Bob Marley to AC/DC to Taylor Swift: Transam Trucking marks 40 years on the road
PUBLISHED: 14:23 01 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:43 02 October 2018
In 1978 a small company with one truck took a job to transport Bob Marley to Ibiza. Forty years on the iconic black and gold lettered trucks of Transam Trucking can now be seen at gigs and festivals across Europe.
They work with everyone from the Rolling Stones to U2 to Taylor Swift, an international success story built from humble origins on the Norfolk-Suffolk border.
Company founders Mark Guterres and Sandie Flatt first had the idea to form the company with Sandie brother’s Dave, a truck driver in Bristol.
Sandie recalls: “Mark had been a roadie and his father had bought him a van. But when I met him he was a stockbroker. He eventually bought a farm in Spexhall and we moved up with two other couples looking for that hippy life but we were never very good at it. I’d be trying to milk the goats and I don’t even like goat milk.”
They set up a rehearsal studio in a barn that was used by the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Camel and Motorhead with a PA system that people wanted to borrow.
“That’s when we bought a truck that we used to transport it around the UK. Then someone said they had got a job to take a load down to Ibiza for a set of concerts being held in a bullring. We said that suits us down to the ground. The first concert was Bob Marley, then Thin Lizzy and Suzi Quatro, but then they cancelled them because it was pandemonium.”
From its unlikely rural beginnings the company slowly began to take off as Mark drew on his contacts in the music industry.
“The first really big tour we did was AC/DC around Europe in 1979,” said Sandie. That was four trucks which was a huge amount back then. We didn’t even have four trucks and had to subcontract others in.”
The company quickly outgrew the farm and relocated to the Four Ways Garage in Diss in 1982. “They were getting fed up in Spexhall with all these lorries coming backwards and forwards,” explains Sandie.
Transam was based in Diss until 2003 when the the office relocated to Bungay and the company took over a huge new yard at the Oaksmere Business Park, near Eye, where they have recently invested in a state-of-the-art workshop to maintain the fleet of lorries that has grown to 150 trucks and 160 trailers.
In 2011 they took over rivals EST - Edwin Shirley Trucking - adding artists like Madonna and Paul McCartney to a roster of clients that already included a who’s who of rock star royalty including the Rolling Stones, Iron Maiden, Muse, Elton John and many more.
Expansion to an international business on course for a £20m turnover this year has coincided with live shows becoming ever more lavish requiring more trucks to haul equipment and with touring now how artists make money with a fall in record sales.
Natasha Highcroft, director, said: “We had Taylor Swift this summer and she had 63 trucks for just three venues, six shows, two in Manchester, two in Dublin and two in London over a three week period. The technology of live shows has changed so much. They have huge video screens, automation and the big pop acts have a gag with every song. They are big theatrical productions now.”
Fellow director Martin Palmer, who joined the company as a driver, added: “To compare in 1983 we did a tour for Yes which was a biggest tour we had ever done up to that point and that was five trucks. That gives you an idea of how things have changed. We are out with U2 at the moment and they have 31 trucks.”
Despite its expansion the company remains a family affair. Natasha is Dave Flatt’s daughter whilst founder Mark Guterres now lives in New Zealand where he overseas the 24-hour operation in his role as managing director.
Many of the drivers out on the road have been with the company for decades. “It is not a normal job. They drive at night and sleep during the day and they can be away from home for months,” said Sandie. “It attracts a certain type of person. They are not your normal general haulage lorry drivers.”
With tours crossing Europe the company is waiting to see what effect Brexit will have and has been working with Waveney MP Peter Aldous to press the case for the industry.
Natasha Highcroft said: “It’s a huge deal because a lot of the European touring industry originates out of the UK. The lighting, the video, a lot of the companies that we pick up from are here. There is talk of limits on driver permits but until we know what the deal is it is all up in the air.”
In the meanwhile, 40 years on, the company will keeping on rocking and rolling.