Coast Rider

The New South Wales Central Coast continues to experience exceptional growth in terms of population and local enterprises. Coastal Transport Services provides a dynamic solution to the area’s transport requirements.

Coastal Transport Services (CTS) was established by Ray Graetz in 1986 to provide general freight services to the burgeoning area located midway between Sydney and Newcastle.

Ray’s team, headed by General Manager Graham Ryall, have taken the business to new levels by pursuing diversity in a number of strategic directions. Head Office is located at Warnervale on the Central Coast, just a few hundred metres from the M1 Motorway which links Sydney and Newcastle.

The purpose-built facility includes a Roads and Maritime Services accredited heavy vehicle workshop, pallet racked warehouse space, a 140-tonne public weigh bridge and an automatic truck wash capable of accommodating B-doubles.

Several years ago, another depot was established in the Western Sydney industrial suburb of Wetherill Park which includes extensive warehouse and hardstand storage areas.

Although there are benefits for a transport operation being in such a strong growing location, the intention has been to limit the exposure of having to rely totally upon the organic growth of the traditional general freight associated with groceries and residential construction.

Consequently, CTS has expanded its offering by providing services in several specialised areas including over-length steel and concrete beams and the transport of pre-cast concrete wall panels.

These two functions have required investment in additional equipment such as extendable and drop deck trailers and truck mounted cranes.

The more traditional Tautliners are kept busy handling groceries for the major retailers as well as for locally-based manufacturers Mars and Sanitarium Foods, as well as general freight including building products.

Within the business there has been an increased focus on technology with its accompanying systems and processes.

“We were once a very paper based organisation from planning right through to the consignment notes and how we closed out jobs in our system,” says Graham.

“We are moving a lot more towards being a paperless operation and job planning is all done electronically with the allocations communicated via mobile phones to drivers. Our drivers are more adaptable to it because everyone’s got a mobile phone so there is a lot less resistance to that type of technology.”

The application used caters for notifications of arrival and departure times at delivery and pick-up addresses as well as electronic proofs of delivery.

CTS drivers rarely do long distance jobs. The aim is for every driver, where possible, to be back at their own home each night.

“Safety and compliance have always been a strong focus for us and have put a lot more resources into it particularly during the past two years,” says Graham.

This includes the appointment of a full-time compliance and safety officer who monitors work diaries and time sheets and makes certain the internal auditing is always up to date.

Coastal Transport head office at Warnervale on the Central Coast, NSW.

CTS was an early member of TruckSafe and as an indication of the ‘belt and braces’ approach to safety the company also subscribes to the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme operated by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

“It’s a good indication in terms of the seriousness we take towards the safety compliance,” says Graham.

The business has the philosophy of turning trucks over every seven to ten years. The nature of the operations is that this happens while the trucks have comparatively very low mileage, usually around the 700,000-kilometre mark.

This policy avoids the need for major rebuilds and the accelerated replacement program in recent times has contributed to ensuring the fleet is modern and is attractive to drivers, so they feel refreshed at the end of their shifts.

Historically, CTS has had a lot of American trucks but in recent years has moved more towards European products.

“While that’s probably brought with it a bit of apprehension from the old school drivers, once they get into a Volvo they never turn back because it’s so much more comfortable,” says Graham. “Our transport manager Kyle Elphinstone is very strong on features that are beneficial for the driver and seeks feedback from the drivers on the trucks we order.”

Input into the process of making decisions about new trucks can be as wide-ranging as the image of the prime movers to the placement of tool boxes.

While the majority of the prime movers currently are from Volvo, two 510hp Mercedes-Benz Actros prime movers are regarded as the pride of the fleet.

The Actros’s are high specification and are equipped with the innovative MirrorCam system.

“The drivers love them and the fuel economy from them is phenomenal,” says Graham. “I can see us having more of those Mercedes-Benz as we go forward. Volvo is the dominant make of vehicle over the past five years, and we haven’t regretted that decision. They’ve been a good truck with good support so I can see us ordering a number more into the future from Volvo. At the moment, it’s just about the wait time.”

Most of the rigid trucks in the fleet are Isuzus. CTS has experienced the recent extended delivery times for new trucks which is being felt industry wide.

During 2021 there was an urgent need for an additional two prime movers and the only ones which could be sourced quickly were Freightliner Coronados, a model which was already used within the CTS fleet and had provided good service.

Tautliners continue to have high utilisation transporting regular freight, bringing it occasionally in contrast with the activity associated with some of the flat top and extendable trailers which can be intense at the peaks although they can sometimes sit in the yard between clients’ projects.

Mercedes-Benz Actros.

The Central Coast was once reliant upon agriculture and its position as a ‘dormitory suburb’ for commuters travelling to Sydney each day.

Over the past couple of decades, the area has seen rapid expansion of residential investment along with an increasing number of national and local industries making the region their base.

Major retail projects in the region are another source of opportunity for CTS.

The lockdown of the construction industry at the height of COVID had an effect on some sections of the overall CTS business and underlined the importance of the diversification which had been pursued over the past few years.

The expanded and diverse range of service offerings has meant CTS has been involved in a number of non-traditional projects including making a number of deliveries for a Halloween event at Sydney’s iconic Luna Park, and the movement of multiple containers of fashion clothing for an international clothing brand as it renovates and restyles its Central Coast stores.

In line with most in the industry, CTS faces the challenge of having the drivers required to keep the operation running as it grows. As a local employer CTS has gained the reputation as a good place to work, with a number of drivers being at the business from its early beginnings.

The limitation of availability of experienced technicians for the workshop has recently resulted in CTS looking to overseas recruitment.

The expanded fleet now exceeds 80 trucks and prime movers including sub-contractors, and more than 100 trailers, so service and maintenance are regarded as crucial to keep the vehicles working in a safe and efficient manner.

Along with its success as a provider of value for money transport and warehousing logistical services, Coastal Transport Services continues to be a dynamic organisation maintaining exceptionally high levels of ethical, environmental and safety standards.

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