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Family Ties Them Together At Stalkers

The circumstances behind Stalker’s entry into the haulage and logistics industry is certainly a unique one, as Paul Andrews found out when speaking to their Managing Director, Karen Stalker.

“Strange as it sounds, the company as it exists today originally came about after Eddie Stalker was involved in an incident with a drunk driver in Jersey, using the compensation money from that to buy his first heavy goods vehicle, which was a T.K. tipper, in 1968. With this, he carried stones from the quarries throughout Cumbria for use in the construction of, what was then, the new M6 motorway, “ explains Karen.

Together with his wife Rene, the pair ran the business under the name of E.T & I. Stalker, trading in that first tipper for a 17 foot Ford D2000 flat-bed and securing a significant contract with The Inveresk Paper Company, based at Denny in Stirlingshire, to haul paper. This contract helped kick-start a period of steady expansion for the business, which coincided with Eddie’s sons Hughie and Gerald joining the company, which soon rebranded as Stalkers Transport.

The 1980’s was a decade of important change for the business. “By 1985, the family came to realise that they had outgrown their existing infrastructure, and this led to its relocation to its present site at Townfoot Industrial Estate in Brampton, Cumbria,” Karen continues. “It was around this time that the company officially became a limited one, continuing to be family-owned and now run by my father Hughie. Under him, Stalkers grew even stronger, becoming a founder member of the Pall-Ex palletised freight network in 1996, servicing a sizeable area covering the whole of Cumbria, The Borders and up into Edinburgh.”

By the end of 2001, the company had purchased an additional 14 acres of adjacent agricultural land, much of which has since been developed to further expand and improve the site through the addition of extra warehousing, the increasing in size of its truck and trailer park, and so forth.

Now a genuine third generation family business, Stalkers has made it of paramount importance that it maintains what it calls ‘good old-fashioned family values’, strongly emphasising the ideals of hard work and reliability. “We have always strived to do things a little bit differently from most other haulage companies,” Karen explains. “Any company can run up and down roads with full loads from point A to B, but Stalkers is unique in that we have come to be recognised as experts in groupage and multi-drop deliveries, offering a guaranteed next day delivery service between Scotland, the north west and south east of England.”

“As well as groupage and multi-drop deliveries, we also specialise in national full load distribution, just-in-time deliveries, ex-works collection and part load services, and just-in-time warehousing. We enjoy working in partnership with like-minded, quality companies and these collaborations have also helped all of us reduce empty running, reduce turnaround times, and massively improve our carbon footprint, another issue close to Stalkers’ heart.”

“The Brampton depot acts as an onward distribution hub for companies not wishing to travel in to Scotland. The third party hauliers drop their goods into Stalkers, can get their trucks serviced and maintained whilst their drivers have a break and then they are loaded back to an area of their choosing.”

Going that extra mile for its customers is something that Stalkers takes great pride in, yet this would not be possible without the work of its valued employees. “The dedication and loyalty of our staff of almost 70 men and women over the years has undoubtedly been key to our success,” Karen enthuses. “Many of them have been with us through the tough times and the good, and it is because of that continuity that we have been able to come through periods of difficulty and move the business forward. We have worked very hard to make our employees feel like they are part of one big family, and I think this is reflected in the fact that we have individuals with us today who first started when they were 16 years old. Our six traffic planners alone have some 114 years of service with us between them, which is truly amazing and, I believe, speaks volumes for Stalkers.”

In order to support the efforts of its employees, Karen and the rest of Stalkers management team have made it their priority to invest heavily in the company’s infrastructure and fleet of vehicles. “By putting back into the company, we have been able to give it a complete overhaul, modernising our site and maintaining a regular replacement programme for our trucks, which currently ranges between every three-to-five years,” she reveals. This programme has contributed to the quick adoption of technologies such as Euro 6 engines, which has helped achieve massive savings in fuel costs, and has allowed the company to provide their overnight drivers with a comfortable and accessible environment to operate from, which has no doubt aided in the retention of a workforce that is becoming ever-more few and far between.

The newest additions to the company’s fleet, six new DAF trucks, also happen to represent an impressive milestone event for Stalkers, namely its 50th birthday which it is celebrating this year. The arrival of the new trucks also marks the re-emergence of the company’s original red, white and blue livery. “These new vehicles are incredibly eye catching, you can see them coming down the road a mile off, and follow a successful rebranding of the business a few years back,” Karen adds.

“We understand the importance of brand recognition and our newest trucks and trailers will really help to advertise the Stalkers name to more people.”

As Karen goes on to state, the celebration of 50 years of operations has also allowed herself and the rest of the family to reflect on just how far the business has come. It was this that led to Stalkers doing something it historically had not been known for, and that was applying for inclusion in several local industry awards.

The outcome of this amazed even Karen. “The feedback we received, and the interest we had in our story was nothing short of incredible, and culminated in us winning the Transport and Logistics Category of the Cumbrian Family Business of the Year’ award at the Cumbria Family Business Awards 2018, and in early June we went on to win the same category in the National Final of the Family Business of the Year awards hosted by Family Business United in a glittering ceremony held in the prestigious London May Fair Hotel. As you can imagine, such an incredible accolade means everything to us and is particularly well received on this our 50th anniversary. It’s a huge pat on the back and massive thank you to our amazing people that all contribute to making this company as great as it is. We are so proud of them all.”

“Cumbria is often regarded as a distant backwater but the county came away with no less than six awards across a variety of industries which made us very well represented and reconfirmed how fortunate we are to live and work in such a beautiful part of the country. ”

When it comes to what the future holds, Karen is very optimistic about the company’s ability to grow steadily as it makes greater use of the assets that it has invested in.

What she is concerned about, however, is about the need to raise the profile of the transport and logistics industry, particularly amongst students and young adults. “I myself have six children, and having spent time with some of them as they go about their adult education it soon becomes clear how little attention is given to logistics, and how few people have an understanding of what it is all about,” she states. “This is something that we, as an industry not just as a company, need to address and put right.”

“Together we need to push for more effort to be made in developing awareness, training and apprenticeships, as this will be the best way of attracting the next generation of men and women into this incredibly rewarding and diverse industry.”

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