Stunning fleet, stellar service
A mainstay of the Irish haulage sector for more than three-and-a-half decades, RAS Haulage continue to go from strength to strength and have recently added a spectacular new truck and trailer to their superb fleet. We travelled to their Kilkeel, County Down HQ and touched base with director's son Paul Spence to get an update on this exceptional family-run operation.
In July, 2018, RAS Haulage Ltd. added another Range T to their superb fleet of Renaults. Purchased from Diamond Trucks in Mallusk, the new acquisition is supplied with the powerful 13lt 520bhp engine and packed with bags of extras, including lumbar-supported, heated leather seats, Dura-Bright rims, upgraded gearbox cooler and air compressor, convertible upper bunk, diff lock & PTO, electric cab tilt and axle load indicator along with factory-fitted tipping gear and tank.
This magnificent head-turning vehicle - bedecked in yellow and blue, with the logo of key client CES Quarry Products (Irwin Resprays did the paintwork and Mark Lyons handled the graphics) - is finished to the absolute highest standard and has been turning heads on the road since it took its place in the RAS fleet.
Meanwhile, around the same time, RAS Haulage collected their new Stas Agrostar 64 cubic.yard Alu Bulk tipping trailer, SAF 430 Discs, from TC Trailers in Lusk, County Dublin. The trailer comes with a five-year on / off road warranty and will be instrumental in ensuring that RAS continue to provide their loyal customers with the unrivalled, industry-leading service levels for which they are renowned.
“We try to buy something new every year to keep the fleet fresh,” notes Paul Spence. “This summer, we got the new Renault as well as the new Stas bulk tipping trailer, while we also bought a new cement tanker and lorry last year.”
The fleet at present comprises nine Renault trucks, seven tipping trailers and five cement tankers. Regarding the Spence family's preference for Renault, Paul continues: “Over the years, we've had a lot of different stuff. We started with Foden and DAF, and we've also had MAN over the years. We ran Mercedes in the '80s but around about 1989 we started with Renault and we now have a whole fleet of them.”
Why the affinity for Renault over other manufacturers? “They don't let you down. They're a good-driving truck and the reliability is very good with them. We had been dealing with Renault Trucks NI before they started trading as Diamond Trucks in 2015 [when Harry Nash and Setanta Vehicle Importers took over the franchise] and they have looked after us from Day One.”
RAS Haulage was established by Paul's father, Robert, and uncle, Alan, in 1982. The Spence brothers started out with two trucks, one pulling a block trailer, the other with a tipping trailer. “They started working with CE Stevenson & Sons, which evolved into CES Quarry Products, and have been with them ever since. We traded as RAS Transport up until November, 2014 and then went limited and changed our name to RAS Haulage.”
The trucks and trailers work hard and it's a real credit to the team at RAS Haulage that they preserve them in such immaculate condition at all times. Regarding the nature of day-to-day operations, Paul notes: “We have four or five bulk tippers with CES Quarry Products all the time, drawing stone and sand.
“We draw stone out of the quarries and sand back in to the concrete yard. They have concrete yards at their quarries Doran's Rock (Saintfield) in Ballinahinch as well as a concrete yard in Moneyreagh. We also deliver cement in tankers to those concrete yards for Irish Cement. We've been working for Irish Cement in Platin, Drogheda since the mid-1980s. We also do other deliveries for them in Northern Ireland, delivering powdered cement in the tankers.”
As a family business, RAS Haulage provides a keen personal touch. A close-knit team includes founders Robert and Alan working alongside the next generation - Paul, brother Stuart, sister Susan and cousin Colin. Non-family members David, Gareth and Johnny are also key players in the driving crew, while a couple of part-time drivers are also brought in during particularly busy times.
To keep the fleet in tip-top condition, RAS have their own workshop where trucks and trailers are checked and serviced on a regular basis. “But we bought the two newest Renault trucks as part of a complete R&M (Repair and Maintenance) contract, which means Renault will maintain them fully for us for the first five years,” says Paul. “This means those two lorries are completely maintenance-free and Renault will take care of anything that needs to be taken care of. This saves us a lot of hassle and you know what your costs are. Obviously, there's a bigger outlay but the costs are fixed and there will be no nasty surprises.
“It the long term, it'll help us make ends meet. If you buy new, you know what your costs are but if you buy second hand you don't have to go into too many parts to get to thousands of pounds. At the end of the day, you have to pay somebody - if you don't pay finance for a new truck, you pay finance and unforeseen maintenance for a used truck in addition to running costs.”
As well as the superb fleet and experienced staff, flexibility and hard work have been at the heart of RAS Haulage Ltd.'s success over the past 36 years and counting. Delivering products in the construction sector, time is of the essence and a haulier is only as good as his last drop:
“We always try to work around things to make sure we get the work done for our customers. We try our best to never let anybody down. Our customers have orders coming in and they have to get their products out … we make sure we are on time every time.”
Looking to the future, is further growth possible for RAS Haulage? “I hope so but we don't want to take on too much with the uncertainty of Brexit looming. We can't commit at the minute until we see how that works out. A hard border and customs would have a major impact on our business because quarries in the North might have to stop buying cement from the South.
“We were flat out up until 2008 but then there was a downturn after the recession hit,” Paul concludes. “We had six lorries pulling cement tankers every day but we were down to two by '09 and went right down to one. That's when we got into tippers. There's been an increase in construction again and we're building the fleet up again and making a real go of it. Hopefully the outcome of Brexit won't be too detrimental for cross-border businesses but that's a real fear around here at the minute.”
RAS Haulage Ltd.,
73 Aughnahoory Road,
Taken from Irish Trucker & Light Commercials magazine, Nov/Dec 2018, Vol 21 No 8