Seán Crilly grew up on a farm in Armagh where he always had a passion for driving. Coming from a large family, as he grew older, he decided to make his own way in life and started working for Hughes Transport.
He remained driving for fourteen years before he decided to branch out and start his own company.
In 1990, Crilly Transport opened its doors and they have been delivering bulk animal feeds to farms and stores across Ulster and Leinster ever since.
The company has a fleet of five lorries – four artic Scanias, three 440s and a 450 and a Volvo FM 400 rigid lorry. They also run four bulk tipping trailers.
Throughout the past twenty-nine years in business, Seán has experienced fluctuations in the market, recession and boom times, but he is sure that he has never experienced a time quite like this.
“I’m not sure there’s any future in it,” said Seán” with Brexit, the way the beef industry is going, and the instability of milk prices, it’s a real perilous business at the moment”.
The Northern Irish haulier is reiterating the same sentiment that is being felt across the sector at the moment.
There are major concerns about exports, taxes and the collapse of farms, which is in no doubt, causing much uncertainty.
He acknowledges that all of these reasons together have accumulated and that the haulage business is “being hit from all sides”.
“There’s no confidence in the industry at the moment,” said the man from Antrim. However, despite the stagnant effect that Brexit is having on the industry, the Crilly’s are remaining busy and Seán has many loyal customers that he has built up over the years.
The transport specialists mainstay is Lakeland Dairies Agri-business, where they have been delivering from the Co. Monaghan mill for years.
Meeting farmers is one of the points that Seán likes most about his line of work. “I like doing the actual driving and meeting people, that end of it appeals to me, but the day-to-day running of the business doesn’t appeal to me at all, my wife Marie does all of that”.
In a true family-run style, as well as having Marie in the office, his sons Shane and Laurence also work in the business along with another three external staff members. Shane drives while his brother does a lot of the maintenance work.
Seán loves working with Lakeland Dairies and he feels that they have a great rapport. Even so, Brexit does still affect everybody.
“We’re definitely in a holding position at the minute, we will really have to wait and see where the next six months bring us. Any plans that people might have for haulage requires a big investment”. The Belleeks-based company is going strong and Seán is thankful for that.
He continued to point out that it would be very difficult to simply switch from one aspect of the business to another without having to spend a substantial amount of money doing so. “Unless you have something concrete, you wouldn’t be taking a chance going into something else.”
Luckily for Seán, their company is busier than ever and they even purchased a Muldoon trailer last July.
Usually, when a market sector is on a knife-edge, there is always something to pin it to, but in today’s haulage sector, there is a number of reasons that have conspired against the drivers and business owners.
“You have to be careful, but the fact is that that there are so many unknowns at the minute. Nobody is giving us any straight answers; we don’t know what is coming down the road."
The haulage industry is doing it’s best not to lose nerve, and business operators are waiting with bated breath to see what the future holds.
Some have feared that just as the recession collapsed on many construction businesses in the past decade, the same might befall the farmers this time around and that could have a serious knock-on effect for all areas of the industry.
Thankfully, Seán has steered his business through nearly three decades of loyal service and his transport business is still thriving.
For all hauliers, it is now a just a waiting game and hopefully, farmers and hauliers alike will emerge largely unscathed.
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