The third from eight brothers, Ġorġ joined his family business when he was only 16 years old but although he could not as yet drive, he soon found his role within the company’s delivery operations.
“I finished my secondary school and my father immediately roped me into the company. He used to take me to what we called the depost, down at the port, in Marsa, more precisely at what was known as the Mifsud Veranda. Part of this building still exists in fact.”
“Of course, I could not drive because I was still young so I used to wait for our customers to arrive, so that I could pass on their paperwork enabling their cargo to be released. From then, I would help have their newly arrived cargo unloaded, loaded on our trucks and delivered.”
Ġorġ remembers fondly how as soon as he turned eighteen, eager to give a more tangible contribution to the company, he got his license and with it, his first truck. “Equipment was extremely basic, everything had to be done by hand. We loaded all sorts of cargo by hand from one truck to another. Be it steel rods, wood, glass, or aluminium, we had to use our bare hands. We risked a lot but those where other days when work had to be done without any if’s and but’s.”
“I remember when the company Dowty used to import rubber coal sacks, we used to be three of us loading one sack on top of the other. It used to take its toll on us and by the end of the day, our faces used to be smudged with coal. We eventually organised a room with a shower so that we could at least get ourselves changed clean after a day’s work.”
By time, Ġorġ started administering and managing all the company’s delivery operations and understood how all the brothers had their natural position in the company.
”Salvu was responsible for everything relating to Customs, Bastjan was the company’s mechanic, Żaren and Pawlu coordinated and oversaw all the special deliveries, Fredu was responsible for all trailer operations at our Bonds in Ħal Far, Ġużi was in charge of the fleet and Frans was always at the office handling all the paperwork.
“There was a lot of coordination involved because our means were limited, and work was picking up. My brother Bastjan used to help too with the paperwork and deliveries whereas our other brothers Żaren and Pawlu used to step in to help whenever there were special consignments such as industrial equipment and machinery.”
We asked Ġorġ whether he used to get himself involved with the actual growth of Express Trailers’ fleet of trucks.
“Of course, I enjoyed being involved because my role was administering all the delivery operations and that depends wholly on a reliable fleet. Back then, buying equipment was complicated. Once we went up to buy a mechanical horse truck from Holland, only to arrive there and finding it all rusty. It was a failed trip, we got train tickets and came back to Malta on Sunday night, just in time to start our Monday routine deliveries!”
“The logistics of buying equipment was also difficult back in the day when means of transport were limited. As when we had decided to acquire a crane from Gozo for our port activities. It took us a whole three days because the crane belonged to a stonemason in Victoria so first, the crane needed to be loaded and transported down to the port of Mġarr where it got loaded on the MV Eagle and made its way to Marfa. When we came to unload it on Malta, some loading equipment gave way and we almost ended up at sea! But luckily, we managed it.”
In the 1970’s Express Trailers started venturing overseas and eager to start tapping into the import/export market, the company started upgrading its fleet to be able to handle this business.
“The prospect of international deliveries was extremely exciting, and I remember the first time I travelled for the first time to Sicily with my truck to bring an aluminium consignment from Palermo. The client had travelled with me in the truck, and we managed to load 12 tons of aluminium on a 10-ton truck for his new aluminium factory in Malta. On our way back my poor tired truck developed a water leakage, but we pressed on, and we managed to make it anyway.”
“That was 46 years ago. I remember the exact year because my wife was pregnant with my eldest son and was about to pop!” quips Ġorġ.
Ġorġ remembers fondly one of the most important jobs he ever coordinated – the transportation of the Euro coins and bank notes fifteen years ago.
“We had won a tender issued by the Central Bank for the loading, transport and unloading of the first Euro consignment. It was a very complicated operation because of all tight security protocols that we had to adhere to but it was a learning experience and an adventure at the same time!” As we speak, Ġorġ plays with his hands which show obvious signs of arduous work.
“Everything was by hand. Even in the early days when we still operated with our postwar trucks. These operated with a starting handle, and it was not the first time that the handle backfired. Once I broke my arm, but I couldn’t get to tell my father because I did not want him to worry.” “Another time I broke my two feet. I was organising bundles of steel prior to a delivery, the weight gave in and caught bought my feet. I refused to have them put into plaster because me and my wife were meant to go abroad on holiday, and I did not want to ruin the trip. Had she seen me in plaster, she would have wanted to stay here! So, the doctor made me wear these tight shoes and my feet recovered slowly in them.”
Ġorġ points out how different manual work was back then when compared to today.
“Back then it was a lot of demanding work, but we were not fussy. Work had to be done, we could not stop, so we got down and did our job. There was a true love for work and the clients saw it in us. We used to go out of our way and whenever the work became overwhelmingly busy and we were short of equipment or trucks, we used to collaborate with other operators, and we helped each other. I believe this is what gave us our solid reputation, and this is why hardly any clients ever left us. There was more loyalty even as work increased.”
Ġorġ kept going physically down to the port every day till his last days at the company.
“When in 2015, I turned 68, I had to retire to make way for new, younger blood. Of course, I was sorry that I had to retire, and I would have gladly given a couple more extra years, but it was a company decision that had to be respected,” he says with a nostalgic tone.
We asked Ġorġ what the company meant to him.
“Like all those who saw the origins of Express Trailers, I have always held our company close to heart because it was our family’s collective project and we all put a lot of sacrifice to see it grow and become the transportation leader it is today.”