At a glance
Make & model: Scania R540 Highline
Engine: DC13 12.9-litre six cylinder Euro 6D
Power: 540hp @ 1800rpm
Torque: 2700Nm @ 1000-1300rpm
Gearbox: Opticruise 12-speed automated manual
Operator: L.E. Jones Ltd, North Wales
The MD of Welsh specialist operator L.E. Jones Hauliers, Rhys Roberts, knows plenty about driving livestock trucks as well as running them. He was employed in the game himself for 20 years, before taking on the current business with his partner Ceri Llwyd. The L.E. Jones name is familiar in the region with good reason and although the livestock side is now completely separate from the firm, most people think of that when they hear it.
“It was my uncle, who started the original L.E. Jones in 1973,” Ceri explains. She worked in the office - that’s where she met Rhys, a long serving driver with the company. Long story short, despite having no children of his own, Trefor Jones still wanted to pass the company down through the family, so he offered the livestock side to Ceri and Rhys ten years ago, to be run as a standalone concern.
“We had some sort of a plan when we took over,” Rhys recalls. “We had four trucks, and I always said in ten years I wanted to grow to ten trucks.” There was no particular reason for this, but everybody has to have a goal. “If I hadn’t reached ten it wouldn’t have bothered me, but we did it. This Scania is our tenth truck in our tenth year, and I don’t think there’ll be any stopping us now!”
The rest of the fleet are Scania too, the oldest a 64-plate.
That’s something set to change, though. “Now we’re more or less established, we’re going to try and change them every five years,” Rhys tells us. “We’re buying them now with five years parts warranty, so you can work your costs out better like that.” Another thing which has changed with the last two vehicles is the engines, moving away from the V8s Rhys and Ceri originally favoured.
“The problem we’ve got is weight,” Rhys explains. “Our cattle or sheep boxes are about 12 tonnes, and the way DVSA are now, you’ve got to do it right.” By switching from V8s to straight sixes, downsizing from S to R-series cabs and adding alloy wheels, they’ve managed to lop a full tonne off the tare – a huge amount, by anyone’s standards. There’s been an unexpected bonus too. “It wasn’t deliberate, but we were averaging 6mpg with the V8s, where we’re just on 7.5 now!”
Let’s be clear here, this hasn’t involved a huge sacrifice on the horsepower front. The first of the two newest motors puts out 500hp, as it was bought in a hurry when work picked up, whilst this latest is a 540. “The V8s are 580s, and we’ve got two 520s as well,” Ceri tells us, to compare. And while the main driver for the cab choice was, again, weight, that wasn’t the only reason.
Rhys still drives when things are busy, and at weekends when the other lads are at home. “I prefer the R-cab, myself,” he admits. “Everything inside is within better reach, and when you get to my age... There are only three steps to climb into an R-cab, rather than four!” Ceri chuckles.
We wonder, though, what happened when the drivers found out the V8s were on their way out. “Not a problem!” Rhys laughs. “I thought there would have been, but the one that’s on the 540 wouldn’t change it for the world! We’ve got a couple of drivers who are real V8 fans, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it...”
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