“From 5 o’clock it is just a frenzy of freight going everywhere; organised chaos, as we start this massive sorting process,” says Tim Sullivan of Sullivans Logistics.. “We put every bit of freight across the scales and we check it all off. The parcels go into cages, the paperwork is all printed and collated. It is all split up into the various towns and areas for delivery.
“Trying to get people to read labels is the big secret. We then just load the trailers and try to get out of here by seven or 8 o’clock at night. This gets us into Kalgoorlie by four am. Getting freight to Kalgoorlie is a bit of a race. The company which can get the freight there early, quite often wins the work. It often doesn’t matter how much you are charging, so long as you are providing the service.
“I would say we are still the best of a bad bunch, because people can still ring me and they get something done. They can phone the owner of the company and say, ‘Tim, we really need this package to go out tonight’, at 7.30 in the evening.”
Trading as Kalexpress, Sullivan’s business employs 32 full time people. A lot of the distribution in country towns is handled by agents, who will often distribute the freight from a number of carriers. Most of the smaller drops are unmanned, so when the truck arrives, the driver unlocks the shed, gets the forklift, puts the load in the shed, locks it up and heads on down the road.
The load to Kalgoorlie is a little different. Four or five pallets spaces may be dropped off on route, but the rest is delivered into the depot in Kalgoorlie. Here, there are five or six people involved with distributing the freight. For there are four delivery routes around Kalgoorlie, which start going out around five or six am.
Looking into the future the Kalgoorlie work continues to expand and Tim reckons the nightly run will soon develop into a B-triple plus B-double every night.
“We have to push hard to get the load on for Kalgoorlie every night. We may be at a break point right up in till the last minute, not sure if we will be able to get everything on. Sometimes you have to make a decision around midday to run an extra trailer, just in case, just to be able to get a driver. We have a network of casual drivers who are very flexible.”
In this business none of the customers supply consignment notes. All of the details about the freight is collected and entered into the system by the team in the office at Sullivan Logistics. The company designed a software program to handle job booking 20 years ago and it has been customised and improved regularly over the years. Laptops on the forklifts add extra data to each consignment information updating weights etc.
“We do get misdirection, but so we lose very little, because of the check off system that we use when building the loads,” says Tim. “However, if we do lose anything it is because it didn’t get it loaded and we find it later in the yard. Of course, we still get the blame.
“We could go to sign on glass in a matter of months if we wanted to. I am not that confident that signing on glass is the be-all and end-all. Signature on a piece of paper and a hard copy is still pretty bombproof. One of our biggest customers has customers who still insist on a signature, date and time on a piece of paper as proof of delivery.”
As with most freight business now there is a lot of staff turnover, especially among the lighter vehicle drivers.
“It is a bit of a headache for us,” says Tim. “We’ve got our eight runs in Perth and you get a driver trained up to get to know the deliveries and then they move on and you start again. But I do have long-term employees who have been with us up to 11 years.”