After reaching a full century in operation earlier this year, success has seemingly never stopped for the third-generation family business – RW Stewart – a livestock haulage company based in Linlithgow.

Robert Wilson Stewart began the company in 1920, hence the trade name – RW Stewart – and it has been very much a family affair since. Robert’s sons, George and Robbie, took control, with George taking on more of a managerial role, whilst Robbie was out driving lorries and canvassing for more work.

Nowadays, George is meant to be in ‘retirement’ yet still oversees everything, but it is his son, Alan, who manages the day to day business alongside nephew, Sandy Stewart. Sandy’s roles include canvassing as well as taking on many other routine and organisational roles. He joined the company nine years ago after working as a self-employed agricultural contractor.

The Scottish Farmer:
STEWART FAMILY Sandy, Rory, Allan, Robbie and George Ref:RH180720236

In 2007, the family business moved to Drumavon Farm, a 10-acre site on the edge of Linlithgow, just four miles south of where RW Stewart began in Bo’ness.

There is a large workforce, with 23 members of staff – 18 drivers, three office staff, one yardsman and a mechanic, as well as self-employed drivers that lend a hand at peak times of the year.

The yardsman, Alex Tweedie, has a long list of tasks, some of which include lairage mucking out, washing down daily, feeding stock, spreading slurry from the wash bay, filling sawdust, washing out trailers and he occasionally gets to go home!

Their lairage caters for pigs, sheep and cattle, which can be in for a few hours or up to a few days for different purposes.

Some slaughterhouses use it as a collection centre for stock locally delivered in from farmers directly to deliver that day or the following morning for culling. Others use it to gather stock from all over the country throughout the week to supply slaughterhouses, once a load is made up or the order is fulfilled. They also provide a contingency plan for slaughterhouses when they have a break down or a delay at the plant.

The Scottish Farmer:

THE LAIRAGE in the yard caters for pigs, sheep and cattle Ref:RH18072026

Their mechanic is a busy man, he does all the maintenance on the trailers and takes care of all the yard equipment and vehicles, although the tractor units are serviced regularly at dealerships.

“All of our staff play key figures in our business and we would not be where we are today without them. The drivers are the face of our business, meeting all our customers on a daily basis, some of whom we will never have met before, so it is vital they provide a friendly face.

“We can’t thank our staff enough for being so understanding during this Covid-19 pandemic, as well as all year round, they really are a Godsend to us,” said Sandy.

Alan added: “The first few weeks of lockdown, business was slow and we were not sure what lay ahead, however, we told our customers we were available for business and asked our drivers to work. We held to our word and they have held to theirs, so we could not be more grateful.

“Although business has picked up again now, with restrictions beginning to ease, as well as the public continuing to support local businesses, we just hope it continues,” said Alan.

The Scottish Farmer:

R.W. STEWART family and staff and some of the fleet, it is a very close knit community Ref:RH180720237 

Sandy commented: “Everyone in the livestock sector have all stood by hauliers to make the job work. They have been supporting one another and it is the only way everyone has got through this.”

A wide variety of services are provided by the business which runs all over Scotland, into England and Wales. The family has not got one big contract or set marketplaces that it relies on, as they do a lot of work for many farmers, livestock centres and slaughterhouses.

“Since we are a reasonably sized haulage company, we can be more flexible with farmers and like most, they are always last minute, so when last minute jobs come in we can usually cater for them.

“August to March is usually our busiest time of the year attending different sales throughout the country and fulfilling the needs of our customers,” added Alan.

Although Sandy canvasses for the company, they have a strong working relationship with a ‘very big icon’ in the livestock industry, Drew Redpath, who for the last 10 years has also gathered work for them, attending sale days of fat, store and breeding stock daily.

The Scottish Farmer:

THIS SCANIA six-wheeler is for some of the smaller jobs as it is more practical Ref:RH180720273 

To keep on top of the work, the team is currently running a fleet of 20 lorries fitted with Plowman livestock trailers, one of which is a six-wheeler, making smaller jobs more practical.

There are 14 Scanias dominating the fleet. At one time RW Stewart claimed to have one of the biggest fleets of R730s in Europe, said Alan, but with the latest generation Scania, it’s been the V8 S650 that’s been purchased. The 650s have been great for fuel economy (now getting 6.5mpg) which is the same as the DAF 530.

The Scottish Farmer:

LOADING PRIME lambs onto the modern Plowman trailer unit Ref:RH180720263 

Also, on the inventory list is a tipper to cart sand and gravel into the concrete plant located next to the yard. Their low loader also moves the odd machine from time to time at quieter times of the business, and if that isn’t enough to keep the Stewarts busy, they also shift a lot of straw about the country.

When it comes to servicing and keeping up with the maintenance, the Scanias go to the dealership at Newbridge for serving and inspections, while the DAFs are maintained at Drummond’s, at Kirkaldy.

The Scottish Farmer:

EVEN THOUGH livestock haulage is the core of the business, on the inventory list is a tipper, which carts sand and gravel to the concrete plant located next to the yard Ref:RH180720259

“We are always trying to improve and make things better for our drivers, our customers and the livestock. We change all our tractor units and trailers at three to five years old to try and reduce breakdowns and maintenance costs.

“Yes, new trailers and new trucks can breakdown, but if you do everything in your power to make sure it’s in working order, you give yourself the best chance to get the job done properly. We don’t ever want a vehicle stopped at the roadside with a full load of stock on board when sensible checks could have prevented it,” said Alan, who added that some of the lorries will cover 120,000km annually.

The Scottish Farmer:

THE Stewarts  have moved onto buying lifting deck trailers reducing stress for stock and worked by remote Ref:RH180720268

Sandy added: “Trying not to have any delays when there is livestock in transit is our biggest concern for animal welfare purposes. We have moved on to purchasing lifting deck trailers reducing stress for stock, especially for older stock and pigs trying to climb up ramps, whilst having more room inside enabling stock to be loaded slacker.

“We also find them a lot more versatile for picking up and dropping off multi drops. Going from conventional trailers to lifting decks has helped influence our business, as well as being more appropriate for animal welfare, which is vital to us,” he added.

“They are much easier for cleaning and disinfecting, so they certainly have their bonuses! The fans and temperature gages keep the trailers in the perfect condition for the livestock on both cold and hot days,” said Sandy. He reckoned the company runs the most lifting decks of any livestock haulage business in the UK.

The Scottish Farmer:

The Plowman trailers are equipped with fans and temperature gages to keep the trailers in the perfect condition for the livestock on both cold and hot days Ref:RH180720257  

“Keeping the drivers happy, as well as keeping up to date with our equipment is a key job of us. The drivers need all the comforts they can get as they are usually away in their lorry all week,” added Sandy.

Drivers are the key indicators on what makes the success of the business and although their plans are on hold on how to celebrate 100 years in haulage due to coronavirus, the Stewarts aim to continue.

“We are delighted to have reached 100 years in business. It has not been easy, but we couldn’t have done it without the drive of the family and the workforce we have behind us.

“Our plans to celebrate have certainly been delayed, though we are hoping we will manage to have some sort of celebration before the year is out,” said Sandy.

The Scottish Farmer:

Fleet currently running 20 Daf and Scania lorries Ref:RH180720250

Although this is a huge achievement, it is not the biggest accomplishment the family has been celebrating – earlier in the year, George Stewart was presented a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to the haulage industry.

“It was an honour to see his dedication to the industry pay off and we all look up to him, and want to achieve what he has done over the years,” said Alan.

Sandy added: “It is great to be involved in a business with the passion and experience it has, and I hope generations to come will be as proud of us as we are of generations past.

The future doesn’t stand still for the Stewarts, with the next generation already showing an interest. Alan’s son Rory, is just 12-years-old and is out washing floats and lending a hand when he can!

The Scottish Farmer:

The future does stand in good stead for the Stewarts, with the next generation already showing an interest, Alan's son Rory, is just 12-years-old yet is out washing floats and lending a hand when he can Ref:RH180720271 

“I do think haulers will always be needed. Livestock will always be required to be moved and with the increasing price of kit, farmers could struggle to afford it. There is no denying that the equipment has changed dramatically over the years, lorries nowadays are like driving a family car!” said Alan.

Sandy added: “It is a competitive market to be in and it is a difficult job as well, with a lot of daily changes to the organisation behind keeping the lorries moving and working, and constantly monitoring driving hours.

“Although there have been many changes over the years already, the third generation has a bright future, even though they have no intention to expand the number of lorries they have the drive and passion to excel at what they do, as well as seeing what the future holds for the industry.

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“It is strange thinking that 100 years ago we had a horse and cart delivering milk from our own dairy, to now having 20 trucks shifting livestock all over the country. When you ask where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time, I automatically think it can’t be much different from now but we have come so far in the past 100 years, who knows where we will be in the foreseeable future.

“However, I do want all the lorries to be identical, or as near as possible, I want to continue to serve our customers with the best care and attention that we can,” added Sandy.

There is clearly a lot of sweat and tears put into the business and it goes to show, that hard work can still pay off!

“What we do doesn’t make a lot of money, but just like farming, it is a way of life. It has its ups and downs, but it’s what our family has always done and what we always want to do. The most important part is we enjoy what we do and we want everyone involved to do so too,” concurred Sandy and Alan.

The Scottish Farmer:

AN IMPRESSIVE line up, the RW fleet is currently running 20 Daf and Scania lorries, Plowman livestock trailers and flatbed and tipping trailers Ref:RH180720278