For a trucking operator, being in the box business can be a a stressful environment to work in, but it can have its rewards, rewards for a bit of hard yacka. Diesel News talks to Peter Gatt, running a busy container operation out of Enfield, just south of Sydney’s Olympic Park.
Peter Gatt admits he was truck crazy as a youngster and fell madly in love with trucks after riding along with his brother-in-law when he was still at school. In fact, Peter later bought his brother-in-law’s business to get into the trucking game.
After school he served his time as an apprentice panel beater, but on becoming qualified, had the trucking bug so bad he just had to get into trucking one way or another. He paid $75,000 for the business at 19 and went straight to work with it. In fact, he has never worked for anyone else as a truck driver.
“We had a contract with VisyBoard and mum and dad went guarantor for me,” says Peter. “I had $25,000 saved and sold my cars and boats, and whatever I had at that age. It all went into the business. I sold that business in 1998 and got involved in hauling containers in 2000.
“I bought a Scania 142, with a job doing container work. I sub-contracted there for a while and then in 2002, I bought my first brand new Scania, one of the first turbo-compound 470s. I ran that for two years and then bought a 580 in 2004, which is still working for me today, owned and driven by a sub-contractor.”
2010 saw a Scania R Series 620hp V8 enter the fleet, then by the time the next truck came around in 2016, Peter went auto, getting his first truck with an AMT.
“Everyone was going auto and I was looking at increasing the fleet,” says Peter. “I thought getting an AMT would be a good way to attract drivers. This year, I have bought an R650 and two R500s.”
Growing the Box Business
In recent years, Peter merged his business with two other operators, Chris Tucker and Stuart Knight. Chris was Peter’s original boss when he first became a subbie hauling containers. In the three years since the merger, the business has gone to nine trucks and 30 trailers. The fleet consists of four Scanias, two Hinos, a Mercedes Benz, a UD and a smaller rigid Fuso. The PJG operation now employs six office staff.
The current operation is based in the Enfield Intermodal Logistics Centre, an intermodal site, owned by Sydney Ports but operated by Linx. When he had been an owner/driver, Peter had been running his business out of a small section of a mates’ yard in Arncliffe.
“My lifestyle has changed completely,” says Peter. “My wife did the books for me and it got to the stage where the kids used to say, ‘can we please not talk about work while we’re having our dinner?’
“The reason we merged the business is that Chris is good in the office and he can look after that side of the business. We went to Europe last year for seven weeks, took the kids and I didn’t hear from anybody. Before we merged, we used to go on holiday, but I would still have to be on the phone booking time-slots and sorting out issues. The kids used to get frustrated, because we were still running our business on holiday.
“I really enjoy driving, it’s my passion. My lifestyle has changed. I still do a bit of driving, although I did have nine months off from it, handling all of the repairs and stuff like that.
“I’ve been in the game for 30 years now and seen a lot of changes.. They are probably for the better, with occupational health and safety (OHS) and all of the safety systems. I used to do some mega-hours when I first started, no-one would pull you up for it.”