A Gold Coast based trucking operation has recruited a young team to run the business and is meeting with a good deal of success.
The mainstay of the business involves a contract carting a range of stainless-steel products including rolls, sheets, rods and bars from a Yatala factory to outlets in Sydney, Albury on the NSW/Victoria border and Dandenong on the south-eastern outskirts of Melbourne. The trailers are then reloaded with general freight for the return journey. Other work the company does on a regular basis includes delivering coffee to Mt Beauty in the Victorian high country.
As the owners of Custom Freight live in Victoria, Jory Dunshea, Operations Manager of Custom Freight at Yatala, ably assisted by Administration Manager, Tanya Vonthethoff, takes care of the day-to-day operations which involve interstate haulage of general freight using eight prime movers and around the same number of B-double curtain-sided trailer sets.
Asked about the greatest challenge he faced in transitioning from being a driver himself to overseeing operations of a small fleet and its drivers, his answer is simple and succinct.
“My age,” he replies. “It’s been a steep learning curve and I came to realise pretty quickly that when you’re in this position you can’t be ‘mates’ with the drivers you’re employing. Hard decisions have to be made and you’re the one who has to make them. Simply learning the role has been a big challenge. I probably initially thought as an operator of a heavy vehicle that the two roles go hand-in-hand but I soon realised this wasn’t the case.
“I guess the fact that there is no one else to make decisions was initially quite daunting for me. When people are asking you questions, you’re so used to the idea of asking someone else to help with the answers, but then you think, ‘Hey, I’ve got to figure this out, it’s my problem to bear.’
To be completely frank, it’s somewhat unusual to visit a small trucking outfit in Australia and see new European prime movers in the yard. You generally expect to see this in the larger fleets. But according to Jory, the benefits of running the new trucks in terms of reduced fuel consumption and less downtime are already starting to show up positively on the bottom line.
Furthermore, in relation to earlier comments where he spoke about giving drivers a tad too much leeway, he explained that in the past the company had bought trucks in accordance with driver preference, including long-bonneted conventionals, but that this practice had been curtailed because it simply wasn’t in the best interests of the company.
“We’ve invested heavily in Mercedes-Benz trucks which we believe is paying off,” says Jory. “There are a few little tweaks we need to make but overall they are working really well in the business and helping to improve our profitability.”
It was indeed interesting to hear Jory’s take on three new Mercedes-Benz 2658 prime movers the company has progressively acquired this year. That’s because he sees things from both sides of the fence, as a former driver and now as Operations Manager.
“It was a bit like being transported back to being a driver again and you think, ‘I don’t want to drive that thing!’,” says Jory. “But then I picked it up from the dealership and it was the best truck I’d ever driven in my life and I couldn’t believe I wasn’t in one earlier. I did interstate for five years and after driving these new trucks I don’t understand why there’s still this negative connotation about European trucks.
“When you step away from being a driver and become a business operator that’s when you need to make decisions based on what’s best for the business. We’re confident these new prime movers are the best solution for this business and we plan to keep buying more to replace the ageing trucks in the fleet.”
Along with the decision by the company’s management to only buy new trucks, they also now have a policy to only keep them for 1million km or four years.
Asked about his plans for the future of the business, Jory’s conclusion is as concise as his answer to the opening question.
“We want to have 10 trucks and we want a fleet of Mercs.”