A small South Australian transport operation is extending out of the chicken feed business and expanding its horizons in SA and Diesel News talks to the trucking company’s owner Gaetano Capaldi.
Most smaller trucking operators try and stay away from the high mileage, high traffic work like line haul and general freight. They prefer to find a niche in which to thrive and keep under the radar, out of sight of the big boys. Not Gaetano Capaldi. He has built up a substantial specialist chicken feed delivery business, but now wants to try his hand at national B-double general freight.
The flat dusty Northern Suburbs of Adelaide are home to most of the trucking industry in Adelaide. From here the roads to Perth, Darwin, Sydney are all accessed without the grind through the city to the foot of the Adelaide Hills and the climb up to the road to Melbourne.
The yard just off the main highway in Two Wells is in an ideal situation for trucks delivering chicken feed to farms dotted around the flat plains between Adelaide’s Barossa Valley and North. Pulling into the yard, one of the workhorses for the company is being serviced. It’s a Western Star 4800 pulling a bulk tanker set up to handle the chicken feed.
The Star is the bread and butter truck, but sitting in pride of place in front of the donga, which serves as company HQ, is the latest addition, a shiny MAN TGX-D38 prime mover and an immaculate B-double set, loaded and ready to hit the road for an overnight run to Melbourne.
It’s the only 560hp D38 in Adelaide according to Gaetano, as he looks out into the yard and admires the well-kept truck. This is the truck which has finally brought MAN into contention in Australia, with the introduction of the 15 litre D38 engine.
MAN had struggled for credibility in the B-double market up until its introduction, because the largest engine it could offer was the 13 litre D26. There is a perception, often grounded in actual experience, about 13 litres in top weight B-double work and it’s all about durability, being able to take the strain of hauling up to 68 tonnes up and down the highways and hills of our wide brown land.
“The truck’s great, the driver likes it and we have done quite a few trips to Brisbane,” says Gaetano. “Most of the time it runs with my refrigerated trailers, but at the moment, we are running up to the Snowy Mountains with scrap paper and then coming back with finished rolls of paper.
“We have done a lot of general freight Adelaide to Brisbane and then out of there we have a contract to carry flexible pipes down to areas like the Riverina. Sydney tends to be general freight there and back. We also take general freight to Melbourne and have a contract to bring empty bottles out Visy back to the Yorke Peninsula for a customer. Out of there we load the bottled water back into Adelaide for distribution here.”
Looking to the Future
With a successful feed distribution business working well, what possessed Gaetano to step into the murky world of long distance general freight?
“I just thought I would have a look at diversifying,” answers Gaetano. “I don’t know whether I should have. It was slow to start with and then it has started picking up a little. It’s something that I have always wanted to do. I am going to have a go at it and stick it out for a while.
“The truck has been great, I have no complaints there. I had been thinking about interstate work and decided to hire a truck from Penske Truck Rental to begin with. I went around with the 440 hp version of the TGX for a while. Once I thought it would work I bought the MAN and a set of trailers.
“What I am doing now in the poultry industry is fantastic, steady and non-seasonal. I can plan ahead and we have very good relationships with the mill and Baiada. We can see what’s happening going forward. However, with the interstate side , it’s hard. You’ve got to chase, chase, chase. To be honest, I don’t know how some people do it.”
Gaetano has a number of tenders out in the market place which will give the operation a bit of stability. If the plan comes off, the truck will run a set route out of Adelaide to Sydney, Sydney to Melbourne and then Melbourne to Adelaide, on a weekly basis.
When pressed on whether he will expand the general freight fleet further, Gaetano is wary. He wants to see how this first toe in the water plays out and then, if it grows, it will grow organically. Just like the chicken feed business, which has grown from three trucks and five employees to eight trucks and 23 staff.