A perfect storm poses new challenges for a stallwart with a lifetime of experience in used trucks

The world of used trucks is changing. With new vehicle availability hit by the double whammy of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, Dawsondirect's Sales Manager, Colin Lee, is finding fast-rising demand for used trucks is keeping him busier than ever.

Coming from a transport family, Colin cut his teeth on the successful transport business set up by his father, and has viewed used truck sales from both sides of the fence. He was a buyer for the family business in the late 1970s and is now a highly respected seller with Dawsondirect.  

Over the last 18 months, COVID-19 and Brexit have created the perfect storm. As Colin describes it: “The collapse of new vehicle availability has pushed operators to look for quality used trucks and trailers, and the sector simply doesn’t have enough vehicles to satisfy everyone.”  


With over 11,000 trucks and trailers on our rental, leasing and contract hire fleet, we are luckier than most businesses. Under normal conditions, we create our own used stock by churning our fleet, but Brexit and COVID-19 have also driven increased demand for our core business. Fleet utilisation is hitting high 90% figures, resulting in unusually restricted availability across the whole business. 

However, our routine fleet investment programme will see some £50m of new assets delivered this year. For now, though, Colin and his Dawsondirect colleagues are faced with lower stock levels than usual. Seasonal demand for fridges, both trailers and rigids, is at an all-time high, and Colin’s assistant, Dennis Pratley, is busier than ever prepping trucks, ready for customers.


“It’s a nice problem to have in certain respects,” Colin muses, “Many people are so busy they are actually forward-ordering against stock we are expecting in. To be fair to them, we’re not asking for deposits, just a signed order form as a statement of intent, which we drop if the vehicle that comes in isn’t exactly what they want.” 

So, is this driving up prices? Colin says prices have ‘firmed up’, but adds the sector is full of regular customers who were loyal to him when the boot was on the other foot, and they get treated properly. He says that Dawsongroup has ‘always been here for the long-haul, not the quick buck’.  


The biggest differences in Colin’s long career are two-fold. “First,” he says, “the customer base has changed. When I began, the world was full of smaller operators. All doing a decent job, earning a fair living and making fleet decisions as they went along. The used vehicle, with its inherent economy, was tailor-made for them, and we had hundreds of individual personal relationships. That’s gone.  

“Whereas in those days we had vehicles for all styles of operation, in more recent times, with operators merging and being taken over, we’re focused on high-end fleet vehicles for a blue-chip client base. We still have vehicles for smaller operators, there are just fewer of them. The father and son businesses of the past are slipping away.” 

That’s not the only change, however. As he said: “The second biggest change is technology, of course! Though we still get plenty of calls from our magazine advertising, today’s business is dominated by the internet.  

“Years ago, you got letters enquiring about vehicles, and then a phone call to make an appointment to view, with quotes and specs then confirmed, again by post. A sale could take five or six weeks! 

“Now, operators can view a truck or trailer online, take a virtual walk-round, email or call me on the mobile and within a few hours the deal’s done.” 

Today, companies of our scale and ability also offer a lot more modification of vehicles to meet customers’ needs. You’re listening to what you are being told and in the back of your mind you’re searching your stock lists,” says Colin, “thinking about who could make any mods that might be needed, how long it might take and how much it might cost.  

“The job today is all about delivering top value, quality assets and excellent customer service: operators don’t have time or money to waste. Most of them are doing two or three jobs – Transport, Fleet and Logistics roles all in one. Add Buyer to those, and you have someone working flat out, so any help we can offer is valuable to them.” 

Alongside 'routine' tractors, trailers and rigids, Colin has developed a niche for Dawsondirect in the modification of trailers and rigids for the entertainment and events industries. The business has just completed work on producing six trailers for a specialist TV and film company, with others making their way into outside broadcast units, exhibition trailers and hospitality suites, in both home and overseas markets.

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Dawsongroup Truck and Trailer Limited.

Delaware Drive, Tongwell,

Milton Keynes MK15 8JH

Dawsongroup Truck and Trailer Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Financial Conduct Authority Register number: 725515