Third generation dairy producers Ross and Sally Hopper are in the business of Moovin’ Milk. Ross’s grandfather originally bought the dairy farm in 1948 and proceeded to run it in the traditional way, followed on by his father, Harold. This was just how things were done in the latter half of the 20th century, but with the approach of the new millennium the third generation of Hoppers realised that to remain viable they needed a paradigm shift in their operations.
As the talk turns to trucks, Ross admits he’s no truck fanatic but simply uses them as a tool of the trade. That said, like most farm boys his history driving trucks on the farm dates back to pre-teenage years and by his late teens he’d acquired his semi license. Ross’s truck driving experience subsequently extended to driving road trains at the mines in central Queensland when he was 23.
In his late teens and early 20s Ross owned an earthmoving business and it was here he says he learnt the value of buying new machinery.
“I was operating 20 tonne excavators, bought a second hand one when I was 18 and another at 19, both were lemons,” says Ross. “Then by the time I’d turned 20 I’d sold those and bought a new one and didn’t have any more dramas. So I learnt my lesson that when you have machines working day in, day out you’re far better off buying new ones.
“I only make an exception to this rule when the equipment isn’t working every day, which is why we bought our first prime mover second hand. It was a 10-year-old single-drive Scania bought in 2000 that we used three days a week for farm milk collection towing a single axle tanker.”
While the Scania served its purpose well, it eventually got written off after being rolled when the driver fell asleep at the wheel. Fortunately, the tanker survived to tell the tale with just a few scratches and a new single drive MAN with an automated manual transmission (AMT) was duly bought to take the Scania’s place. This was the start of Maleny Dairies’ policy to only buy trucks with automated or automatic transmissions.
According to Ross, the MAN was a good truck too, and very comfortable to drive, but the business was growing and the time had come to upgrade to a tri-axle Tieman tanker pulled by the company’s first tandem drive prime mover, an Isuzu Giga with AMT. The original single axle tanker was then put out to pasture, literally, and is now a permanent landmark in a paddock next to the main road into the Maleny township.
At about the same time the company bought a second hand Maxi-Cube tri-axle refrigerated van with rear barn doors. Prior to this all the processed milk products had been delivered to its two depots – one in Caboolture on the Sunshine Coast and the other at Ormeau on the Gold Coast – using a Volvo FL6 rigid with a 10-pallet refrigerated pan.
“The FL6 was the last manual truck we bought,” says Ross, “Since then every truck has been either automatic or AMT.”
This includes a pair of UD body trucks fitted with Allison automatic transmissions.
A later model pre-owned Maxi-Cube fridge van with a roller door was subsequently acquired followed by the company’s first new Maxi-Cube fridge van bought about 18 months ago. In fact, Ross says from now on all his refrigerated trailers will be purchased new for similar reasons that he buys new trucks.
“The new fridge vans have superior thermal efficiency so the fridge motors aren’t working as hard to keep them cool,” says Ross.