We have received the sad news that one of the very early pioneers of the European powered access rental industry, David Mort, has died aged 92. He passed away peacefully in Hospital on Tuesday the 7th of December.
David Mort has been out of the access industry for almost 35 years, and yet his legacy lives on, many of the senior members of the UK powered access industry began their access careers with PTP. Many of its alumni went on to set up their own companies later on.
Born in Port Talbot in 1929, Mort’s first taste of work was on his father’s small holding, rearing poultry and pigs. It was during this time that he first met his wife Dorothy, whilst delivering meat to the local butchers shop – she was the butcher’s daughter.
His first ‘proper job’ was working on the docks at Port Talbot, where he became a stevedore. He married Dorothy in 1952 and four years later the two agreed that he should give up his job at the docks - where a day’s work was never guaranteed - in order to set up their own business making concrete building blocks in a yard at the back of their home. They soon discovered that there was significant demand from local tradesmen to borrow their two second hand concrete mixers - for a fee of course - and that this ‘rental’ activity was more lucrative than making blocks.
Their business grew and more mixers and other equipment were added, in order to meet the needs of their customers, which was soon to include The Steel Company of Wales, BP LLandarcy, BP Chemicals and the National Coal Board, along with many others. One of their most lucrative products at this time were portable air compressors, although their place would soon be taken by truck mounted aerial lifts.
In 1972, the Morts moved the business from their original Newbridge road yard in Port Talbot, to a new purpose built depot in nearby Baglan. By this time, they were renting out portable compressors all over the country, setting the scene for later geographic expansion. But 1973 was a key year for them, as they purchased an ex-army Simon IG40 truck mounted lift and hired a young Mike Evans, who would become a driving force behind their powered access business.
In 1976, a Transport a General Workers Union strike, threatened to kill the business off, but the Morts and their growing team weathered the storm and in the late 1970s the company purchased some of the first JLG 40F and 60S self-propelled boom lifts in the UK along with UpRight Flying Carpet scissor lifts, and persuaded the contractors working on the Ford engine plant being built in Bridgend, Wales, to use self-propelled lifts, both in the construction ongoing updating and maintenance work. The Bridgend contract gave the fledgling part of the business a strong start up boost from which it never looked back.
As new locations were added across the UK - in Milford Haven, Bristol , Southampton, West London, East London, Sheffield, Teesside, Glasgow, not to forget Port Talbot - it became clear that a less parochial name was in order and thus PTP came into being.
By the early 1980s PTP had a powered access fleet of some 400 units, including booms, scissor lift, truck mounts and underbridge inspection platforms, from Grove, JLG, UpRight and Simon. PTP became preferred suppliers to the Devonport Dockyard and the Royal Navy, as well as the Esso refinery in Fawley and Portsmouth Docks.
In 1987, the couple decided to accept a takeover bid from BET Plant Services, which was acquiring crane and access rental companies across the UK and the USA under the leadership of Bill Boulton, in what was one of the first rental industry ‘consolidation’ waves. Working with Boulton was Ray Ledger who brought PTP and Scott Greenham together. The PTP business was acquired from BET/Rentokil by Loxam in 2000, which added Nationwide Platforms to it in 2017.
David Mort’s son Tony went on to set up AJ Access Platforms in 1990, selling used equipment and then getting back into rental, eventually selling the business to AFI. But that is another story.
When he retired Mort was only 58 and so he set out to pursue his other great interest and hobby, horse racing, where he had a second taste of success. At Royal Ascot in 1979 his horse Varingo won the Coventry Stakes, while Le Soleil finished second in the Bessborough Handicap.
Further success would come with Highclere Racing, from horses such as Petrushca and Motivator, which won the Epsom Derby in 2005. As son Tony puts it: “He loved horse racing more for the intrigue and the characters within it. It was always conspiracy theory with Dad.”
Sadly, his wife Dorothy passed away in 2014, he stayed on in the family home, but four year years later decided to move into a retirement home. “He was a hard, but very fair businessman and was very generous particularly when success came along and was prepared to share it with others. This both applied to his business and horse racing life, “ said Tony.
David Mort leaves behind son Tony and daughter Catherine, along with both grandchildren and great grandchildren. His funeral service will be held at the Forest of Dean Crematorium on Saturday, December 18th at 10:30. All friends and colleagues are welcome to join the family to pay their last respects. In lieu of flowers please send donations to the British Heart Foundation.