Special feature: McClafferty Haulage's V8 Scania fleet

By: Chris McCullough , Photography by: Chris McCullough

For Seamus McClafferty, having a fleet of black V8 Scania trucks attracts and retains customers. Deals on Wheels finds out more.

Maintaining an eye-catching fleet of Scania trucks powered by V8 engines is the secret to attracting and retaining loyal drivers for a County Antrim haulage company.

The trucking industry in the UK and Ireland can almost be described as being in a crisis when it comes to having enough drivers to keep the wheels rolling, but for Mgh in Ballycastle, this issue is not such a problem.

Heading up the company is Seamus McClafferty, who founded the haulage firm back in May 1994 after a lengthy career driving lorries for others.

Backed up by his wife Louanne and his teenage son Connor, Seamus employs four local drivers for his fleet of Scania trucks all decked out in the company’s highly recognisable black, red, and silver colours.Now, at 55 years old, Seamus leaves the majority of the driving to his staff and helps run the office with his wife. However, he still takes to the roads when his drivers are on holiday or when he fancies a run out to a show.

Black V8 Scania fleet

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The fleet of black Scanias at McClafferty Haulage is regarded as one of the nicest on the UK and Irish roads and his drivers are all proud of the vehicles they operate taking good care of them at every opportunity.

The oldest truck in the McClafferty fleet is a Scania 143M 450, which, even though is restored and in retirement, still gets out the odd time to go to a show.

The youngest Scania is an R520 V8 purchased just last year and is currently hauling a fridge unit for a food company.Ranging between eight and ten years old, the other models include a 2006 Scania R580 V8, a 2007 Scania R560 V8, and a 2008 Scania R500 V8.

The V8 engine factor

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Seamus says the common denominator between all his trucks is the V8 engine, which helps to encourage driver availability and loyalty.

"Driver shortages are a real problem for the haulage industry right across the UK and Ireland," Seamus says. "I am fortunate enough to have a good team working for me, and I know it’s the Scanias that help.

"My drivers tell me they prefer to drive Scania trucks, particularly the ones powered by the V8 engines, which, in my opinion, are really hard to beat.

"If I were to switch brands, I honestly think I would lose drivers, as they are very brand loyal indeed," he says.

Seamus insists Scania’s V8 engine is hard to beat but he wouldn’t be against trying a Volvo 750 at some point.

"It is such a powerful and economic engine and certainly helps keep my drivers working for me.

"I did run a couple of Volvos in the past, but they didn’t really work out for us, so they were exchanged for Scanias.

"Having said that, I wouldn’t be against trying a new Volvo 750 at some stage,"
he adds.

From truck driver to business owner

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Seamus himself started out driving a Scania 142 for, now defunct, haulage company East West, where he also received the inspiration to start his own business, thanks to the help from his old boss.

"I drove for East West for three years as a staff driver before starting out my own trucking company in 1994," he says.

"The owner at East West was Frank Maguire who helped me establish the business here. He was a real gentleman, who sold me my first truck and encouraged me all the time. He even sub-contracted me in to haul for him after I was up and running.

"In fact, I sold my very own little Vauxhall Nova SR so that I could afford the deposit to buy that truck.

"Without Frank’s help at that time, I don’t think McClafferty Haulage would be in business today," he added.

Team efficiency

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The drivers with McClafferty Haulage are Alan Smiley, Mickey Laverty, Adrian McVeigh, and Victor McKendry, who all take great pride in their own tractor unit.

At every opportunity, the drivers are out making sure their Scania and trailers are clean and looking their best. Polishing is a regular job when the truck is on its downtime.

All of their haulage work is by regular contract, including some long-term haulage contracts with DFDS Europe and with Interfrigo on cold storage work. As well as his own curtain sider trailers fully decked out in the recognisable McClafferty Haulage livery, Seamus hauls fridge units belonging to the customers he works for.

A competitive market

During his 30-plus years in the haulage industry, Seamus has seen many changes and says it’s a real cut throat business these days. He says some companies will undercut jobs and even lose money to secure a new customer. 

"As the bigger haulage companies get bigger, they become more aggressive in the market, forcing some of the smaller operators to close down," he says.

"There are fewer haulage companies around today than there were when I started out. The smaller operators are getting swallowed up by the bigger haulage companies who are striving to take all the haulage work out there.

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"We have four lorries on the road, and I am being encouraged by my son, Connor, who although is still a teenager at 14, wants me to increase the fleet. Connor has a huge interest in the business and wants to be a driver someday as well when he reaches the age to do the HGV test."

Back in the good old days, haulage companies were employed by their customers purely on how their fleet of trucks were looking.

It was seen as a major attraction for the customer to have their products hauled by
a good-looking truck, but those days have disappeared according to Seamus. "It used to be that haulage companies were employed on how their fleet looked and that’s why the trucking companies went to great deals to each have the best looking wagons on the road," he says.

"But those days are long gone. It’s now all about how little a company will charge to do a job. We lose jobs and we gain jobs, but thankfully, we have regular work ongoing that we have done for years.

"It is most groupage work we carry out but we will haul anything anywhere. Although the insurance costs are not so bad these days, the rates paid for jobs are almost still the same as they were 20 years ago. Fuel prices, too, rise and fall very often, so we forward buy our diesel to try and control our costs," he adds.

Then and now

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It’s been almost 15 years since Seamus bought his beloved Scania 143M, and it holds a special place in the McClafferty Haulage fleet. Seamus restored the Scania 143 after he bought it back in 2003 mainly because this model is such an iconic tractor unit.

"I did start driving in a Scania 142, but I decided to buy a Scania 143 to restore and keep for shows or charity runs.

"That lorry presents a good talking point at the events and looks well in our company colours, too," he says. "It’s still a super truck despite the age."

Even though his days of full-time driving are over, Seamus has an ambition to one day do a long distance trip on a charity mission to an Eastern European country such as Romania.
"It’s been on my mind for some time," he says. "It is indeed an ambition of mine to carry out such a trip over to Eastern Europe. 

"I think it would be very rewarding and would help people out at the same time. It’s something I need to look into more," he adds. 

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