Around the time Mark Johnstone was first thinking about how to buy a truck, a local livestock operator in Surat, Queensland, wanted to get out of his business and move across to a sand and gravel operation on the coast. Mark took over the existing work, starting off with one double-deck trailer, soon to be joined by a second.
“I realised things were going to go alright, so I started building the business,” says Mark. “I had three going at one stage, not for very long, but I have mainly worked with two trucks. At the time we had a Mack Superliner, then I went out and bought a Titan with the 610hp V8 engine.”
By this time, the second driver was Mark’s son, Jamie. Over the next few years, as the business developed, circumstances changed, and now Jamie runs his own truck, a Kenworth, hauling his own set of trailers, but working alongside Mark, dealing with the same set of customers.
At the beginning Mark was wary of spending too much on equipment. All of the trucks Mark had run at the time were second hand; he thought he couldn’t afford anything newer.
“All the time I thought I couldn’t afford to pay a new one off, but I had an accountant from Brisbane sit down with me and he asked why I didn’t buy a new truck,” says Mark. “I told him I couldn’t pay it off, but he said no and told me to look back through my figures. He showed me how I would buy truck and then spend so much money doing up the motor or the gearbox, and so on.
“He showed me how to buy a new truck, look after it for five years and then turn it over on another new one. The trick is not to take the money you make out of keeping the old truck in good condition and put it into the new truck. Put it into the trailers instead. I am at the stage now, where I own nearly all of my trailers. You build a little bit of an asset each year.”
Mark has become a fan of the Bulldog brand of trucks.
“I loved the V8 Mack motors and when they stopped making them, I had to decide whether I wanted Caterpillar or Cummins,” says Mark. “I went with Cummins and they did a pretty good job.”
The prime mover Mark runs now is a Mack Titan with a 685hp MP10 engine, driving through the M-drive automated manual transmission. However, this is not the standard model. Mark has had a 72-inch sleeper fitted to the truck, much bigger than the factory-fitted option. There’s 2,100 litres of painted fuel tanks on the chassis along with 260 litres of Adblue, but under the trailers there’s another 800 litres of fuel in the belly tanks.
Mark’s comment is ‘you can never get enough horsepower’, but he has found the truck capable of handling the work he does.