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Mac’s Truck Sales – the road to success

Jan 16, 2018
Last August Mac’s Truck Sales moved to its smart new factory on the outskirts of Huddersfield. Deputy Editor David Jordan took a trip to Yorkshire to meet its founder Alex McDade to find out how the business grew from a one-man operation to become one of the largest suppliers of used removals trucks in the UK.

Mac’s Truck Sales’ new purpose-built site is so new its postcode doesn’t even exist, according to my satnav.  The shiny new four-million-pound factory, built on a green-field site just off the M62, was completed in August, so when I visited in October the paint was barely dry. As I walked towards the main entrance the glass doors glided apart automatically - a pleasant change from the usual squawk-box routine that greets visitors to most businesses these days. 

I was met in reception by Business Development Manager, Alexandra Hepworth and taken to the boardroom to meet the McDade family: Alex, the company’s founder, son Adrian, daughter Joanne and son-in-law Martin McDade-Smith, who all work in the business. Over a welcome mug of coffee, Alex told me his story. 

“My father ran a removals business in Walton on Thames in the 1950s; that was where I first became involved in the moving industry.” Life in those pre-Ofsted days was very different from today, as Alex explained. “If one of the porters didn’t show up Dad would take me off school to help on the vans. At the end of the day I was always the last one to leave because I also had to fold all the blankets and wash the vans before I went home!”  

Despite his early introduction to the removals industry Alex had no interest in making it his career. “I was always interested in cars, so when I left school I got a job in a garage as an apprentice mechanic,” said Alex. “One of our customers was comedian Tommy Trinder, I remember him bringing in his Rolls Royce and giving me a £1 tip; about half a week’s wages for a young apprentice in those days.” 

“Later I moved on to selling cars, but I wasn’t very good at it, I was too young I think,” said Alex. “I really wanted to start my own business, but I didn’t fancy the removals trade and decided to get into general transport instead.” 

Even though modestly claiming he was not very good at sales, Alex did manage to buy himself some very nice toys, including an E-Type Jaguar and a Rolleiflex camera! “I sold the Jag and the camera and bought my first Bedford truck. That was how I started my first business, Mac’s Transport,” said Alex. 

During the next few years Alex built up a healthy trade hauling freight between the north of England and London and eventually established branches in Leeds and Warrington. “After a while I began selling trucks on, and quickly realised I could make more money selling them than using them myself.  I rented a place not far from Tower Bridge from the local council and hired a chap we called ‘Old Boy Cyril’ to sell trucks in London. He was selling them as quickly as we could get them down there.” 

Back in the early seventies removal vans were particularly hard to come by, so Alex started buying box vans and converting them into proper removal trucks, remembering the things he had learnt when he was in the trade. “It was a busy time. After the mechanics had gone home I was often working until eight or nine o’clock at night welding and cutting timber to get an order out on time,” said Alex. 

In those early days Mac’s Truck Sales Ltd – as the business was now called - only built removal vans, mainly because they were in short supply and there was a ready market. Since then the company has diversified into other sectors, but the principal of concentrating on vehicles that are difficult to source, such as mobile cranes and tippers, remains Mac’s USP. The factory now produces around 900 vehicles a year. 

Notwithstanding Mac’s diversification, the removals trade remains a major part of the business and the company claims to have the largest selection of used removals vans over 7.5 tonnes in the country. “If we don’t have what someone is looking for we’ll do our best to find it,” said Martin McDade-Smith. “If not, we’ll build a truck to order especially for them. We can sometimes use the chassis from their old vehicle; it all depends on what the customer wants.” 

I was keen to see the new factory and as Martin showed me round the main production area fitters were busy preparing chassis ready for their new bodies and a new lease of life. “The new building has given us much more space than we had in the old factory and means that we don’t have to keep moving things around to get the vehicles in and out. It makes us a lot more efficient and it’s a nicer environment to work in,” said Martin. 

Anyone visiting Mac’s Truck Sales will be impressed by its modern new home. While many businesses are nervous about investment in these uncertain pre-Brexit times, the McDades have demonstrated their optimism about the future and confidence in the continued success of their company’s products. 

Photos:  Top: Martin McDade-Smith; middle right: Alex McDade; bottom: the workshop and experienced fitters at work.

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