K.McKenna Haulage is a business venture started by Kieran McKenna near Clones, Co. Monaghan thirty years ago next year, having been first founded in 1989.
Kieran is the father of Mark McKenna, who along with his mother, Mary, and brother, Shane, helps run the family haulage business. The family themselves hail from near Clones in Co. Monaghan and originally come from a farming background, with both Mark’s father and mother having been raised on beef farms.
“Both of my grandfathers would have had farms.” Mark McKenna told Kevin of That’sFarming.
“My uncles are all farmers as well, all beef.” He added.
One of Mark’s grandfathers also kept sheep on his agricultural enterprise many years ago, though his uncle’s now focus solely on beef.
“My grandfather would have had some sheep as well.” Mark noted.
This agricultural background meant Mark’s childhood was spent helping out whenever possible, though now, he admits, he is far too busy.
“You just don’t get the time for them sort of things anymore.” Mark stated.
History of K.McKenna Haulage -
For Mark’s father, Kieran, his haulage adventure began in the shape of work carried out for local hauliers in the area.
“He always drove bulk loads…He is almost fifty years drawing meal…He used to work for two different lads (hauliers) but they are both gone now.” Mark said.
“He started it up himself…His brothers stuck with the farming.” Mark said of the family business.
As mentioned, K.McKenna Haulage was founded by Mark’s father, Kieran, back in 1989. This means that come January, they will be officially in their 30th year of business.
“He started the company thirty years ago next year.” Mark explained.
Mark says any spare time during his childhood, such as weekends, school holidays and evenings, were spent in the cab of one of the family’s lorries. It was during these times that Mark himself developed a strong passion for ‘All Things Haulage’ and the rest, as they say, is history.
“There was no option…It was just this (haulage) or nothing else.” Mark laughed.
Mark’s journey -
For Mark, he says there was never any alternative than a career behind the wheel, whether he liked it or not.
This is what sparked an interest in the 26-year-old to begin a mechanics apprenticeship, where he trained as a mechanic for a three-year period with Toal Truck Services in Armagh. So successful was Mark’s first foray into haulage, that he was voted as the top apprentice mechanic in Northern Ireland in his second year in 2011.
“Because I left school when I was 16, I couldn’t get my licences…So, I studied as a Heavy Goods Vehicles mechanic.” Mark said.
“I worked as a mechanic and got my qualifications after three years…I did my course in Enniskillen and I worked for Toal Truck Services in Middletown, Armagh,” he adds.
He was also named the second runner-up in the driver of the year competition last year at the Talent in Logistics awards in the UK.
“I came third overall,” Mark explained.
The Monaghan man, following these three years spent in Armagh, then went onto complete his artic and rigid licences, before eventually returning home where he has now been for the past eight years.
“I got my licences when I was 18.” Mark informed Kevin.
A true family-run operation, the main hub of the team at K.McKenna Haulage is Kieran himself, his wife Mary and sons, Mark and Shane.
Currently, Mark splits his time between his role as transport manager and behind the wheel. His father Kieran still drives to this day, with no plans on relinquishing his place just yet, while Mark’s brother Shane also drives on a full-time basis.
“Shane started back full-time,” Mark said.
“He is full-time on the road now and my father, he is still on the road” Mark laughed.
For Mark’s mother, Mary, her role sees her looking after the company accounts. This won’t be the end of McKenna family members becoming involved in the business either, as Mark’s sister, Ciara, is currently in the process of developing an App for lorries. As the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
“She (Mary) does all the accounts in the office and that.” Mark noted.
“My sister, who is going to school, is in the middle of making an app for lorries.”
The family make up the majority of full-time employees within the ranks of K.McKenna Haulage, though they do employ one other full-time driver.
“There is four of us there driving full-time.” said the Monaghan man to That’sFarming.
Service-wise, the family specialize and primarily focus on bulk animal feed haulage and are one of the countries’ leading bulk feed specialists. They also offer biomass transportation and they are a long-standing member of the Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable crops (TASCC). They also carry out tipper and blower work throughout the UK.
“I also do walking floor work…silage maize, beet pulp and compost and all that. We move all that sort of stuff as well, but that’s mainly during the summer.” Mark explains.
“We have had that (TASCC approval) continuously for the past five or six years,” Mark added.
Their work has seen them working alongside agribusinesses giants such as Lakelands, J Grennan & Sons, A.W Ennis and Glanbia, work which they have now been undertaking for a number of years.
“We have one or two lorries full-time with Lakeland Dairies, delivering their feed. We also work out of Grennans in Birr as well and we also do work for A.W. Ennis and Glanbia in Portlaoise.” Mark noted.
“All of the farms we do, they are all GPS-logged onto the map. So, once we visit your farm, we will never have problems getting your farm again.”
The team have even recently begun transporting live poultry, as part of a new role started alongside McElroy Poultry Transport, Inniskeen.
“During the summer when it was quiet, we pulled a trailer for McElroy Poultry Transport in Inniskeen.” Mark said.
“We did that for two months during the summer. We gave it a go, it’s nice to see and experience different things.” He added.
The team of K.McKenna Haulage also offer feed removal services and have three trailers fitted with attachable sucking equipment. The team also wash their own trailers and have their own unique trailer drying system.
“We also internally wash our own trailers with our own trailer drying system.” Mark said.
“Normally, if you wash a trailer it mightn’t be dry for three days. We have a shed that will dry them out in six to seven hours.”
The team of K.McKenna Haulage currently operate with a fleet of five trucks. These comprise of a Renault, A Volvo Fh13, a Scania 143 and two Scania 420’s. They also have a fleet of nine bulk-tipping trailers and many more within their ranks.
“We have five trucks…We have nine bulk load trailers…two walk-in floor trailers,” Mark said.
The truck for which Mark is responsible is the newest addition to the fleet, a Renault T480. This truck was purchased by the family from Toal’s in Armagh last year and has already clocked up in excess of 200,000 kms. The family also recently implemented a change to the long-standing colour scheme of the fleet but kept the original blue and gold colourings.
“I am mainly on the 2017 Renault, the T480.” Mark explained.
“There is nearly 200,000kms on her now. None of them handy miles, all bad roads…She doesn’t get it too easy now,” He laughed.
The Scania 143 within the K.McKenna ranks was a pet project started by Mark at 18 years old.
“The Scania 143 is a lorry I bought when I was 18 as a project. I also rebuilt it and it is still on the road doing the same hard work as our fresher lorries.” Mark told Kevin.
The Future -
With regards to the future of K.McKenna Transport, Mark and the team hope to continue the work which has fared them well for the company’s twenty-nine years of business to date.
“We are going to keep plugging away as we are.” Mark said.
They will, as always, look to add new work to their ever-expanding list, whilst aiming to be as efficient as possible. For the McKenna family and the team involved, a top-quality service provided is the top priority.
“Because it is such a tight family business, we work to get the work done rather than just getting home in the evening.” Mark said.
Mark does not envisage; however, any new lorries being added to the fleet in the coming twelve months. If one does arrive, he admits, it will be in late 2019.
“No, there are no trucks lined up for this year at all.” Mark explained.
“It’s just hard to justify a new truck…Especially with the roads we are on, it is hard to take new lorries down them. There might be one next year, but we will just have to see how this year ends first…It’ll a 192 rather than a 191 if we do.”
In terms of next Summer, Mark says providing business is quiet, the family will again look into the transportation of live poultry with McElroy Poultry Transport.
“I probably will do it this summer as well, if it is quiet.” Mark stated.
Someday in the not-so-distant future, Kieran will eventually retire from his role behind the wheel, leaving Mark and Shane to run proceedings. This, Mark admits, may not be for a while just yet.
“The Same man thinks he will never retire.” Mark laughed.
“My brother and I will keep it all afloat anyway.”
Why Haulage -
Although he joked that there was “no option” but a life in haulage, Mark McKenna is truly passionate about what he does and continuing his father’s legacy.
“For as long as I can remember I was interested in lorries.” Mark said to That’sFarming’s Kevin.
It was his youth spent alongside his father, Kieran, that shaped the future of the now 26-year-old and set him on his journey to a life behind the wheel and he couldn’t be happier. Mark not only enjoys the work but also the variety involved.
“It is never just a 9-5 job. There is always something going on, something changing.” He said.
“It keeps your mind busy.”
A family-run operation on the go for almost thirty years, If Mark has his way, they will be in operation for at least thirty more.
Would you like to keep up to date with the antics of the K. McKenna Haulage team? If so, you can follow them on Facebook here. Are you working in haulage? Fancy sharing your story? If this sounds like you, email Kevin with a short bio on email@example.com.