A truly warm welcome to the first edition of On Scene, an exciting new publication for everyone involved in the vehicle rescue and recovery business, along with other allied sectors of this vital industry. At some point in their lives, almost every individual, road user or otherwise, will have reason to call upon the services of the dedicated professionals who go to the aid of others when things go wrong.
We intend to highlight every aspect of the industry in the coming months, with features profiling individual recovery operators, showcasing the latest products from vehicle and equipment manufacturers, looking back at past achievements, and pointing towards future trends and developments that are likely to affect this vibrant sector. We hope to entertain and inform our readers as we meet the many professionals – some well-known and others less so – who make such a huge contribution to the vehicle recovery business on a daily basis.
On Scene is a quarterly title that shares its format with two other successful specialist magazines: HeavyTorque, which is aimed at the specialist heavy transport industry; and Bulk and Tipper, which as its title suggests is aimed at all forms of bulk transport vehicle operators including those using tippers, tankers, moving floors and other specialist equipment.
With 160+ pages of first-class vehicle recovery content, what more can you wish for?
Our launch Issue (October 2021) was published in September 2021, though should you have missed out on our little teasers, please find herewith eleven extremely good reasons why this is a must-buy!
If you’re not already signed up to an annual subscription, then theres no time like the present to get your hands on what is ultimately Great Britain’s best dedicated recovery title. To place your subscription order, please click the appropriate link below. If a subscription is not your thing, then of course you can purchase a single copy too.
ALPHA RECOVERY LTD, WHICH OPERATES FROM TWO SITES IN THE NORTH EAST OF ENGLAND, HAS COME A LONG WAY SINCE IT WAS FIRST ESTABLISHED IN 1987. ON SCENE HAS BEEN TALKING TO OWNER MICHAEL BURKE, WHO’S A BIG FAN OF NEW TECHNOLOGY, AS LONG AS HE DOESN’T HAVE TO GET RID OF HIS OLD STALWARTS.
Standing beside his latest acquisition – a top-of-the-range 150-tonne GTW DAF 8-wheeler with ultra-high specification recovery equipment from Boniface Engineering – it’s hard to believe that Michael Burke started his business less than 35 years ago with nothing more than a second-hand Land Rover. The purpose-built workshops and extensive undercover parking bays that house his modern fleet at its site in Cramlington, north of Newcastle, are a far cry from the back yard of his house at nearby Seghill.
“I had a long-wheelbase Land Rover with a little Harvey Frost crane on the back to start with,” Michael remembers. “I went into business with an auto-electrician called John Davison. I bought work in for him, and he gave me work. After a couple of years, I decided I wanted to offer a 24-hour recovery service, but John didn’t want to. I thought my world had collapsed. It cost me £17,000 to buy him out, money I didn’t have, so I just paid him bits and pieces when I could.”
ON SCENE VISITS COUNTY LAOIS-BASED CORCORAN RECOVERY IRELAND TO MEET THE FOUNDERS OF THE ROI’S LARGEST RECOVERY OPERATOR
If you were looking for somewhere to establish a vehicle recovery operation in the Republic of Ireland (ROI), the chances are that you would end up putting your finger on the map somewhere in the Irish Midlands. County Offaly, Westmeath or Laois would be a good place to start, neatly positioned roughly halfway between west and east coasts and otherwise about as central as it is possible to be in the Republic. So it’s not much of a surprise to discover that the largest recovery operator in the country (and in Ireland altogether) is based on the outskirts of Portlaoise in County Laois.
When Gerry and Ann Corcoran set up Corcoran Auto Body Works in January 1977, there wasn’t a single mile of motorway in the Republic and the standard of many of the roads was poor, particularly in the country districts. The roads may even have been a factor in the repair work needed to some vehicles.
‘SERVICE WITHOUT COMPROMISE’ IS THE SIMPLE MOTTO OF CHESHIRE-BASED RECOVERY SPECIALIST HOUGH GREEN GARAGE. ON SCENE FINDS OUT HOW THE FIRM DELIVERS ON ITS PROMISE.
When we first get hold of David Farrell, operations director at Hough Green Garage, he is busy dealing with a VW Transporter that needs winching out of a residential garden in Frodsham, a few miles south of the firm’s Widnes headquarters.
“It belongs to a tree surgeon who came to sort out a tree in one garden and parked in an elderly neighbour’s driveway to avoid carting his equipment up and down a steep hill. All of the houses in this location are built into a hillside with a steep embankment,” he explains. “So he parked up, climbed the tree and started carrying out his work, and then watched his van roll away, knock its way through three cottage gardens and eventually turn over on its side.
LIGHT RECOVERY SPECIALIST E&S MOTORS HAS THRIVED FOR ALMOST 50 YEARS BY KEEPING ITS ORIGINAL PRINCIPLES INTACT, AND AS THE FOUNDER HANDS THE BUSINESS OVER TO THE NEXT GENERATION, THAT REMAINS THE FIRM’S TOP PRIORITY, AS ON SCENE FINDS OUT.
Establishing a business with little in the way of resources is difficult at the best of times, and going on to build that business while maintaining a reputation for honesty, reliability and fair treatment of customers, staff and suppliers is even harder. And if, before taking this challenge on, you only came to this country at the age of 14 and were unable to speak English at the time, you are a truly exceptional individual and a real success story.
To do all that and then maintain high standards while gradually expanding the business over five decades, simultaneously playing an active role in many local charities and public bodies, is even more of an achievement.
THERE CAN’T BE MANY FAMILY BUSINESSES THAT ARE MORE THAN 90 YEARS OLD, STILL TRADING FROM THE SAME LOCATION, AND STILL IN THE HANDS OF THE SAME FAMILY. ON SCENE HAS BEEN TO VISIT ONE OF THEM – HEAVY RECOVERY SPECIALIST FRANK RATCLIFFE AND SON. BASED AT CONINGTON, SOUTH OF PETERBOROUGH, IN CAMBRIDGESHIRE
Frank Ratcliffe started Cross Roads Garage beside the Great North Road in 1927. In those days the main road from London to the north was a quiet single-carriageway affair with few vehicles, but Frank made a living selling petrol and tyres, and repairing any unreliable automobiles that came past the door. In the early years he’d go out in a van with a length of rope to tow in cars that had broken down. His first specialist recovery truck was a converted Chevrolet, which he acquired in 1936.
The business is now run by Frank’s grandson Dan, assisted by his son Justin. But it’s unlikely that Justin’s great-grandfather would recognise the site these days.
VEHICLES IN THE RECOVERY SECTOR HAVE TO BE FIT FOR PURPOSE AND BUILT TO LAST. ON SCENE DROPS IN ON ANDOVER-BASED J&J CONVERSIONS, ONE OF THE INDUSTRY’S LEADING LIGHT TO MEDIUM WEIGHT VEHICLE CONVERTERS, TO FIND OUT HOW IT’S DONE
Retaining business in the long term is a priority for any company, especially when it comes to manufacturing and supplying recovery vehicles, bodywork and associated equipment. In this sector, vehicles tend to be used around the clock and sent out in all weathers at a moment’s notice, and have to function reliably time and time again.
The best way of achieving this is to design and build the best products possible, make the sales process as stress-free and seamless as possible, and support the product range as fully as possible – and that’s exactly what Richard Guy and Mick Vine, founders of Andover-based J&J Conversions, have been doing for well over three decades now.
LIKE MANY FAMILY FIRMS, RS RECOVERY IS NOW BEING RUN BY ITS SECOND GENERATION. BUT WHILE THEY HAVE BROUGHT A FRESH APPROACH, IT’S NOT THEIR INTENTION TO CHANGE ANY OF THE CORE FUNDAMENTALS AT THIS ESTABLISHED AND SUCCESSFUL RECOVERY OPERATOR.
Family businesses remain at the core of the vehicle recovery industry, even in areas of the country where bigger operators have taken a greater share of the market. The dedication required to run a successful operation around the clock makes families a natural fit for such operations.
West Midlands-based RS Recovery is a good example, although it’s actually a combination of two families. Its two founders have been friends for years and went into business together not that long after leaving school; and now the next generation on both sides is involved.
AFTER MORE THAN 35 YEARS RUNNING HIS OWN ROADSIDE RECOVERY BUSINESS, ROGER DAWSON IS STILL AS PASSIONATE ABOUT THE INDUSTRY AS EVER. ON SCENE CAUGHT UP WITH THIS COLOURFUL CHARACTER TO HEAR MORE ABOUT HIS FAMILY FIRM AND HIS LIFE AND EXPERIENCES OUT ON THE ROAD
Roger Dawson has been fixing and repairing engines almost ever since he can remember. While the other kids in his class were getting on with their schoolwork, Roger was finding another way to stay in the good books. At the grand old age of 11, he recalls spending most of his metalwork classes servicing his teacher’s motorbike.
“Whenever he had an issue he used to let me have a tinker around with it, and I usually got it going again,” he says. “Another teacher had an old Rolls-Royce, and I was the only kid in school that he would ever let near it.”
IF YOU NEED SOME TRULY BESPOKE RECOVERY EQUIPMENT FABRICATED BY HAND BY ONE OF THE MOST DEDICATED AND CAPABLE ENGINEERS OF OUR TIME, THEN STEVE YOUNGS OF SYREN IS YOUR MAN. ON SCENE WENT TO MEET HIM
Phrases like ‘bespoke’, ‘hand-crafted’, and ‘created by skilled artisans’ are part of almost every aspect of modern life. Even coffee shops like to stress the unique nature of their wares and the unworldly level of skill the person pushing the buttons on the fancy machine is possessed with.
In most cases, of course, this is nothing more than marketing hype. Very little is truly hand-crafted anymore, and these days, firms making virtually the entire product themselves on their own site are usually limited to ultra-expensive consumer goods manufacturers.
ON SCENE’S RESIDENT RECOVERY OPERATOR RON SCENE WONDERS WHO IS FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR COLLECTING AND DISPOSING OF SPOILED LOADS AND WHY INSURANCE COMPANIES AND OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES DO NOT HAVE FIXED POLICIES AND PROCEDURES IN PLACE FOR RECOVERY COSTS.
Picture the scene… It’s 1.30am on a winter’s Saturday morning with heavy rain and near-freezing temperatures when your control room gets the call. An artic loaded with frozen yoghurt has turned over and is lying on its side halfway down a motorway embankment, with its load spilling out of its split trailer.
Given the time of day and the day of the week, your control room is operating on a skeleton crew and it’s not your most experienced operator calling you. As they excitedly explain their early morning predicament, you pull yourself up, sitting on the side of your bed as you try to get the details into your still sleepy head.
ELGIN-BASED SHERIFFMILL MOTOR COMPANY’S REPUTATION IS BUILT ON THE PERSONAL SERVICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY THAT THREE GENERATIONS OF THE SCOTT FAMILY HAVE DELIVERED SINCE THE EARLY 1950s. ON SCENE HEADS NORTH TO VISIT AN OPERATION WITH LEADING CUSTOMER SERVICE LEVELS
The phrase ‘a green and pleasant land’ has been long associated with English poet William Blake, but it’s equally apt when surveying the Morayshire countryside around the base of the Sheriffmill Motor Company. With the spectacular Moray Firth coast on one side and the mountains of Speyside to the south, there are, surely, few better places in which to do business.
However, the area’s close-knit community comes with an extra requirement: any firm that wishes to progress here must display a level of personal commitment and dedication that is generally unheard of in the high volume, fast turnover world of large cities.