Iain Mitchell explained that his great grandfather had begun "cairting" to Grangemouth in 1892 and had helped the Great War effort at Machrihanish and Barry Buddon. In 1948 the business was nationalised as part of British Road Services, but in 1956 his father resumed trading as John Mitchell (Grangemouth) Ltd with one lorry carrying esparto grass for the paper industry.
Fifty years on, with Iain and his sister Catherine in charge, Mitchell's run 100 vehicles mainly built by MAN and 140 trailers, making it one of Scotland's leading road haulage companies. There are four main operations - container, chemical, timber for sawmills and curtain-sided. The company also provides general warehousing, container storage and property leasing, and offers a wide range of services from bulk material handling and warehousing to container stuffing, destuffing and repairs.
In today's world road haulage is a service industry and has got to get it right - customer service is the centre of the company's world,vehicles are linked to a computer system and loads are satellite-tracked to within five metres of the vehicle. There is high turnover of drivers, but the business has never had any problem recruiting and has never had to lay a driver off. Land has been reserved for a rail link as a future possibility should road congestion continue to worsen.
Mitchell's remain determined to do things differently, seeking innovation not imitation, which may help explain their successful survival as an independent family-owned business. Their heritage has been chronicled by John W Henderson who after enjoying many a good blether with John Mitchell wrote a family and transport history entitled "Mitchell's of Grangemouth" which was published by Arthur Southern Ltd in 2000. Following over a decade of being managed from an office in the front room of the family home, the business moved in 1975 to a 3-acre site at Earls Road and in 1988 it purchased a huge Caterpillar container lift truck which at the time was one of only a handful in Western Europe, enabling up to 900 containers to be stored at any given time. In 1990 Mitchell's acquired the 26-acre Thornbridge site whose warehousing is now full and overflowing.
Since 1968 Mitchell's lorries have borne names all with the "Grange" prefix which has helped make it one of the most distinctive and well-known fleets in the UK. This year Corgi who are also celebrating 50 years in business have produced a special model in Mitchell's red and battleship-grey livery. In 2002 Iain collected the award for "Motor Transport" Haulier of the Year at the Albert Hall. In 1998 and again in 2005 Mitchell's were "Scottish Transport News" Fleet of the Year and in 2001 Most Innovative Haulier. They retain their sense of social responsibility to the town of Grangemouth by playing a leading role in the annual Gala Day, and customers plus partners are now invited to their annual Cairters Ceilidh.
The Scottish Region wishes to thank Iain Mitchell and his team for their hospitality and informative presentation and for the tour of their depot.
Report by John Yellowlees.
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