Civil Lore

Based in Coonabarabran in central New South Wales, Prugger Group has been experiencing great expansion in the fields of civil works, earthworks, haulage and plant hire.
A Mack sidetipper in action for Prugger Group.

Coonabarabran is well-known as the ‘astronomy capital of Australia’ due to the location of the Siding Spring Observatory and the Anglo-Australian Telescope.

The Mopra Observatory is also nearby. Coonabarabran is a major gateway to the Warrumbungle National Park and the Forests of Pilliga, commonly known as the Pilliga Scrub.

The region is also home to the Prugger Group, a multi-operational family affair spread across several generations.

The family businesses include the Shady Rock nursery and landscape supplies centre, the local school bus service and a thriving civil construction and earthworks division overseen by Anthony Prugger.

As soon as Anthony obtained his licence he operated a small bobcat and truck mainly performing work for customers of his parents’ nursery and landscaping supplies business.

Anthony then went on to obtain university degrees in civil engineering and surveying. Anthony’s grandfather operated the local school bus service which was taken over by his parents around ten years ago and they continue to operate the buses as well as the nursery.

Using the skills he learned at Newcastle University, Anthony designed, and steered through the council approval process, a new bus depot which incorporates the main workshop for the buses and trucks.

The project required purchasing another block of land in the Coonabarabran industrial estate to make it work effectively and the incorporation of inspection pits resulted in a contract with the NHVR to use the facilities for annual heavy vehicle inspections.

This also saves the growing Prugger Group fleet (currently around 40 vehicles including buses and trucks) from having to drive to Gilgandra or Dubbo to get their own inspections carried out.

The Prugger family built the depot themselves and took the opportunity to obtain their own excavators to do the trenching and other necessary earthworks and have held on to the equipment as the civil works business expands.

“We had the bobcat already and a tipper and we decided to get a bigger tipper so bought our first Mack in 2018,” says Anthony.

With the latest Mack Trident delivered by Tamworth’s JT Fossey Trucks in 2024, the truck fleet has grown to seven Macks and nine Isuzus.

Anthony Prugger.
Owner Anthony Prugger.

When the shed build was completed the Prugger Group sought opportunities to put their equipment to work and has been successful to securing a number of local government contracts.

“On council it’s casual so you get called up for a couple of hours here and there, but on the long-term projects pretty much once you’re on site you don’t leave until the job’s finished up to a few years later,” explains Anthony.

There are five full time drivers and operators plus a number of casuals who, when not driving trucks, might work their own farm or are semi-retired.

If civil contract work is quieter than normal the trucks stock up the landscaping material yard with various quarry products as well as sand from Newcastle.

The newest Mack Trident was built as a roadtrain specification: 90 tonne GVM prime mover with a 5,750mm wheelbase and a sleeper berth. It also features a detachable Hercules tipper bin equipped with a two-way tailgate.

The potential for work associated with the massive Inland Rail project formed part of the business case behind the planning of the new Trident with operational flexibility inherent in the design.

“We’ve seen a lot of the rail work around Moree and Narrabri where they run sidetippers or roadtrain water tankers,” says Anthony.

“They don’t mess around with the little stuff, and we want to have the capability to be able to use sidetippers or roadtrain tankers ourselves. I want to have the flexibility to say, ‘no worries, we can do that job tomorrow’ so we got the Mack plated at 90 tonnes for that reason.”

The tipping body has quick release pins and there is a location on the chassis for the removable turntable.

It takes less than an hour to remove the bin and mount the turntable using eight torqued bolts.

Cables and hoses are easily accessed and the conversion to a 12.5-metre tri-axle float combination allows the transport of the company’s laser grader and bobcat with additional space on the trailer’s gooseneck to carry excavator attachments.

The plan is to also be able to fit a dolly between the truck and float which, with the tipper bin fitted, would be capable of transporting a bobcat as well as a 15-tonne excavator to a work site in one trip, and still have the tipper available to move material around.

Typical of Australian country towns, Coonabarabran faces a major challenge in attracting experienced truck and plant operators because of the location.

“Out here trying to find drivers who want to stay and bring up a family is a challenge because these small towns don’t have the attractions to keep them here in terms of either lifestyle or facilities,” says Anthony.

Yet, Anthony is encouraged by the growth of country centres such as Dubbo and Tamworth in recent years.

Mack Trident coupled with tri-axle float.

“Satellite cities are getting bigger, which is great for us getting parts or assistance out here,” he says. “If we need something, we don’t have to go to Sydney, just to Dubbo.”

The Prugger Group uses any opportunity to promote interest in the business from both potential clients and employees by participating in local shows and community events, promoting the pride the operators have in their vehicles and the Group’s reputation as a dependable local company that get jobs done.

“My vision when I was going through school was just to do some earthmoving, for which I didn’t need a degree,” reflects Anthony.

“I also noticed that other than the council, there are no businesses out here that have a decent career path for anyone. So, I came back from uni with the vision for people to not have to leave town to go and get a career.”

In a case of putting his money where his mouth is, Anthony is strong on training and advancement opportunities for his staff.

“I’ve got five apprentices, one moved to Coonabarabran from the Gold Coast for the apprenticeship, and other than her all the rest are locals who wanted to grow their career,” he says.

“Once they get qualified, they can work on to be supervisors or leading hands or even managers. It’s the same with truck drivers. If you’re a good communicator or if you want to go further with your trucking career, if you want to be transport logistics manager or similar, there’s opportunity to grow as the business grows and those additional positions open up.

“I’m trying to create a company which creates employment which in turn creates more employment. We’re scaling up and getting more tenders and contracts awarded to us now because just in the past three years we’ve improved our capabilities.”

As its impressive collection of heavy machinery, equipment and transport options grows, along with its specialised team of qualified operators, Prugger Group remains poised to take on large as well as modest projects by offering clients a reliable one-stop shop, maximising value and convenience.

One of seven Mack trucks in the Prugger Group fleet.
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