Just Tankers: a story of evolution, innovation and growth

Northern Ireland-based Just Tankers is one of the UK’s largest suppliers of road tankers for sale and hire as well as a multi-product retail business.

Matthew Gilmore, Just Tankers

Claudia Weeks, Community Content Lead, spoke with Matthew Gilmore, Managing Director at Just Tankers, about the business, its history and plans for the future.

The history of Just Tankers

Just Tankers began as Gilmore Fuels Ltd in the Ards Peninsula, Co. Down, Northern Ireland with just one tanker. Matthew explained the beginnings of the business: “My father (Sidney Gilmore) established Gilmore Fuels Ltd in the 1950s with a single tanker and by the 1980s Gilmore Fuels operated with a fleet of ten tankers, establishing itself as a leader in a relatively new and crucial sector of the economy.

“Gilmore Fuels was an appointed Northern Ireland distributor for PetroFina which was a relationship my father much enjoyed. He was very proud of the Fina Brand.

“My father decided to sell Gilmore Fuels, in 2000, to Tedcastle Oil Products / Top Oils – a decision he instantly regretted, as he missed the daily interaction with all his customers.Given the chance, he would have bought the business back in a heartbeat. With the oil business gone, he formed a new company called Gilmore Services Ltd.”

Racing to success

As a family business, Matthew was always keen to be part of Gilmore Services, but he was driven to succeed before joining the company as he explains: “From a young age, I had set my sights on a career in motorsport, I was karting from the age of 8 and progressed to single seaters aged 16.

“I competed across Europe in Formula Ford, and then the British and European Formula 3 Championships. My talent was recognised during my career as I was twice nominated for the prestigious McLaren Autosport Award ‘Young Driver of the Year Award!’

“The nomination helped me to become a Williams F1 Test Driver in 2002, helping to test the FW24’s latest aerodynamic upgrades during the season, alongside Ralph Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Marc Gene.

“However, in 2003, I made the difficult decision to leave the sport. It marked the end of one chapter and the beginning of another, and in 2004 I joined the family business.”

A new beginning

As the racing chapter closed for Matthew, he joined the business and took over the running of Gilmore Services Ltd. After Sidney retired, Matthew became Managing Director, having worked alongside his father for many years.

“In 2006 I established the Just Tankers brand, helping to modernise the business with a significant online presence,” Matthew shared, explaining how the Just Tankers brand was created. “This included launching a website, to market new and used tankers globally, and creating to supply parts to the broader fuel trade.

“2006 was a busy year as we also acquired Maine Tankers, an agent for Tasca Tankers in Ireland, and in 2010 introduced the TruFlow pumping and metering system, an in-house development with full MID Approval.

“At the same time, we also launched our depot in Stratford Upon Avon which marked our expansion into Great Britain, providing a strategic base for UK, Ireland, and international operations.”

A partnership with G Magyar

“In 2015 I began a partnership with G Magyar, Europe’s leading tanker manufacturer, to distribute their products in the UK and Ireland. This helped us to develop the ‘New Tankers Always in Stock’ program and the eventual combination of Gilmore Services and Maine Tankers under the Just Tankers brand.

“Our partnership with G Magyar plays a crucial role in offering an extensive selection of both new and used tankers. We cater to a wide array of industry needs. We find that demand can vary based on the current market trends and the specific requirements of our clients.

“Some of our most in-demand tankers are the 19 and 20,000 LTR G Magyar Tankers fitted on 26 Ton DAF and Scania chassis.

“One of G Magyar’s slogans is “A Passion for Quality” and this is one of the reasons my relationship with G Magyar works so well. I have a passion for quality tankers, and I believe the G Magyar tankers we sell are industry-leading.

“I remember going to my first FPS Show in 2004 with my father. I walked around the G Magyar stand and I said to myself, these guys set the standard, they were the best tankers I had ever seen. I thought they were miles better than anything else on show! I am proud to represent G Magyar in the UK and Ireland, and I think our customers appreciate the superior quality of the G Magyar build.”

To buy or to hire

Just Tankers both sells and hires tankers and in this continually evolving industry, I wondered which proves to be the most popular option.

“For some clients, investing in a tanker is a strategic move that aligns with their long-term operational goals and capacity needs. These clients typically engage with us for the purchase of tankers, looking for the reliability, customisation, and sense of ownership that comes with buying.

“On the other hand, the hire option appeals to clients seeking flexibility, reduced upfront investment, and the ability to adapt quickly to changing business volumes or project-specific requirements.

“Hiring also offers the advantage of accessing the latest models with updated technology without the long-term commitment, which can be particularly attractive for projects with a defined timeline, or for companies in growth phases evaluating their long-term needs.”

A significant milestone for our company

“As a company we’ve continued to grow and, in January 2023, we opened our flagship site in Petersfield, Hampshire, underscoring this continuous growth. This new site features extensive facilities for PDI, calibration, repairs, and tank testing, highlighting our commitment to excellence and customer service.

“The site opening represents a significant milestone for our company as we aim to fill a crucial gap in the market by providing specialised repair and maintenance services to the tanker industry.

“Our range of services include tank weld repairs, tanker testing, safe load passes and meter system calibration. These offerings are designed to meet the critical needs of our clients, ensuring their operations run smoothly and efficiently.

“Settling into our new site has been an exciting phase. The extensive yard, workshop, and offices allow us to deliver our services more effectively and efficiently. They provide a one-stop solution for our clients. Our large staff presence at the site is a testament to our commitment to maintaining high quality standards. Each team member plays a vital role in ensuring that our services meet, and exceed, the expectations of our clients.”

The importance of team

Reflecting on the development of the team at Just Tankers, Matthew commented: “When we were founded in the 1950s, we were a much smaller operation, starting with just a handful of dedicated staff members. Since those early days, the company has experienced significant growth and evolution.

“We are proud to say that we have grown to over 25 staff members across our four sites. This expansion reflects not only the increase in demand for our tankers but also our commitment to providing exceptional service and expertise in our field.

“As for family involvement, we have always valued the sense of community and continuity that comes with a family business. While the company has professionalised over the years, embracing industry best practices, and bringing in experts from outside, we still cherish the involvement of family members in the business.

“In all seriousness, we have a great team here. All of them are hardworking and experienced within the industry. We’ve also got Richard who makes us all laugh and, I have to say, Eileen makes a really good cup of tea. Thanks Eileen!”

The customer

Matthew explained how Just Tankers connects with customers: “We actively engage with our audience through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. These platforms allow us to showcase our range of tankers, share industry insights, and highlight customer testimonials. We also have our website that showcases our new and used stock to a global market.

“In addition to our digital presence, we also recognise the value of print media. Publications like Fuel Oil News have been instrumental in reaching industry professionals and potential customers who prefer traditional media. These print media placements not only lend credibility but also enable us to reach a targeted audience deeply embedded within the fuel and oil sector.

“Business-to-business (B2B) referrals have also played a crucial role in our growth. By establishing strong relationships within the industry and delivering exceptional service and products, we’ve built a network of satisfied customers and partners who readily recommend us to others. These referrals are a testament to the quality of our tankers and the excellence of our service.”

Major challenges for the industry

The industry is changing at pace, and I asked Matthew how he sees the long-term future of liquid fuels: “I believe we will continue to need and deliver liquid fuels in my lifetime. I do believe we will see a growth of HVO and sustainable fuels.

“One of the most pressing challenges for the tanker industry is the scarcity of service providers equipped to meet the specific needs of this sector.

“This issue is compounded by the difficulty in hiring and retaining new staff, which is a critical factor for maintaining and enhancing service quality. As the industry evolves, the demand for skilled professionals who can manage the complexities of tanker operations, from maintenance to compliance with evolving environmental regulations, continues to grow. Finding and nurturing talent, therefore, becomes a strategic necessity.”

The future for Just Tankers

Matthew was keen to share what the future holds for the business: “We are focused on continued and sustainable growth.

“Our vision for the company encompasses a broad spectrum of strategic objectives designed to solidify our position as a leader in the tanker industry while exploring new horizons.

“A core priority is to enhance our product offering. This involves not only refining our existing range of products to meet and exceed current market demands but also innovating and introducing new solutions that cater to emerging needs within the industry.

“Diversification is a key strategic pillar for our future growth. We want to enter new markets, and broaden our customer base, reduce dependence on traditional sectors, and capitalise on opportunities in emerging industries.

“The Magyar range of products has already played a significant role in our success, and will continue to be a focus for development. The aim is to expand this range, ensuring that these products remain competitive and relevant. This will involve leveraging the latest technologies and engineering practices to meet the evolving needs of the industry.

“Our contract hire business represents a significant growth opportunity. By expanding this aspect of the business, we plan to meet the growing demand for flexible, cost-effective solutions for acquiring and utilising tanker vehicles. This expansion will be supported by strategic investments in fleet diversity, maintenance capabilities, and customer service excellence.

“We also want to cast our net further with the spare parts arm of the business. Recognising the critical role that timely and reliable access to quality spare parts plays in the operational efficiency of its clients, the company is committed to expanding its spare parts distribution network.”

Fuel Oil News wishes Matthew and all the team at Just Tankers the best for 2024. We look forward to catching up with them again soon.

Image credit: Matthew Gilmore, Just Tankers