Jan 14 2019

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Iconic Welsh trailer firm keeps Bruce “on the ground” in tropical St Helena

A transport boss is flying the flag of Europe’s leading trailer firm on one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands.

Business has been booming for Bruce Salt since he shipped his first Ifor Williams TT105 tipper trailer to Saint Helena Island in the South Atlantic Ocean in 2008 after launching a transport business.

His growing collection of sturdy Ifor Williams’ trailers, which include two TT105s and a TT3017, have seen demand for his services soar on the remote island - which is virtually impassable in some areas - and there are not many jobs he has not tackled.

He once transported two tonnes of sea water for a school aquarium up a perilously steep cliff and recently oversaw the safe delivery of a rare 1950s Land Rover.  

With treacherously narrow roads, hair-raising bends and sheer drops, Bruce admits not many trailers could stand the test of Saint Helena’s volcanic terrain and credits his Ifor Williams trailers for literally keeping him “on the ground”.

He said: “I’ve looked at other trailers but to me they just don’t look as study or rugged as the Ifor Williams Trailers. The terrain here is rugged and the roads are very rough. They’re all tarred by hand - if at all.

“I’ve never advertised in my life. We have a local newspaper and radio station but I’ve never had to advertise. Many of the roads in Saint Helena are so narrow with hairpin bends. You might meet a car on the way and have to reverse all the way back by mirror with a full load on the back. It’s a bit hair-raising to say the least. 

“Perhaps that’s why there’s no direct competitor in my particular sector.”

Saint Helena Island is in the eastern part of the South Atlantic Ocean and is one of the world’s most isolated inhabited islands. Jamestown is the capital and main town of Saint Helena and lies within a narrow valley encased between 500ft cliffs.

There is just a single road about one mile long through Jamestown and the entire island has a road network of just 138km consisting of 118km of paved and 20km unpaved road.  

Bruce, 48, who lives on the island with wife Charmaine, 59, was born in Wittenoom, Western Australia. His father was born in Rudyard Lake in Leek, Staffordshire, and met his mother while working on St Helena Island before the couple emigrated to Australia.

The business owner, who also runs a retail store selling protective and high-visibility clothing and footwear and the island’s only independent outlet for Land Rover spares, moved to Saint Helena with his parents when he was three where he has remained ever since.

In 2008, he set up a small transportation business initially using his Series III 109 Land Rover, which he had refurbished, and a second-hand military trailer but soon realised there was a market for larger projects with the right vehicle and decided to look for a replacement.

“I bought my first TT105 from Cotswold Trailers, Cheltenham in August 2008. Initially I thought about a flatbed trailer but by the time I worked out the freight charges I realised it would be far handier to go for a tipper for not much more,” he said.

“After some research I settled on the TT105 Tipper Trailer. No-one could imagine just how hard it was to be worked in the ensuing 10 years.

“The only other Ifor Williams trailer here at the time was a TT85 that was brought here from Ascension Island at least 10 years prior.

“People quickly realised how versatile the tipper trailer was. It could carry soil, sand and any number of things. Business took off and I was able to offer cheaper rates than the trucks.”

Bruce said it takes on average an hour to travel from one end of the island to the other but with a heavy load it could take considerably longer.

“No part of the island is flat. Everywhere is steep with very deep valleys and sheer drops either side,” he said.

“Somebody might call wanting sand or cement and then of course there are the cars, concrete blocks and house removal services. The tipper gets used for just about everything imaginable.

“I once carried two tonnes of sea water for an aquarium which required the help of the local fire department. At one stage no one was at the end of that hose and we had an out of control snake on our hands with a number of very wet classrooms!”

The trailer firm, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, has factories in Cynwyd, Corwen, Sandycroft and on Deeside Industrial Estate, and employs more than 500 people.

Bruce’s first purchase was followed six years later with a new TT3017 and then in 2018 by a used TT105, which had been imported to the island by a businessman who ran a mini excavator hire company.

Aside from the local waste disposal service in Saint Helena, relying on the Ifor Williams’ LM106 flatbed trailer, few models are active on the island ensuring Bruce remains very busy.

“Ifor Williams is very dependable. I’ve had a pig on board, I’ve carried articulated dump truck tyres, aquarium water (which didn’t do my truck any good!), double glazed doors from the UK - you name it. There’s not much I haven’t done.”

One of Bruce’s most iconic projects was the salvage of a Series I 88” Land Rover known as the “Oxford” throughout the UK. This was one of two Series I Land Rovers that took part in the London to Singapore Overland Expedition in 1955 which bizarrely ended its days in a pile of Land Rover spares on the island.

It was later shipped back to the UK via Cape Town and is currently on its way to Singapore aboard a vehicle carrier to participate in the Singapore to London overland expedition where 86-year-old Tim Slessor, one of the original team members, will driver part of the way – 63 years after the first expedition.

“My first trailer has done some serious hard work over the last 10 years, being used daily and loaded with anything imaginable. It has come in very handy.”

Andrew Reece-Jones, the Design Engineering Manager at Ifor Williams Trailers, was delighted to hear how valuable the trailers were to Bruce and his customers on St Helena.

He said: “As well as great design, we pride ourselves on the robustness of our trailers and the terrain in St Helena is proof that they are perfect for even the toughest of conditions.”

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News » Iconic Welsh trailer firm keeps Bruce “on the ground” in tropical St Helena

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