A lorryload of pop art

Richard Burgin, director and founder of Intake Transport
Richard Burgin, director and founder of Intake Transport
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A FOOTBALL team, yes. A pop band, obviously. A Twitter account, without doubt.

A FOOTBALL team, yes. A pop band, obviously. A Twitter account, without doubt.

Intake Transport truck - Austin Powers

Intake Transport truck - Austin Powers

Set up one of these things and you expect (or at least hope) to attract some followers.

But when Sheffield brothers John and Richard Burgin founded their steel haulage firm in 1996, one thing they never considered important was drawing a fan base.

And yet Intake Transport - and its less than glamorous work of shifting 1,000 tonnes of steel across the UK every single day - has become a favourite for hundreds of lorry enthusiasts.


An Intake Transport truck

An Intake Transport truck

Because each one of its trucks, far from being a generic and battered vehicle, is boldly emblazoned with an individually hand-painted reference to modern culture.

There’s The Beatles (“after all we do a lot of long and winding roads,” says Richard), Austin Powers (“the driver looks a bit like him”), and Colin McRae (“a motorsports legend”).

And, most recently, there’s an invented poster for the greatest Sheffield gig that will never happen, featuring Def Leppard, Arctic Monkeys, Human League and Pulp all advertised as playing one night only at The Leadmill.

Good gig. Good truck. Good company policy.

An Intake Transport truck

An Intake Transport truck

“It started off as a joke,” laughs Richard, 38, of Swallow Wood Road, Swallownest, Sheffield. “My best mate is Paul Bolt at The Sign Shop in Carlisle Court and when we bought the firm’s first brand new lorry I wanted it to look a bit different.

“As a driver you spend half your life in your truck so it’s nice if it says something about you, and Paul agreed to paint it, so we did a Top Gun design, which was just a film I liked.”

Then John, 42, who now lives in Scunthorpe, decided he wasn’t going to be outdone and, when he got the firm’s second brand new lorry, had his painted too.

“And it’s just gone from there,” says Richard. “Every time we buy a new truck we speak to the guy who’ll be driving it, come up with an idea together and then get it painted.

“We’ve had everything from The Godfather to the Flying Scotsman train to Little Britain but there’s always a reason why its chosen.”

The most recent, that Sheffield poster, celebrates the firm’s city heritage after it left its Brightside Lane base in 2006 for a bigger site in Scunthorpe.

“The driver wanted a picture of Def Leppard but I wanted the Arctic Monkeys,” laughs Richard. “So we compromised with the poster style.”

At £5,000 a piece and with 20 lorries and 50 trailers, the designs don’t come cheap, even for a firm whose biggest customer is Sheffield Forgemasters.

But Intake reckons it’s worth it.

“It gives the driver some pride in his truck,” says Richard. “They’ll be pulled up and people will start talking to them. It breaks down barriers and, on some level, I think it appeals to the guys we work with.

“We’re all of a similar generation and have the same cultural references so straight away you have some connection with the customer.”

And it also allows the firm to pay tribute to past colleagues.

When former driver Tony Butler passed away from cancer recently, the company added some graffiti style writing to that gig poster design.

Calling the dad-of-two by his nickname, it read simply ‘Tony Shag waz ere’.

“It’s generally tongue-in-cheek,” says Richard. “But it was nice to do that.

“The recession hit us hard, and we stopped doing it for a while, but we’re expanding again now, and we’ll definitely keep coming up with designs. It gives us an identity, and that can only be a good thing.”