Coastal Transport’s golden rules of success

Established on the NSW Central Coast in 1986 by Ray Graetz, Coastal Transport Services (CTS) has remained successful in an area of general freight that has seen many an opponent fall by the wayside. Ray had been managing another local transport company for a few years but soon went down the old familiar route, starting his own operation with just one truck.  The company has since grown to include 38 trucks and prime movers and 48 trailers; plus a core of 15 dedicated sub-contractors and a number of other casual owner/drivers who can be called upon when a need arises.

According to Ray, CTS’s growth has been more organic than rapid and has evolved over many years with word-of-mouth being the most effective marketing activity. Ray is now semi-retired and living in Queensland, so he wanted to be certain that there are the right people in the business who will continue to take it forward. 

He now leaves to day-to-day operation of his business to a team of 65 employees, headed up for the past six years by General Manager, Graham Ryall.

In the early days, Ray established the business in the area by providing general freight services between Sydney and the rapid growth region of the Central Coast. The Mooney Mooney Creek Bridge, which was the final link in the F3 freeway between Sydney and western Newcastle, had just opened, significantly reducing truck travelling times on the inter-city trip.

Since 2004 CTS has been operating from its own, purpose-built depot and warehouse at Warnervale in an estate that includes a massive distribution centre for one of the big two supermarket chains. As part of the construction process, Ray’s intention was to provide additional services that benefitted both his own business as well as others, so the facility includes a 140 tonne weighbridge that operates 24 hours per day and a fully automatic, B-double-sized truck wash. 

Graham partially attributes CTS’s longevity in what is a very competitive market to the deliberate choice of diversifying across a number of industries, but also to his ability of building strong relationships with key clients. “Some industries will have down turns from time to time, and we needed to be able to absorb that impact,” he says. “In the spectrum that we operate in, we don’t want to be too heavily exposed to any one sector.”

The majority of CTS’s work is being done between Sydney and the Central Coast, but a sizable proportion is now also achieved in Newcastle and the lower Hunter Valley. Most consignments are point-to-point with single pick-up and delivery locations, but CTS will do intra-state work as well if a regular client requires it. It does, however, regard such jobs as special cases.

The freight carried mainly consists of palletised food products, steel, and building materials to supply the Coast’s booming commercial and residential construction industries. Chemicals including those in the dangerous goods categories are another area that CTS has a reputation for delivering.

“Our entire business is dedicated to this region and making sure that we line up loads and freight in the right areas is crucial in providing a point of difference,” Graham says. “It’s difficult to benchmark, but we strive to optimise utilisation of our fleet and to run at least at 85 per cent capacity. To achieve that, we make sure we have the right balance of loads going southbound as well as northbound. That efficiency is where our value for money service comes from.”

The management team has Key Performance Indicators that are reviewed weekly and monthly and if they are not being met, they make sure they have plans in place to rectify the situation. This entails getting freight into the right areas and avoiding running empty. As a result, CTS aims to focus on the utilisation of the fleet rather than chasing lots of new business that involves just any type of freight.

CTS also has a reputation for always looking after its staff, some of whom have been there almost since the start of the business.

“The challenge will be not just getting drivers and staff into the organisation, but getting the right people that can learn from that experience. We are starting that transition now and our employees are very important to us. We don’t want to lose that experience and company culture,” Graham said.

Read the full story in the current edition of Prime Mover, out now.

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