Owens (Road Services) Ltd / Owens Group
Interview with Eurof Owen and Andy Williams, January 2021
Owens Group is an outstanding success story by any standards; the business was started by Huw Owen back in 1972, shortly after that he was joined by his brother Eurof and together they have built a business that turns over in excess of £100 million for the group, with a fleet of 550 vehicles, 850 trailers, 2M square feet of warehousing and almost 1,100 people working from seven depots nationwide. “Huw started with just one van but he soon acquired two small lorries and by 1985 we were running more than 30 vehicles. I suppose it was always in our blood” Eurof told us, “our father was a truck driver”.
Today, in its 49 th year of trading, the business is very diverse and includes logistics, warehousing, pallet networks, home delivery and recycling. It comes as no surprise to learn that the journey has been difficult at times, “We’ve seen a number of recessions and, of course, the pandemic in 2020”, Eurof recalls, “we’ve seen some tough times but we have dug in and worked hard through these and there are now three generations of Owens working in the business.”
At the start of the pandemic Owens were quick to step up and offer their vehicles in the service of the NHS and they played, and continue to play, a vital role in delivering PPE and essential supplies for the NHS across Wales. Their efforts did not go unnoticed, in October 2020 the Owens Group were awarded Large Fleet of the Year at the Wales Transport Awards 2020, following on from Operator of the Year in 2019 and then Huw Owen was recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s honours 2021 with an MBE for services to Employment and to the community in Llanelli and South Wales.
Owens run a mixed HGV fleet but MAN is the dominant brand, something that reflects their long-standing relationship with WG Davies. Eurof explained “In the late 80’s we were buying ERF off Malcolm Jones, back then we used to run an all British fleet but when MAN bought ERF we naturally got involved with them through WG Davies and Malcolm.”
The relationship with WG Davies goes back almost to the very beginning of the Owens business, “Location was a lot to do with it in the early days but over time you build up working relationships and WG Davies have always been a dependable partner and now their staff operate and work in our workshops.”
The decision to handover the maintenance of Owens vehicles to WG Davies was taken many years ago and it was not taken lightly. Eurof recalls “WG Davies were looking after our vehicles under warranty for the first three years, so we knew them well but when the time came to outsource it, it was a competitive tender, they were up against strong competition but they won it fair and square. The relationship continues to be a strong one and one that we hope will go on for many years to come.”
The relationship between the WG Davies team headed up by Martin Smith, and Owens is managed by Group Fleet Manager, Andy Williams. He was quick to praise the team, “At the moment we are really happy with the way it is working for us and the value for money we get. We look at the total cost of ownership when we make decisions about the fleet, so it is not about what we pay today, it is about what we pay over the lifetime of the vehicles and the reliability.”
Of course, it is the people who make it work day to day, Andy told us “Martin is a pivotal part of the contract, his mechanical knowledge and expertise is second to none, I know that he will try to do his very best for us at all times.” And forty years on, Malcolm Jones still plays an important role “If we have got any problems with administration or with the product itself, Mal is right on top of it”, Andy continued, “to be fair, all of the guys are willing to do what is necessary to make things right and that is the benefit of WG Davies as a whole.”
Eurof and Andy were in complete agreement that the greatest challenge the business faces is getting and retaining quality drivers. “We’ve got 77 new TG3s on order and they will help with that of course,” Eurof explained, “we want vehicles that are reliable, economical and that the drivers like. The current MAN vehicles are performing well and returning very good mpg which is a very important to us too.” From the Fleet Maintenance side, Andy also endorsed this saying “The MAN is a good truck and it is reliable, that makes life easier.”
The Owens family like their actions to speak louder than words. Eurof talked to us about having respect for their local community but he did not mention the significant support they give to charities close to their depots nationwide, we had to look that up for ourselves. But when asked
what underpins the success and there was no hesitation from Eurof, “For Owens the reason we have got to where we are today is that the whole team prides itself on delivering great service and we always have. We have a culture of continual improvement and investing in our people, the latest IT systems in the offices and in the trucks and it all helps us to provide as near to 100% service levels as we can to our customers, it’s a simple formula and one that we have managed to get right.”
This is a value that is shared by WG Davies and we suggested that it was perhaps vital to the success of the relationship? Eurof agreed, “Yes at the end of the day we need them and hopefully they need us, it works well which is why I call it a partnership. WG Davies work hard to keep our trucks on the road, to keep them reliable and to keep us compliant. Without them we would not be able to do what we do.”
The “partnership” between Owens and WG Davies dates back over 30 years and today is stronger than ever, a wonderful example of the pursuit of mutual interests fuelled by shared values.