Livestock farmers have been reliant upon hauliers to transport their animals up and down the country for decades, and they are just as dependant on them in these difficult times, so business rarely stops for Ian Murrie, the well-known Central Scotland haulier.

Ian began his business in 1986 when he purchased a DAF 2300 lorry from George Walker, from Uddingston, who was retiring and gradually the company has grown from there. Originally garaged at Eadie Bros yard, in Stirling, he then rented premises at Bannockburn, before moving to Meadowfield Farm, Throsk.

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Impressive farm sign, which was a birthday gift to Ian Ref:RH100420372 

Son, Alan, joined the workforce in 2007 and after that, the company made the decision to go ‘limited’ in 2009.

“Handling livestock and lorries has always been in my blood. My father, also Ian, was the pig auctioneer in the old Speedie Bros mart, in Stirling. Before it united with Livestock Marts (Stirling) and moved into the old Kildean site.

“When I was at primary school, I used to get 10 shillings for penning back the pigs so every school holidays I was always at Kildean helping to load the lorries. I’d often go a run with them too if they were coming back to the mart.

“When I left school, I started off as an office boy in Kildean with the aim of becoming an auctioneer, but found I was happier handling livestock and loading lorries. When I passed my HGV test, I went on to drive for Eadie Bros, transporting hay and straw, then I put my own lorry on the road with the help of John Eadie,” said Ian.

It is a six-man band, with Kenny Macdonald, being the longest serving member of the team who started with the company in 2005. Alan and Ian are also complemented by Gordon Baird, Brendan McKay and Kyle McColl.

Alan’s older brother, John, who works with Jim and John Brown, helps out during the company’s busier times and is a great asset for driving, along with working with sheep. Office duties are taken up two days a week by Johanna McLachlan.

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Team at Ian Murrie Haulage,(L-R) Kenny Macdonald, Brendan Mckay, Kyle McColl  Alan and Ian Murrie  Ref:RH100420343

“Staffing is a big issue in the industry as it is difficult to get someone who has both driving and livestock experience,” said Alan.

Kyle was the company’s ‘guinea pig’, being spotted for good handling among livestock at the mart and he approached Alan about going through his HGV test.

“It was a big decision, but we had to try it another way to the usual, as the last two employees thought they could manage to handle livestock but decided it wasn’t for them,” said Ian.

With only six men, it can sometimes be difficult to manage driving hours to cover the sales across Scotland.

“The hours can be a real struggle, especially with most of the island sales being at weekends, along with Saturday sales August, September and October, which can cause us a lot of problems. But when we needed, we can draft other drivers in to help us at our busier times of the year,” added Alan.

The Murries run five lorries – four artics and one lorry and trailer, with each lorry churning over the tacho at about 100,000km annually. The main service is in livestock haulage, which can mean they are working anywhere in Scotland.

Their main custom is up the West Coast – Oban, Dalmally, Tiree, Mull, Iona, Coll and Islay – with Stirling’s United Auctions, Caledonian Marts and Lanark’s Lawrie and Symington, also serviced. They also deal in hay and straw, which is another string to their bow.

“We have an immense client list from all over Scotland and a lot of loyal customers, who make us who we are. There is never too far a distance for us to go ... we will go absolutely anywhere – within reason,” said Alan.

All the lorries are Scanias, which are purchased from Paul Smith, at Newbridge, and changed every five years. That’s also where all maintenance is also undertaken. With the decker trailer being bought through the well-known vehicle fabrication business, Houghton Parkhouse, in Cumbria.

“Driving the lorries is now like driving a private car– all are now automatic. It is the way ahead. Automatics are less stressful on the drivers – we would never go back now,” said Ian.

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Trailers have storage for bags of fresh sawdust  Ref:RH100420359 

“When it comes to directions, we have built in sat navs in all lorries, but it is sometimes easier pin dropping the farm address on your phone, so we know exactly where we are going,” added Alan.

The company put on an extra lorry, two years ago, to ease the pressure on them, but with Lanark, Oban and Stirling sometimes all being the same day, it is often difficult for them to keep everything running smoothly. It’s often the case that they will work late at night – drivers’ hours permitting – to get the job done.

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 Newest in the fleet is this Scania tractor unit with the Houghton Parkhouse  Platinum trailer  Ref:RH100420361  

Whoever is first back to the yard between Ian and Alan sorts out the paperwork and rotas for the following day.

“With both of us still full time driving, it can be quite hectic on our busier days to try and organise the agenda, and to work on the staffs hours – it is a lot more complicated than it seems,” said Alan.

Ian added: “During the quieter times, from June to August usually, we try to get the drivers to take their holidays so we can manage the staff easier. But, we don’t like refusing work when we don’t need to.

“When we are quieter, we try and keep ourselves busy where we can, to keep the lorries moving. We cart a little bit of timber and general haulage to help ease us over to endure the costs involved.”

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Inside the Scania cab driver comfort is top priority   Ref:RH100420366  

The price of machinery, fuel and staff wages are the biggest outlays to hit the business, but they also have to contend with a myriad of on-going and new legislation that they are forced to follow.

“It is absolutely crazy. Machinery alone has increased exceptionally in the last five years, it can’t continue to go up, or no one will be in the trade. Keeping up with legislation is also unbelievable, with supermarkets making up their own rules … it makes our job very difficult in today’s world,” said Alan.

To keep up with ever changing rules and regulations, a wash bay was built when the team moved into their new premises, in 2012. This ensures the lorries are kept as clean as possible being washed down every night on return.

“We are also only 20 minutes away from Stirling, so we can get washed out before our next run, which works well for us, especially on busy days, when the market or abattoirs can be queued up – it can save us a lot of time, ” said Ian.

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Impressive  lineup that get used transporting livestock around the country  Ref:RH100420355

The business has also ventured into sheep wintering – buying lambs from August to October to sell from December through to March.

This year they handled 3500 lambs, which were mainly bought and sold through UA, Stirling; Caledonian Marts, Stirling; Lawrie and Symington, Lanark; and Scotbeef, Bridge of Allan.

“We have always had some sheep as a hobby, but it has increased to be part of the business now. It is a good way to get away from driving.

“It is a real enjoyment buying and selling. I love it and we are at the markets anyway – we just try to not bid against our customers!” said Alan.

Along with the sheep and the addition of two new lorries a couple of years ago, Ian and Alan are more than content for now with Alan’s three children – Alayna (6), Ava (5) and Alan junior (3) being the future.

“Coronavirus, is one word that we all do not want to hear, but over the last couple of weeks, with auction markets becoming quieter, we have not shifted as much livestock.

“This outbreak has hit us, but we want everyone to stay safe and get the country back to normal as soon as possible,” said Alan.

Ian added: “It was the same with foot-and-mouth in 2001. We were put on a standstill and the regulations were horrendous following the outbreak.

“The drivers went through hell to get the industry moving again and I don’t think the haulage business would be prepared to do that again!

“The standard and maintenance they wanted was impossible and made it a very difficult period for the business, but we came through it. We just have to hope that this does not work out the same and we can all come out on top of it all.

“We have confidence that livestock haulage will always be needed within the industry, and we have a lot of loyal customers that keep us going,” concluded Ian and Alan.

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Lorries line up with there drivers  Kenny Macdonald, Brendan Mckay, Kyle McColl  Alan and Ian Murrie   Ref:RH100420341