Many operators hauling into the Victorian port in Portland are finding the time factor for timber is becoming a major issue. High demand for woodchip is pressurising limited unloading facilities. One of those companies affected is Tabeel Trading running out of South Australia.
The timber hauling industry is a specialist segment of the road freight sector but struggles with, and is searching for solutions to, many of the ongoing problems which beset trucking as a whole. Low rates, last mile access, long unloading queues, finding vehicles robust enough and keeping staff, at the same time as running a safe and professional operation, all of this keeps Steve Witherow and his team on their toes.
Further pressure on the operation’s timing and efficiency are being created by the clogging of the unloading facilities at the port in Portland. The trucks are unloaded using a tilting lifting ramp. This has the load tipping out of the rear doors of the combination and the connecting doors between lead and semi trailer opened to discharge the complete load in one go.
With only two ramps in operation, and the low Aussie dollar making our product attractive to overseas buyers, the queues to unload can get extended on a daily basis. The ongoing issue of long delays at the port, sometimes as long as four hours, can disrupt an operation, which is already under strict time pressure. The Portland Port operation are building a third unloading ramp, but this is not aiding congestion pressures in 2016.
Margins are under pressure in many ways in the timber hauling industry. The relatively small group of forest owners are Tabeel’s customers and contract the company to fell and transport their product to a destination they control and end customers they sell to. This gives the owners market power in negotiating the contracts of differing type and duration.
The South East SA area supports less than ten contractors who play in this field, all of whom are tendering for the felling, chipping and transporting contracts which come up on a regular basis. Pressure on margins is tight, at the same time as regulatory pressure to further improve safety in the forest environment is an ongoing priority.
Smart operators like Tabeel are constantly looking to improve productivity, but also retain the quality of work which helps in contract negotiations. This means being part of the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme and participating in its mass and maintenance modules is a vital part of the business.