In an effort needed to keep the wolf from the door, NSW operator Alan Ross is working out the best way to keep his trucking operation moving forward. Alan admits the way he runs the business has changed dramatically in the last five years. He had been replacing trucks and trailers on a regular basis and improving the quality of the running gear throughout the fleet for many years. He realised he was too highly geared and needed to pull his head in on acquisitions.
His aversion to leasing means repayments were higher, so he decided to cut his spending to suit the economic conditions. This has seen five new trucks a year reduce to just one, before slowly rising again as the funds allow, next year he is budgeting for five.
Another change to the business has seen Alan return to running tippers. there are now seven tipper and dog combinations in the fleet. All are running on PBS at higher mass limits.
“We have a declining road system, which is going to have to be fixed up one day,” said Alan. “We have an airport planned to be built. I feel the way we do compliance, we are going to be desirable company to do the work, and we could move up up the food chain fairly well. At the same time, interstate freight seems to be getting less and less.”
This had originally been Alan’s idea of a retirement project, simply running a dozen tipper locally and giving the interstate freight away. However, this has all changed with the inclusion of True Ross, Alan’s daughter, into the team. The change has been part of a refreshing of the core team in the business.
Ross Transport is now accredited under both TruckSafe and there National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme. Most of the fleet runs on Basic Fatigue Management.
“I am still a skeptic, when it comes to TruckSafe,” said Alan. “They need to stand up and be counted, give us something for what we are doing. We do the audit, which is the same as we do for everyone, but they are not engaging further with us.”
“I believe everyone needs to be at BFM level, just for the extra training they get. It can take the pressure off people. You always have those extra hours available. Working with 12 hours, you are going to be pushing the limit quite often, then either an accident is going to happen or you are going to break the law.
“The extra training is great. You’ve only got to pick up one thing from the training course and you’re a winner. Whether it’s eating better or drinking more water, people don’t realise. Once you start getting short of time and start watching the clock, that’s when things happen.”
Most loads handled by the drivers are one pick-up and one drop, or out of the depot and a single drop at the other end. Drivers average age in the fleet is around the national average, somewhere in the mid-fifties, but in the last few years a number of younger drivers in their mid-twenties have come into the business, stopping the average rising further. Simply being able to attract competent young drivers is an achievement, in itself. Driver turnover stays at around 30 per cent.