For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
Fracks Transport, in Newton Aycliffe, which started with £40 in the bank, celebrates 40th anniversary
When Stan Fraquet founded Fracks Transport 40 years ago, its bank balance stood at just £40. Sheer hard work and determination has since put the company on the road to success. Deputy Business Editor Steven Hugill takes a look behind the scenes.
IT was moment of inspiration. A spark that ignited a dream.
As Stan Fraquet walked out on his job as a car parts salesman, his gaze was caught by a nearby breakers' yard.
Parked almost apologetically in a corner was an old Transit van, broken and battered from years of use by previous owners.
Others gave it little attention, but for Stan, his £85 investment was priceless.
It was the catalyst to launch his haulage firm and on that day, 40 years ago, in Chestnut Street, Darlington, Fracks Transport was born.
A rags to riches tale it may seem, but the move wasn't without its perils.
At one point, Stan was left with just £40 in his back account after replacing the old Transit, which duly broke down on its second run while delivering goods for Dufay Paints, in Shildon.
The firm has grown from those early beginnings, and is now based on Aycliffe Industrial Estate, in Newton Aycliffe.
It employs about 40 workers with a fleet of 30 trailers and 31 mixed vehicles, including articulated lorries, pick-ups and vans, and has carried out jobs across the UK, delivering supplies for the Olympic Stadium and the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, in London.
But as the wagons rumble past his office, Stan leans back in his chair to tell me the success story hasn't been without its challenges, and how it owes a great deal to old fashioned hard work and just a little bit of truancy.
He said: “My mother, Annie, used to take me down to Darlington's covered markets on a Saturday morning to work on a stall.
“Downstairs was where they had the warehouses for the stock and JL Moore, the fruiterers, were down there.
“I used to go down to barrow vegetables and groceries up and I loved the camaraderie that the lads had, it all fascinated me.
“One day, one of the lads told me he was going delivering somewhere and I pestered him to tag along.
“I got my way and from that moment onwards I was smitten with delivering, the whole process of loading up, taking it somewhere and coming back to do it all over again.
“I loved it and couldn't get enough of the hard work, carrying the big sacks and listening to the drivers who taught me how to load and carry and eventually learn to drive.
“Throughout my younger days I was obsessed with driving and would go up the back lanes and I would skive off to go to Moore's and even drive the tractors on a farm during potato picking week.
“Some of the lads used to hide me if they saw my mother at the market, but I didn't always get away with it and remember being caught by the truant officer when I had been on the farm, which didn't go down well with my parents.
“John Moore made me 100 per cent get into the haulage industry, the man was absolutely fantastic, a total gentleman who was from the old-school and every time he told you something, you listened.
"His nephew, Derek, was also brilliant, and taught me a great deal.
Stan, a classic motorcycle enthusiast whose father, Maurice, was a hairdresser, left school at 15 and worked as an apprentice mechanic for three years in Darlington, before returning to thefruiterer.
The passion for haulage hadn't waned and years later, it even spread into daughter Sarah's wedding, with the bride arriving for her big day in a Fracks truck.
He said: “Living in Coatham Mundeville, near Darlington, the A1 was your main road from Scotland to the south, and I remember lying in bed listening to the rumble of the trucks as they went past guessing which company's wagon it was.
“After three years I felt like I had enough of being a mechanic and went back to Moore's, and told him I wanted to work for him.
“His immediate answer was no, and he was adamant I finished my apprenticeship.
“I told him I would go and work somewhere else if he didn't and eventually he agreed to take me on.
“It was very hard work but I loved every minute of it.”
However, in 1969, Stan's life underwent a real sea change when he moved to Cape Town, in South Africa, with his family, where he returned back to his mechanical roots at General Motors.
He quickly adjusted to his new surroundings and the stiflingly hot climate, but despite enjoying his new life, he returned home to Coatham Mundeville to start afresh.
He said: “I was working on all sorts of vehicles from big Cadillacs to Vauxhall Vivas.
“The Cadillacs were massive, I struggled to reach the engine bay and it was so hot to work there, but I enjoyed it, the people were lovely and it was very rewarding.
“I began to get homesick, I missed the pork pies, your fish and chips was hake instead of cod, and it was so warm.”
Acclimatising back in England, Stan met his wife, Sandra, in a Darlington television shop while buying a transistor radio, and later got a job at Minories as a spare parts salesman.
Promised bonuses for increases sales which never materialised, despite him surpassing his targets, Stan walked away from the company and into Metcalfe's breakers' yard where he spotted the old Transit.
He said: “I just knew there and then; it was Fracks Transport.
“The lads I bought it off asked me why I wanted it, and questioned if it would run, but I got it going withing a couple of hours and I was away.
“I did two jobs for Dufay but on the second trip both head gaskets broke.
“I knew I had to do something so I went to the Skippers Ford garage, parking my old one out of the way so they couldn't see it, and asked what they could do for me on a new Transit chassis cab.
“I got a great deal, sold the old van to a pop group, but we were short on money and our car had to go, I told Sandra she would have to get the bus.
“We had £40 left and it was a hard struggle, but that day, on April 4 1973, was when Fracks Transport really started.”
Stan still has his diary from 1973, which shows in detail how the company was literally built on small but solid foundations, canvassing local companies to build up business.
The first few pages remain as blank as when they were printed, but slowly, in varying inks and handwriting, they are filled with jobs allowing you to see how Fracks' workload mounted up.
That allowed Stan to buy his first wagon in 1974, and he has worked on building up his fleet ever since.
He said: “I was doing jobs for British Road Services, doing runs to Leicester and Worcester for £30 and did a run to Watford, Oxford and London for £35.
“It was hard, but if you're not prepared to do that then you can forget it, and as long as you keep on doing what your customers want, then you have cracked it.
“If you look after them, they will look after you and today every job is important whether its a trip to Timbuktu or a drive to Dagenham.”
Stan, whose daughters Suzanne and Sarah work for the company, says the firm – coined after his father's nickname – continues to go from strength to strength.
He said: “We need to sit back and see where we are, to consolidate and continue what we provide to our customers.
“We are a working team and you can't be scared of hard work if you want to get somewhere.
“When we started out it was hard, but we gradually got bigger and bigger, and better and better.
“We are doing a lot of things right, even the bank manager called me to congratulate us on our 40-year anniversary, and we have to keep the good things going.
“I love this job and it has brought me prosperity and a life I would never have had.”
Comments are closed on this article.