“At the time, all I wanted to do was have my own overnight run,” says Tim Sullivan of Sullivans Logistics. “Who the hell would want to drive a truck overnight? Well, bugalugs did. I bought a UD PK240 and put a curtainsider body on it to haul the mail to Kalgoorlie.
“I managed to pick up a couple of freight customers in Kalgoorlie. We couldn’t build up the freight quickly because we didn’t have the room. I kept records for three months to demonstrate there was more mail than Australia Post had estimated in the contract.”
This gave Tim the opportunity to put the rates up for the business, now running as Kalexpress, based in the Kewdale Fright Terminal and its rail yard, and the junction of the Roe and Tonkin Highways in Perth. He needed more capacity to collect freight for Kalgoorlie in Perth and decided to buy out a company called Quality Transport. This also had a run going down to the south of the state and it was integrated into the rest of the business. Then, when the Kalgoorlie mail contract came up again, Tim lost it to Couriers Australia.
“I decided to put the boots back on and go back on the road in the truck,” says Tim. “Losing that Kalgoorlie mail work was the best thing that happened to me. All of a sudden I had 14 empty pallet spaces in the truck. To my surprise, within two months I had surpassed the income which the mail would have given me.”
At this point, Tim bought a second hand Acco and dog trailer, to run back and forth to Kalgoorlie. Later he went to a 440hp UD truck with a stretched chassis to handle a 29 foot curtain sider body and pulling a 34 foot dog trailer.
What followed was a period of steady, organic expansion. Freight became more regular and Tim could expand the runs out into other areas. Today, they run twice a day down to Bunbury and Busselton, plus a Great Southern run which goes out through Beverly all the way down to Katanning. There is also run out to York and Cunderdin, a B-double every day.
Then, of course, there is a B-triple every night to Kalgoorlie and this will sometimes be supplemented with an extra B-double.
The returning B-triple drops a lead trailer at Cunderdin, on its way back from Kalgoorlie and then this is picked up by the single trailer which has run out into that area, on its regular run, to come home as a B double. This setup avoids the need to do a dog run from Northam to bring home the third trailer. The road from Northam into Perth has a 36.5 metre length limit.
The company are now servicing 30 or 40 destinations every night and 90 per cent of the work out on the road is done at night. Although work involving moving machinery and other kinds of loads, means there is an increasing proportion of work done during the day too.
“Recently, we did a road train across to South Australia, to Roxby Downs,” says Tim. “We will go anywhere and do anything now. We get two or three new customers every week. We moved into this new yard with 20,000 m² including 4000 m² of shed space, plus a 1700 m² warehouse with 1,000 pallets spaces in racking.
“We are starting to do warehousing and third party logistics now. In the year 2000 I did register the business name Sullivan Logistics, with the vision that one day I could get to be a real logistics company.”
The company now has 30 trucks on the road. There are eight set runs in the city of Perth to distribute and collect the freight. Each one will load freight which has arrived in the morning from the country runs. This is then distributed around the metropolitan area. After this, the job of collecting freight for the night runs begins. Each truck may handle several loads back into the yard each afternoon.