For any transport operation it is necessary to find the right balance between old fashioned trucking and running a smart modern operation and, for GLW Freight Management in Perth, the approach can be described as being traditionally smart or smartly traditional.
Running a trucking operation is a difficult balance at any time. There are always competing issues, all of which influence the kind of operation and the chosen philosophy within the business. This is certainly the case for GLW, based in the Perth suburb of Forrestdale, in the city’s southwest where many of the transport operations of Western Australia are based, with its easy access to the roads to the east.
In fact, GLW runs three separate operations. Firstly, there is the east/west operation which runs regularly to Melbourne and Sydney, plus runs across to Brisbane. There are also a number of trucks involved in a tipping operation, running out into the rural areas of WA loaded out with fertiliser and sometimes returning with grain. Thirdly, there is a container loading fleet hauling fully loaded containers out of meat works in the regional WA area to the port at Fremantle.
The business has grown from an operation started by owner Graeme Woodall in Katanning. Originally, he was running refrigerated vans in and out of the meat works in the town. After he sold the business back in 2004, he moved to Perth and began a different transport operation in 2007.
“We had shifted to Perth, because my wife is a Perth girl,” says Graeme. “I got bored, so I started running containers around the wharf. After that we had also started working on the unpacking of containers. I took on a second truck and a second driver, but he wanted to do east/west work, so we just grew from there.”
The growth for the company has been considerable since that relatively recent restart. The basic business model, in terms of truck use, sees brand-new trucks being used for east/west runs. Once they hit one million kilometres or so they are taken off this task, put into the workshop for a rebuild and then used as a relatively new truck to do rural tipping work.
“The trucks are probably only on the east/west route for three years,” says Graeme. “But when we were going through the EGR years, that stuffed our system up quite a bit. We ended up keeping older trucks. It is only in the last couple of years that we have got to the position that we were aiming at.”
The fleet is going through a growing stage at the moment, to number 26 trucks. This is the number required for the planned expansion of the business. If the expansion plays out a little differently, then some of the older trucks may be retired to suit the requirements of the customers.
Six of the trucks are involved full-time on the east/west line haul work. The rest of them are divided evenly between the bulk work in rural areas and the more straight forward container haulage component. This means the fleet is divided evenly into thirds, helping flexibility within the fleet when one set of tasks may be more active as another goes quiet.
Although the fleet is mainly Kenworth, there is a sprinkling of Volvo trucks working in the tipping section. Some have been obtained when acquiring another fleet and one was purchased to suit the preferences of an older driver.
“The Volvos have worked for us and one particular driver wanted to drive one because he is a little older,” says Graeme. “He is happy, and for good drivers you just look after them.”