As KB Event Trucking Ltd looks forward to the 1st March, its first anniversary of trading, and makes final preparations to service one of the largest European music tours taking place this year – Ed Sheeran’s ‘Mathematics’ – we talk to KBET’s Transport Manager, James Whelen, about life before KB, the logistical and post-Brexit challenges that lie ahead, and what he likes to do during those rare moments when he’s not playing with trucks.
Tell us a little about your career to date
“From an early age, I’ve always had an interest in trucks. I was obsessed as to how these huge machines could turn a sharp corner or squeeze into a loading bay. In my early teens I worked with a friend of my dad’s, spending summer holidays on – back then – the bad roads of Ireland, travelling the length and breadth of the country delivering glass from the local factory in Nenagh Co. Tipperary, where I grew up. My driving licence couldn’t come quick enough. All I wanted to do was be on the opposite side of the truck, behind the wheel and be king of the road. At 18, my dreams came true. I passed my C-Licence (Class 2) and immediately started the process to get the EC-Licence (Class 1). A year later I succeeded in what I had set out to do and the world was my oyster. It was difficult to get into the industry, with insurance costs, hauliers couldn’t afford to allow young drivers “Get the Start”, but a man called Seamus O’Keefe (also known as Wooly) gave me my chance and I grabbed it with both hands. I started with a run 10miles from the yard, then onto the other side of the country to Galway. Within days, I was on a boat and hitting for the UK. Since then, I have seen all corners of Ireland, the UK and Europe. 20years later, it was time to hang up the boots and to change career but to do it within the haulage industry and thankfully, this is how I met Andy & the KB team.
What was is that attracted you to working for KBET?
There were several reasons. I could sense some frustration towards the Brexit situation and what it had done to UK businesses especially in the entertainment sector. In addition, the Covid situation further compounded the problems faced by the industry, and therefore when the opportunity came to help KB & KBET, I could not turn it down. I initially felt like a small fish in a big pond, but the team has welcomed me with open arms. I am very grateful for the welcome and give 110% to making it an even more successful company.
I was also attracted by the type of work that we do. Events are special and are what allow people to get away from everyday life. Having experience of growing up and playing music, and seeing what it takes for a small band to get set up for a pub gig or a wedding, or a local annual agricultural show to take place, is one thing. But to do it for worldwide stars like Ed Sheeran & Stereophonics or for up-and-coming bands, is a whole new challenge.
How do you feel about the year ahead with all the new challenges we face as an industry?
2022 & beyond will be very challenging. Covid, inflation, conflicts, rising fuel prices, sustainability… they will all put further pressure on the sector. But I do feel, with the expertise our team has, that we can jump these hurdles one after another. It will be challenging at times, but this is what we thrive on and what sets us apart from the rest!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love the outdoors, be it gardening, a family walk with the dog on the beach, or hitting the fairways for 18 holes. I also like to read, preferably biographies like David Jason, Paul O’Connell & Padraig Harrington, all great, but different characters and outstanding in their professions. I don’t watch too much TV, but if I do it’s mostly sports (Liverpool, Munster Rugby or F1).
If you could jam with anyone on stage, who would it be, and what instrument would you be playing?
I grew up playing the drums. From the age of 2, I can remember watching the infamous Queen at Wembley in 1985 on UTV with my dad. It was a legendary and iconic performance. I am also self-taught on the guitar so it would be a choice of two. If he was still alive today, I would love to jam with the greatest guitar player the world has ever seen, Rory Gallagher. The Irishman who would have turned 74 in March 22’ but for his untimely death in 1995. He was and still is a genius! My other choice would be to play the drums with Metallica. Another iconic and legendary group who never took the foot off the pedal in producing music that will out-live them and me, and in 100years time, still sound fantastic.”