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Investigation casebook: The name of the game

  • 25 December 2013
  • By Chris Druce

We’re taking a look back at some of the year’s best Investigations featured in Commercial Motor magazine. For our Christmas edition [19 December] we looked once again at some of the more unusual company names within road transport.

The name of the game

What makes a company name memorable? CM finds out what led some firms to choose their names.

Last year, CM took a look at some of the more unusual names within UK road transport, such as Buffaload Logistics, Tomato Plant, Panther Logistics (now Panther Warehousing) and Goaty Trucking, in a sector still dominated outside the 3PLs by family names.

We wanted to know if standing out from the crowd had been a boon or bane for those firms, which had decided to stick their heads above the parapet and go for something different. Here’s the class of 2013.

Fly By Nite

You may have seen Fly By Nite’s eye-catching bat livery on the roads, but the name wasn’t inspired by bats themselves – more their nocturnal lifestyle. “We are a music logistics company, so everything travels by night,” says director Carl Reed. He explains that the nature of the touring business means it usually begins loading equipment onto its trucks when concerts finish at about 11pm. They then move through the night so they are at another venue the next morning. The unique spelling, he adds, is simply a twist on words (which handily also describes what the business does). Since Fly By Nite began in Birmingham in 1989 it has expanded rapidly, taking on between 12 to 14 additional and replacement vehicles each year. Reed feels having an unusual moniker hasn’t had anything but upside for the firm. It now runs a fleet of more than 100 trucks from two sites in Redditch, Worcestershire, and is awaiting its first Euro-6 trial vehicles after Christmas.

Panic Transport

Kevin Johnson, MD at Panic Transport, says one of the industry’s most memorable names owes its genesis to none other than the PG Tips Chimpanzees. Johnson had gone into business for himself in Rugby in 1986 as Mr Shifter. All was going well until the tea-plugging chimps turned up not long after in a re-run of their TV commercial where a chimp named Mr Shifter destroyed a perfectly good piano while attempting its removal. In that instant, Johnson knew his company’s name had to change. He went with his initials as a stop-gap, KNJ, well aware that it lacked a wow factor. “It didn’t really have much going for it,” he says. A few years on, a brainstorm with some of his drivers down the pub resulted in Panic Transport and Fast and Reliable Transport Service – a ying and yang option. Of course the latter abbreviates as FART, which Johnson considered, toying with a Goes Like The Wind tagline. Instead, he went to a design company called Pyramid in Leamington Spa and they came up with a third concept: Distribution Unlimited. This was in the running until Johnson mentioned it to the next client he met who pointed out it could abbreviate as DULL. It left Panic, which was born in 1990, as the only viable option. Today the 68-vehicle strong Palletline member has the reputation to stand on its own two feet, but Johnson says that while Panic helped the business develop in an age where you only have to remember a name and then Google it, it did see it become pigeon-holed as a courier, and a last-minute option. Thus he created the Fragile Distribution and Moto Distribution brands, which are no longer in use, starting around 10 years ago to win business handling high-value glass and automotive products respectively. “I don’t like the name Panic, but the recognition is such I can’t change it now,” says Johnson.

Sumo Heavy Haulage

Based in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Sumo Haulage is part of Sumo UK, an agricultural equipment manufacturer that was started in 1991 by Shaun Wealleans as SW Agriservices. In 1993 the company designed its first truck tyre press and decided to call it Sumo – Wealleans’ nickname. In 2009 SW Agriservices changed its name to Sumo UK, and today produces all its own products from its factory in Melbourne. Sumo Heavy Haulage started life transporting the group’s machines from the factory to farms – essentially two vehicles on a restricted licence. As the parent company’s reputation grew, however, Weallean began to get enquiries as to whether he’d consider delivering other people’s product. As a result, family friend Jeremy Desmond was recruited around six months ago as transport manager to mastermind the haulage business’s development, including some hire and reward work. “You’ve got to sell your haulage company as a product these days,” says Desmond, who oversees three trucks (Volvos) and three trailers, low-loaders, and a Euroliner, with more to come. He adds: “We go to agricultural shows, and there are very few manufacturers that have their own vehicles. We turn up with our trucks and drivers in uniform and it really gets us noticed.”

The Pink Link

The story of Huddersfield-based The Pink Link began in June 1991 when David Allen bought haulage business SBH. Allen – formerly a boss at Tuffnell’s Parcels Express – inherited a fleet of vehicles with a mix of colours, but decided to standardise in bright pink and adopt strap line The Pink Link. His daughter, Vicki Davenport, the sales and commercial director at the company, says: “When we took over in 1991, it had a multi-coloured array of vehicles. We couldn’t afford to buy new so we painted them all a baby pink and had the strap line.” The choice of colour was to get noticed: “It was a big thing at the time, especially for drivers who got quite a bit of reaction when they drove up to their delivery points.” According to Davenport, the firm’s male drivers are
now completely comfortable with the livery, and even get some jealous looks from other drivers because “the trucks look so smart!” She adds: “It certainly helps to sell having such a striking brand, and we would never consider changing it.” 

Some others we like

United Colours of Beddington
Deadman Confidential
Baird Lends-A-Hand
Bang Logistics
Accelerate Freight
Serious Waste Management
U Call I Haul
The Womans Touch
Grumpy Transport


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