Remembering Jim Scanlan

11 April 2017

Many of us in the logistics world were shocked to hear of the passing of Jim Scanlan on Monday April 10th.

Probably best known as co-founder of The Pallet Network [TPN], Jim’s passion was always transport from his time at United Transport, Fortec as well as being an Agency Driver which he did from time to time.

My own memories of Jim relate to the intense time we spent co-founding Hazchem Network, with HW Coates, Deltion Software, a consortium of Hauliers [including Palletline PLC] and the team we assembled in Rugby.

When you spend times of high intensity and grave personal risk with colleagues, the memories are seared into your consciousness like a cattle-brand; and that is especially relevant today as I reflect upon the times I shared with Jim Scanlan.

I recall sitting at my desk at Interoute Transport in Thame when we joined Pallex [for managing the OX and RG postcodes] just after the Millennium and became interested in the Pallet Network model. We had sent out press releases indicating that Interoute Transport Services were planning to set-up the UK’s first specialist Pallet-Network for the road haulage of palletised Dangerous Goods under ever tightening ADR regulations. We received growing interest from the Haulage industry, initially with calls from Bill Bowker of WH Bowker, Bill Ball of Firmin Coates [now HW Coates] and Geoff Hill of RASE among others. Then I got a peculiar call on my mobile phone which went like this.

"Is that Ali Karim?" for which I replied "Yes, and who’s this?"

"I’m Jim Scanlan, and I have the same idea as you."

And so started our partnership; one that changed the direction of my life.

Many within the Logistics Industry knew of the background of Jim and I, pondering upon the chalk and cheese of our natures - Jim the Pallet Network Director and Ali the Industrial Chemist Transport Manager. We knew that behind our backs, many would smile at the "Odd Couple" trying to set-up a transport network in one of the most risky and highly regulated areas of Logistics, the Transportation of Dangerous Goods.

We held many meetings traversing the Country as well as Mainland Europe, spending long hours in the car together, talking about our lives, about transport and Crime, Mystery and Thriller Fiction as we both shared a passion – reading books from the darkest edges of Literature. We also shared a somewhat surreal sense of humour and proportion which was vital as we lived together during one of the most stressful periods of our lives.

Adam Leonard, former CEO of The Pallet Network [TPN] and I would often compare notes as we both shared analogous experiences of working with Jim, which he too recalls with affection here -

"Jim’s boundless enthusiasm, energy and belief gave birth to The Pallet Network. He was full of ideas and shared them with those around him, leaving the finer detail to those of us who shared his vision. Jim was a generous and unselfish mentor to those of us who had the great good fortune to know him.

Always a people person, he convinced many business owners to buy into his dream of creating a different type of pallet network. He succeeded in realising this dream. Jim was a great guy to know both on a personal as well as a professional level and I will always be grateful to him for allowing me the opportunity to work alongside him as he established TPN as a real force within the sector.

Failure didn’t figure in his vocabulary and his endless optimism invariably saw him achieve his aims. A great guy to share a beer with, he made a lasting impression on those of us who were lucky to know him."

ADAM LEONARD

I grew close also to Jim’s very dear friend and business colleague Piyush Shah the CEO of Deltion Software, who kindly shared his thoughts too about Jim –

"I met Jim around 2000 and it is because of this chance encounter I set up Deltion. Our family became an early investor in The Pallet Network and after the exit to private equity; we again invested with Jim when he set up Hazchem Network.

Over the years we became good friends. There were some tough times but Jim was never one to be despondent. He worked hard and was full of energy and enthusiasm, and a great family man. It is a shame to lose him so soon and so suddenly."

PIYUSH SHAH

Hazchem Network started trade on the 8th of October 2004, a night that remains permanently striated into my memory. I smile with the recollection of transhipping a grand total of 43 Pallets on that night; smiling when contrasted against the volumes of Pallets and Parcels of Dangerous Goods we Trans-ship today - and the level of significance of what Hazchem Network provide the logistics sector. Our help includes that for our colleagues within the General Pallet Network Sector, via our affiliation with The Association of Pallet Networks; and our Chair Paul Sanders shares his thoughts about Jim -

"On behalf of the Association of Pallet Networks it is with great sadness that we were informed that Jim Scanlon had passed away, Jim was one of the Sectors Pioneers.

Jim was involved in the Managing and creation of cutting edge Transport methods that changed Transport in the UK and he played a part in securing the future for many family transport businesses.

Jim will be sadly missed by his family, friends and past sector colleagues"

– PAUL SANDERS

We were amused at the time with the affectionate nick-names that were deployed when we were mentioned within the logistics sector. Commercial Motor in March 2005 referred to us as ‘The Chemical Brothers’ generously covering our first six months of trade. European Chemical News referred to Jim and I as "The Dukes of Hazard".

Sure, those times of the start-up of Hazchem Network were incredibly stressful, but it was thanks to Jim Scanlan that I can look back upon those weird days not only with affection, but also with professional admiration. We worked hard, risked much both financial as well as emotional but with the support from our families, the crack-team we assembled in Rugby, help from our colleagues within the sector, the steely determination of Shareholders and Directors [with specific mention to the Chairman of Hazchem Network Michael Coates, Gerald Coates Chairman of HW Coates, Ken Hackling of John Hackling Transport, Piyush Shah CEO of Deltion, Tom Coates Managing Director of HW Coates and our initial support from both Pallex and Palletline PLC] – we did it.

Rarely in life does one get the opportunity to build something from the ground up, adding benefit to the UK’s logistics infrastructure; creating something of value.

Today, I thank Jim Scanlan for providing me the opportunity and giving me the courage to take that first step, into business. For as scary as those times were, Jim’s albatross-like laughter kept me going, for during that time assembling the crack team in Rugby we felt like The Blues Brothers, getting our band together.

I recall when Jim left the business during the summer of 2005. We stood pulling heavily on our Marlboros, and stared at each other. I noticed his eyes were blurry as were my own and he said –

"You know Ali, I am proud of many things in my life; my wife Helene and the children, the work at Fortec, setting up The Pallet Network with Richard Eldred, but the most proud achievement has been working with you and our colleagues to set-up Hazchem Network, because it was so hard, but so worthwhile"

Then he got in his car, and drove off.

We would meet and have lunch from time to time and he would always mention how much pride he gets when he hears Hazchem Network mentioned in despatches as well as the growth of TPN.

Today, I think of Jim Scanlan as well as his dear wife Helene and his Children, for the memories of his companionship always makes me grateful for the random nature of fate, for it introduced me to this great man of the Logistics Industry.

"Farewell Jim, from your dear friends; we’re so glad we ran into you"

If you scroll to the first News Stories on our website back in 2004, you will see the Hazchem Network story slowly unfold; for which Jim Scanlan was our Leader and someone who lives on in our memory and in the memories of others.

Ali Karim

* For those who wish to pay their respects, Jim's funeral has been confirmed as 1pm on 2nd May at Slough Crematorium