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John May: end of an era for the industry

  • 01 May 2013
  • By Chris Druce

The death of Chaddesley Commercials founder John May marks the “end of an era” in the road transport industry, according to those that knew him.

May, who died aged 73 last Sunday (28 April) after a short illness, played a pivotal role with a handful of contemporaries in turning the UK second-hand truck market into what it is today.

The engineering apprentice, whose first job was at Austin Motor Company, found himself working at Leyland Trucks distributor Burton Cole in Stourport-on-Severn selling new product in the seventies.

While there he identified an unexploited niche for the sale of second hand trucks (often traded in as part-ex) and with business partner John Yardley set up Chaddesley Driers at the latter’s farm in 1974.

It became so successful that within a few years May left to establish Chaddesley Commercials in Kidderminster in 1978 on the Hoobrook Trading Estate.

Glory days

It was here that alongside a handful of contemporaries, including former business partner Yardley, Hoobrook became synonymous with second hand truck sales. In its 1980s to early 90s heyday, four independent dealers offered more than 200 trucks at any one time for sale.

One of those dealers was Robert Reynolds Commercials. Owner Robert Reynolds told CM that in the early days when it was just Chaddesley Commercials on the estate it was common to see people queuing up of a Sunday outside its gates to check out its used trucks, something that inspired him to start his own business there.

“John May was a very good business man. Honest and straight,” said Reynolds. “I remember that when I set up next door to him on the estate [in competition] all he said to me was ‘if you need help, come and see me’. That was the sort of man he was.”

Son Paul May said: “He was a man that always had his own way; very much his own man in that sense, which was the reason why he was so successful.

“He was one of the infamous characters beloved of our industry and he’ll be missed greatly. It’s the end of an era.”

Paul, who worked in the business from an early age but left to set up PM Commercials some 15 years ago, said Chaddesley Commercials, which had specialised  in tippers, cranes and other specialist equipment in recent years, would be wound up with the remaining stock sold.

A date and location for the funeral has not been set, but those wishing to attend or keen simply to share their memories of John May are welcome to contact Paul at or to call 07836 779946.


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