Mixing the Old with the New

Diesel News meets an operator in Sydney’s west who is a prime example of mixing the new with the old to get results. We all know we have to move with the times, but, at the same time, we don’t want to lose the values that were so important when setting up a business.

There is a stereotypical image of the type of trucking operation we expect to embrace the latest technology to get ahead in business, with a dynamic, young management group driving change, using modern trucks with slick artwork on the doors. This picture is very unlike Parklea Sand and Soil, who is very much a traditional-style operator, running some legacy trucks and using one the few proper sign writers left in the Sydney area.

Working out of a yard where the outer north-west of Sydney’s sprawl meets the farming land it is swallowing wholesale, Parklea Sand and Soil is one of the many fleets busily ferrying bulk materials around the Sydney region, supplying everything from sand and gravel to mulch and topsoil to large-scale developers, landscapers and the weekend warrior.

The traditionally painted tippers, varying in size from a 4.5 tonner all the way up to a couple of Performance-Based Standards (PBS) approved tipper and dog combinations, can be seen buzzing around the city, queuing at development sites or squeezing a small tipper full of mulch into a suburban backyard. You could be forgiven for thinking this might be one of those trucking operations run from a couple of mobile phones and addresses jotted down on the back of an envelope.

In fact, any assumption like that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is an operation working with and helping to develop a state-of-the-art telematics system with the inherent flexibility to fit in with the needs of a diverse operation and also integrate with existing business systems. Yes, the tipper delivering your product is a 1977 Kenworth SAR, immaculately presented and looking as new as the day it started work as an oil company prime mover 40 years ago, but the driver steps down from the cab with a tablet in hand for you to sign for the delivery.

The truck then heads off for its next pick-up as part of a task automatically allocated to it, while details of the job and any payment made during delivery are passed back to base. Moments later the data is automatically loaded into the company’s business software to be processed as a paid invoice, or allocated to a customer account and duly invoiced.

A member of the team and acting as a spokesman for the Schembri family that owns and runs the business, Mitchell Schembri represents the second generation of the family to get involved in the business. Two brothers, Michael and Ray, have been followed into the sand and gravel game by Michael’s sons Luke and Mitchell, as well as Rhys, Ray’s son. Other members of the family handle the accounts and other ancillary support jobs.

“The original business started off in a chicken farm,” says Mitchell. “My grandparents had a chicken farm on Sunnyholt Road, then my father started to shovel manure into the back of a truck and cart it around. Then he rebuilt his truck from scratch (the 1977 Kenworth SAR). One thing led to another and we started progressing from there – it started to really kick off in the early nineties.”