CV Focus episode 13 – Richard Crump

Staying ahead of the game

“This is the change decade. We will see more change this decade than we’ve seen since the switch from horse-drawn vehicles.”

So says Richard Crump, MD of Pelican Group – the West Yorkshire-based truck, bus and coach dealership, service and parts supply operation.

Pelican Group is the oldest truck dealer in the country, founded 102 years ago by Richard’s grandfather after he was de-mobbed from the First World War’s trenches.

Having started by converting steam and petrol vehicles to diesel, lead to a relationship with Gardner.

This blossomed into selling and maintaining Foden trucks and later Hino. Today, it looks after DAF and MAN customers with an award-winning servicing and parts business.

Today, Pelican – which remains family-owned – embraces zero-emission technology too, having expanded into bus and coach market as the sole UK importer of Yutong products.

More than just a sales operation, Pelican is noted for its outstanding customer service that goes way beyond the workshop.

Richard talks about the family-business ethos, which stands Pelican in good stead for working with family-owned operators.

He talks with great enthusiasm about the deep passion that drives the business and how it generates ‘expansion from nothing’, by eschewing the traditional big-cash takeover model.

Explaining the benefits of a family-owned firm with a flat management structure, he says that one of those is being able to respond quickly when new opportunities present themselves. But he’s not gung-ho or reckless: “Never be over-confident, always question everything,” he says.

And that’s borne out by the Yutong coach and bus business. From a standing stand in 2014, six years later Pelican has 600 PCVs and now has a 10% market share.

So, what’s the secret of success?

Richard says: “The first thing above everything else is that we set out our stall to recruit the very best people in the business. Then I ensure that we can retain these people and that they are properly motivated.

“Being at Pelican it’s more than ‘just going to work’ or ‘thank goodness it’s Friday’,” but you do need to resource the business correctly, he adds.

“If you’ve got brilliant people but a lousy building with holes in the roof, no parts on the shelves and not enough tooling, then it’s not going to work.”

He talks about the clean air agenda and how it is likely to develop for smaller CVs and light trucks.

Electric buses are now a key part of the Yutong portfolio – with its first all-electric coaches already in service in Scotland and London.

Richard says of the British bus market: “We’re pretty close to a time where there will be no further orders placed for diesel-only single decker buses.”

That’s because the current zero-emission offering is “fully usable for most bus operators” as we approach a 200-miles daily range, “which is about as much as a bus operator is reasonably likely to do in a day.”

He makes a bold prediction: “An electric single-decker bus is already feasible for most operators. By the end of the decade the majority of the UK bus fleet will be electric.”

Already, Yutong’s electric coach will do 200 miles on a single charge, Richard adds, before talking about the scaling of production of zero-emission commercial vehicles.

He explains why China has had a head start in the market – and how its labour costs are more on a par with eastern Europe than most people think – and the key questions about electric vehicles that operators should be asking.

And, he closes by revealing the unusual reason why the business is called ‘Pelican’.

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