaneously defining the cab's form and firm's identity in a dramatic, head-turning truck.

"But more than anything, the Scania V8 is happiest when it's loaded heavily. There's so much power and torque, it's as good if not better than any other truck on the road."

David Stewart


The vehicle is one of three Scanias in the firm's fleet, the others being a G 410 eight-wheel tipper and an R 580 Topline from Scania's previous truck generation.

Plated at 44-tonnes, the new R-series tractor unit has a 6x2 wheelplan and 580 horses under the bonnet.  It was supplied to Burns by Scania's Edinburgh depot, which also looks after the vehicle under Scania's three year repair and maintenance package.  "They service it on their back shift, which is great for us as it means the truck is available to us during the day," says David Stewart.

Although it's Highline cab provides a massive living space, most of Burns' work is relatively local.  "We tend to run in and out of local quarries and farms, carrying aggregate and grain," says David Stewart.  "We do go further, and of course, we're happy to run anywhere – in fact we've started doing that over the past year, but historically it's true to say that we've mostly operated locally."

So why go for a V8?

"I have to be honest; Scania first came our way by chance," says David Stewart.  "We had won a contract and needed a truck quickly to haul a trailer we were buying to do the job.  No-one could help, so I phoned Scania and their sales guy Paul Smith found me the R 580 Topline.  It was about 9:30 on the Friday night when Paul called me to say he'd secured it, but it was in Milton Keynes.  I said let's go for it, and by Tuesday they'd got it to their Edinburgh depot, where it went straight into the paint shop.  They also fitted a wet kit, and it started work the following week – impressive, eh? 

"Most of all, our V8s have the ability to deliver.  Reliability, durability and driveability are all key for us and, of course, there's always people looking to buy a good used Scania V8.  I also like the leather seats and the swivelling passenger seat Scania have added in the new generation, that's a great touch. 

"But more than anything, the Scania V8 is happiest when it's loaded heavily.  There's so much power and torque, it's as good if not better than any other truck on the road.  Today's congestion means you're forever slowing down then speeding up again – and the way this vehicle accelerates, you won't find anything out there to beat its journey times!"