Cover story: Renault T High

By: Chris McCullough, Photography by: Chris McCullough

Deals on Wheels caught up with Paul O’Hare to find out how the latest Renault T High stacks up for this Northern Ireland haulage contractor

Based at Loughbrickland in County Down, JP Transport—run by 34-year-old Paul O’Hare —now has four tractor units, including Paul’s top-of-the-range brand-new Renault T High unit.

The new Renault T High tractor has more power with the 520hp engine

Paul started off running second-hand Renault Magnum tractor units in the company as they were, in his words, both reliable and cheap. Today, some five years later, the Magnums may have gone but the reliability of the Renault brand lives on.

Paul began driving trucks for another company but when he saw an opportunity to start up on his own, he grabbed it.

"The company I was driving for had a customer that manufactured packaging for fast food and other products," says Paul. "We were delivering the raw materials to the factory almost on a daily basis and hauling the finished product away to Belfast docks at the same time.

"It was a busy operation indeed but the owner of the trucking company decided to give up that contract and move on to other work. That is when I saw an opportunity to start up my own haulage company and grabbed it with both hands. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task but it was a challenge I was ready to tackle."

JP Transport owner Paul O’Hare

That particular packaging manufacturer was Huhtamaki, just off Kennedy Way in south Belfast, which also runs another factory 18 miles away in Antrim. This progressive company has a long history in the production of packaging for fast food and recently started producing the paper straws that you might find in a McDonald’s milkshake.

"It’s a busy factory with trucks coming in and out all the time," says Paul. "I was lucky enough to take them on as a customer when the previous haulier decided to move on.

"Right then, at that time, I had a bit of a dilemma on my hands and that included the decision of what trucks to buy that best served my purpose starting off in the transport industry. While I didn’t want something that would break the bank, I certainly didn’t want a truck that was breaking down all the time either."

Best bargain

Paul is certainly a huge fan of Renault

Not wanting to invest heavily at the beginning, Paul looked around for the best truck bargains he could find to get him going. As the nature of the work from the packaging company involved relatively short distances Paul knew his fuel costs wouldn’t be so high but still wanted a truck that was reliable, could perform well, and was cheap.

With so many trucks on the road all over the UK and Ireland, the choice of used vehicles was plentiful, which made the decision of what to purchase just that little bit more difficult.

"Basically, the nature of this job is very circular in motion," says Paul. "This means we transport the raw materials to the factory from the nearby Belfast docks or other close locations and then we haul out the finished product back to the docks for shipping or to local distribution centres.

"When I was starting the business, with that in mind, I knew our distances were relatively short and therefore fuel usage would not be so high. I searched around for a truck that would get me going but also offer value for money and reliability.

Getting another load ready behind the new Renault T High

"In the end, I found a 10-year-old Renault Magnum with 800,000km on the clock. That was back in 2014 so the truck was a 2004 model and was in decent condition. It cost me £3000 so indeed was a real bargain in my eyes," he said.

That particular Renault Magnum carried out good service for Paul and his JP Transport company, so much so that it convinced him to buy a second Renault Magnum to add to the fleet.

"I found the Magnums good value for money and reliable as well. Plus, they were not too hard to buy in the first place," says Paul. "I even went on and purchased a second one, this time a 2005 model that only cost me £2000 this time.

"I liked the fact that the Magnums were easy to maintain and work on. These Magnums were a good introduction to the Renault brand and gave me the confidence to invest in that brand again in the future," he says.

Latest addition

This Renault Premium 460 is still an important unit in the fleet

As the business progressed so, too, did the demand for Paul who needed more trucks. Paul didn’t hesitate to buy more Renaults and recently invested in the latest Renault High T model, which he has been driving himself for a couple of months now.

"Following our good experience with the Renault Magnums, we upgraded them into Renault Premium models, some of which still exist in the fleet today," adds Paul. "Today, we run four trucks in the fleet and all of them are Renault models.

"There are two Renault Premium models, both manufactured in 2011, one 2015 Renault T Range and the new 2019 Renault T High tractor unit. In fact, we traded in another Renault Premium to buy the latest truck."

Paul finds the new T High comfortable to drive

With just weeks of use, Paul is already very fond of his new T High in white livery, picking out a number of advantages it has over the Renault Premium tractor unit.

"First of all, the new Renault T High tractor has more power with the 520hp engine, compared to the 460hp engine in the Premium models," says Paul.

"The visibility from the cab for the operator is superb and the noise levels are very low. I’m also pleased with the smooth transmission. There’s plenty of room inside the cab and the flat floor makes it look even more spacious."

Value for money

When it came to price, Paul says the big Renault is worth the money. "Compared to other brands offering similar horsepower, the Renault T High is much better value for money. It really is the top-of-the-range model in the Renault truck range.

"The new model is supposed to offer better fuel economy than the older models but I really don’t have mine long enough to give an accurate result on that yet," said Paul. "A good back-up service is essential to any truck driver and the Renault dealer offers a good programme. Now that JP Transport is well established, I would like to keep the fleet fresh and update a truck once it becomes around seven years old."

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Deals on Wheels' free newsletter or liking us on Facebook