Looking at a small fleet, we get a microcosm of the issues facing many in the trucking industry today. Paterson Bulk Transport, based in Tailem Bend in South Australia is one such operation who have talked to Diesel about how they are travelling.
The Paterson family actually own the Cooke Plains Gypsum mine where the product the tippers transport is extracted. However, the tippers don’t just haul gypsum. They can also be found following seasonal work around, carting grain and grapes at various times. There are also regular general freight or bulk runs from Adelaide to Darwin, Melbourne and to Tasmania.
The company runs twelve trucks, and all of them are expected to handle a bit of every kind of freight depending on the time of year and work load. As a result the company runs over 50 trailers. Like many rural operators the cyclical nature of a lot of the work means the equipment needed is multiplied to keep wheels turning. The fleet is evenly divided with six Macks and six Kenworths on the road.
Grain season tends to be through November and December in this area. After that, the farming industry turns to preparing the land and the gypsum work picks up and keeps the fleet busy. By the time it gets around to March, the grape harvest sees the flattops concentrating in the wine growing areas. Patersons have side tipping bins which are designed to flip over the gantries at the wineries.
The trucks in the PBT fleet run all over Australia. Two of the trucks stick to curtainsider work between Adelaide and Melbourne, handling general freight. Some of the freight is Patersons’ own while other work is as a subcontractor.
“We don’t muck around with tankers and we don’t muck around with stock but we do everything else,” said Sam Paterson, third generation truckie and son of the current owner. “We’ve managed to get our own work everywhere, in our local area, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney.
“We always have our own work going out to places, but I never have any trouble getting a return load. I am a big believer in not trying to cut in on other people’s work, interstate. If you can work with them, you are better off working with them and getting a load home, than trying to create too much of your own work interstate and getting cut out all together.
“I work a lot with other family businesses. If they’re down our way, I’ll load them back and then, if I’m up their way, I’ll get them to load our trucks back. It’s a network of similar businesses to ours. It’s quite rewarding, the networking side of it, the different people you meet.”
Patersons have 10 employees in the team, plus Sam and his parents. B-doubles handle most of the work, but the Darwin run is done by road trains. Sam’s father, Preston, can be found handling the Adelaide Darwin run most of the time. Meanwhile, Sam stays close to home, when he can, and keeps an eye the business and the fleet.
“We do a lot of general freight up to Darwin, either as a double or a triple, then we have to do a dog run up to Port Augusta,”said Sam. “We also run machinery up there, oversize loads and stuff like that. we’ve got extendable trailers, two drop decks and two flattops. We’re probably top heavy on equipment, but it means we are ready to go anytime.
“I just do a little bit of everything now. I organise all of the trucks and then, when we are busy, I jump in one myself.”