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Macs Truck Sales

Apr 17, 2012
A different way to buy the trucks you need, Steve Jordan talks to Martin McDade-Smith of Macs Truck Sales.

Macs Truck Sales Ltd was established in 1973 by Alec McDade, the son of a removal man in London.  Today the company is a major supplier of vehicles to the moving industry – but not, perhaps, in the way you’d expect.

For most moving men who are looking to buy a new vehicle there are two choices: new or second-hand.  Choose new and you first have to buy the chassis, then have the body builder add the body and cab you want.  It can be a drawn-out procedure taking many months.  Alternatively, you could choose a second-hand vehicle but there are not usually many Euro 4 or 5 vehicles on the market.  Movers tend to keep their vehicles for a long time and they have often had a hard life before the come up for sale.

But Macs offers a third alternative.  Martin McDade-Smith is the company’s sales manager.  He explained that his company looks at the problem in a different way. “Movers want a big body with a big cab and sleeping for at least two,” he said.  “You don’t get that kind of accommodation with a furniture van.”

So Macs has a solution.  It buys three to five year-old tractor units, usually Mercedes as they are the most popular with movers, stretches the chassis and fits a new removals body.  “The tractor cabs have all the bells and whistles that movers want (AC, electric windows, cruise control, etc.), they have loads of space for the crew and strong powerful engines so they are ideal for long haul work,” he explained.  What’s more Martin said that building a vehicle in this way is half the price of a new vehicle and the whole job can be completed in six weeks or so.

This technique has proved so successful for Macs that they are even able to build vans for stock.  They keep them unpainted until they are bought then add the required livery.  “If a customer is buying from stock we can have them in their new van in a couple of weeks.”  

Although Macs supplies all makes of vehicles, including Scania, DAF and Volvo, it’s the Mercedes that most movers want.  Martin explained that it is a high cab with a fairly flat floor so you can walk around. “We sell ten-times as many Mercedes as any other make.  They are all 18-tonners with 430bhp engines.  Some people worry about the fuel consumption as the vehicles are over powered for removals work, but in fact they often work out better than a vehicle with a smaller engine that’s working hard.”

The tractor units come into Macs at about three years of age with around 150,000km on the clock.  They are always Euro 4 or Euro 5 emission standard.  He explained that this mileage is on the low side of average for a large truck. The units have all been professionally maintained and have done most of their miles at 56mph (1200rpm).  “The strange thing is that movers don’t do many miles but, of all our customers, they are the most fussy when it comes to low-mileage vehicles,” Martin explained. Because movers are not used to doing high mileage they are perhaps unused to seeing those high numbers. But, in truth, by comparison to its previous life, the vehicle’s mileage will virtually stop when it’s used as a removals van. It’s a bit like buying an ex-rep’s car for the school run: the mileage is irrelevant.

On average, Martin explained that a three year-old Mercedes Actros, with a new five-pallet box body, would cost around £55,000 compared with an ordinary box van bought new at around £85,000.  “It’s cheaper to buy and it provides better accommodation,” said Martin. “They are particularly good for continental work as they are built for long distance work.”

But Macs also knows that even this kind of money is too much for some companies.  For this reason it stocks a large range of vehicles to suit every pocket from around £20,000 upwards. “We buy them for stock so they can’t have any negatives,” said Martin.  “They must be clean, low-mileage and well looked after otherwise we risk getting stuck with them.”  They are all supplied with a 12-month warranty on the body, a 30-day driveline warranty, and a full MOT. “A month doesn’t sound a lot but it’s enough for customers to work out if there’s something wrong.”

Macs is still very much a family business and Alec is still very much the boss.  His son Adrian is Martin’s brother-in-law, and Joanne McDade (Adrian’s wife) does the accounts and helps with health and safety.  The family has lots of plans for the future.  “We are already starting to put new vehicles into stock,” explained Adrian.  “We also want to build up our rental business too.”  Macs offers a short-medium term rental service to movers who perhaps need a special vehicle for a particular job or want to expand their fleet temporarily during busy periods. “The trouble is, people keep coming in and buying our trucks!”

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