When you are driving around Scotland, it is very unusual not to come across the distinctive, easily recognisable yellow-and-red livery of a Coille Haulage timber truck.
The family-run business (‘coille’ is the Gaelic word for timber) was established 25 years ago by Allan Johnston. His first timber truck was a Volvo FL7 6 wheeler rigid, this vehicle was fitted with a Jonsered Loader. Allan was working away quite happily until the kingpost failed; he then got in touch with Jim Watt at Caledonian Forestry Services Ltd. Jim ordered him a Foresteri (Kesla) loader, and lent Allan a Loglift he had in the yard to keep him working in the meantime. This was the start of a long, successful working partnership between Allan, Jim and Kesla.
Coille Haulage has grown over the years from an owner/ operator to currently having a fleet of twenty trucks, comprising Volvos, Scanias, MANs and Renaults; half are fitted with loaders. Out of the ten loaders, nine are Keslas, and he has a further two Keslas on order: one is to replace a six-year-old Kesla, and the other is an addition. Allan has 36 trailers in total, consisting of skeletal trailers and flatbeds for timber and general haulage, and three walking-floor high-volume trailers for transporting biomass and bulk recyclables. The fleet is constantly being enhanced to accommodate the increasing demand from the forestry industry.
Allan operates the ‘Special Types Vehicle’, which is a large Kesla 20/24 mounted on a Scania 124 truck. He uses this for loading his own trailers on longer haulage distances: by not having a loader fitted you can increase the trailer’s payload by around 3 tonnes, which has a big effect on costs. He also uses it for loading trailers which are destined for Ardrishaig Pier with the Forestry Commission’s 3m pulp, which is destined for the Caledonian Paper Mill at Irvine. Over 30,000 tonnes of timber pass through the port every year, and it has the capacity to deal with up to 150,000 tonnes. Transporting timber by boat from Ardrishaig has a major impact on the Scottish road systems, and removes in excess of a thousand truck journeys a year through Argyll and Ayrshire.
In 2005, Allan and Jim got together again and came up with an experimental loader which was a Daewoo excavator from the slew gear upwards, mounted on a truck with a Kesla double-extension dipper boom fitted for loading trailers. This worked successfully until 2011, when Allan upgraded and purchased the large Kesla 20/24 which is mounted on a Scania 124.
Throughout six years of operation the Kesla has been outstanding. Apart from six hydraulic hoses being replaced, no repairs to the loader have been necessary: it still shows no signs of wear and tear, and the bushes and pins appear to be in great order.
To successfully run a highly respected business like Coille Haulage, you need good experienced employees with dependable equipment, and this is the reason Allan chose Kesla. ‘I have never had a Kesla loader off the road; the quality is exceptional, with a long service life, and the backup from Caledonian Forestry Services is brilliant. All my drivers like the smoothness and reliability of Kesla loaders, and the Kesla cabins are a good comfortable working environment in all weathers. We haul large quantities of timber for Ridings sawmill at Cardross and Callanders Sawmill at Falkirk, as well as Tillhill, Euroforest and the Forestry Commission, and we need equipment we can depend on to fulfil our contractual obligations efficiently.’
Alan’s wife Mhairi runs the busy office, and his two sons, Bruce and Adam, are now involved as well. Bruce worked as an apprentice mechanic for Volvo Trucks prior to joining his father, and he thoroughly enjoys the variety and challenges of the work at Coille Haulage. Adam has recently finished university, and he now also contributes to the business.
Servicing and maintenance are very high on Alan’s priorities, and when coupled with smooth, competent operators using good-quality equipment, this results in a winning formula.
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