Running a truck workshop in a mining area like Karratha brings up different issues to those faced in many workshops around the country. Diesel News visited one of these sites to see how they handle heavy gear in the Pilbara.
As a company, Karratha Earthmoving have a diverse portfolio of machines. Apart from the typical equipment this sort of contractor uses, there are quite a few heavy trucks hauling tippers for various customers. The work is not just about the development on new sites, but also about servicing mine sites with tipper haulage.
Driving into the red dirt yard, Diesel News was met by a typical North Australian scene. The yard is big, big enough to turn a road train, drop the trailers and get the prime mover onto a bay for a service. The variety of equipment sitting around reflects the diversity of the business itself.
Stared back in 1985, as a family business, it has grown to include the supply of earthmoving, asphalt and sand, as well as heavy tipper haulage on mine sites. At that time the whole operation began with a Mack R600 and a Cat 930 loader.
The four sons in the family grew up helping out in the business. Now they all work in the business full-time, three of them after studying engineering at university and traveling the world, before returning to Karratha.
With four young brothers driving a modernisation within the business, it has grown as economic activity in the Pilbara has increased. When the slowdown came. it took everybody by surprise. The business employed 50-60 people at its peak, it now employs around 40. Since the slowdown the company has expanded through some vertical integration and getting involved in some complementary businesses. This has been the way the operation has sought to future-proof the business.
When it all stops suddenly, like it did for the industry in Karratha, when the resources industry hit a wall, one of the first victims in any business is maintenance. keeping an eye on things and maintaining the integrity of the fleet, as it stands, has been a major focus for Karratha Earthmoving since the end of the boom
This diligence has seen the company able to exploit new opportunities as the area comes out of the worst of the downturn. Businesses around Karratha report the green shoots of a recovery, as Karratha returns to a normal economy, as a opposed to the craziness of the mining construction period.
The man in charge of keeping the standards up when it comes to maintenance is Luke Priddis. He is the Workshop Manager for Karratha Earthmoving. He has been working at the company for four years. He served his apprenticeship working on Volvo trucks for WA Truck Centre, the Western Australia Volvo dealership, working both in its Perth and Port Hedland workshops.
After ten years at Truck Centre, he decided to move on and Karratha Earthmoving own quite a few Volvo trucks, making Luke an ideal job candidate. The fleet is well-mixed with Hino, Isuzu, Scania and Kenworth trucks included in the mix. Altogether, the fleet includes 22 Volvo trucks, the others are a selection of the other brands.
“We have got a lot of Volvos, but for me there’s a lot of opportunities in other areas, like with the big machines.” said Luke. “Work is always spread out differently, we’ve got our set services for all of the trucks constantly running in Port Hedland, but for the other machines it’s just a matter of when they come round for service. Some of them can be sitting around for a long time.”