Never Say Never

A return to the waste industry in the midst of the COVID pandemic was a major success for Ben Harris and Suzanne Magro, who together built Adelaide Liquid Waste Solutions from the ground up with a growing fleet of Isuzu vacuum tanker trucks.
Ben Harris, Suzanne Magro and Blake Harris of Adelaide Liquid Waste.

It was ten years ago when Ben and his partner, Suzanne, purchased a company under the name of Septic Pumping Services.

This marked the beginning of their journey into Australia’s waste industry, as they both held regular jobs before that; Ben was a farmer and Suzanne was occupied with bookkeeping.

“The business came about, so we bought it,” Suzanne says. “At the time it had about 13 trucks. We didn’t know much about the industry, but my family were all involved in interstate haulage. I used to work with my dad, running his office, so I knew about trucks, but not about waste.”

Ben and Suzanne ran Septic Pumping Services for three years until they were approached with an offer by REMONDIS, who was interested in purchasing the business.

“It wasn’t something that we really ever thought of doing, but everything’s for sale at a price,” Suzanne says. “So, it worked for us, and it put us in a good position.”

From there, Ben and Suzanne took a break from the industry for around three years — until they found out REMONDIS had shut down the business it bought from them.

This, Suzanne says, gave herself and Ben a reason to come back into the industry.

“That was when we decided to set up Adelaide Liquid Waste Solutions, which was our new branding,” she says. “It was our baby because we had someone else’s before. This time we got to design our own colour and branding which was very exciting. Our trucks look pretty amazing now.”

It was in 2020, right in the middle of the COVID pandemic, when Ben and Suzanne started back up again. At the time, they began operations at Adelaide Liquid Waste Solutions with four Isuzu trucks, two of which were tray top trucks, to transport portable toilets for Bianco Hire, their main customer.

Both directors then bought two Isuzu FXZ vacuum trucks from North East Isuzu, and they went to FIRMUS Group SA, based in Adelaide, to manufacture the tanks. Before Adelaide Liquid Waste Solutions, the trucks at Septic Pumping Services were always predominantly Isuzus.

Isuzu FYH 300-350 with 16,000-litre tank.
Isuzu FYH 300-350 with 16,000-litre tank.

So, when the time came for a second shot at the industry, Ben knew it was right to carry Isuzu over with the new business.

“North East Isuzu’s depot wasn’t too far from us, and we’d always had a good rapport with the staff,” he says. “I’ve known one of the guys there for a long time, so we sort of had that connection, and it made everything a bit easier.”

The trucks in Ben and Suzanne’s previous operations had been very reliable.

“We never had any issues, and all the drivers that we’ve got, most of which worked for us before, are all used to driving the Isuzus,” Suzanne says. “They like them — they’re comfortable and reliable.

“We’ve had a pretty good run with Isuzu since we got into the industry. And, because North East Isuzu was around the corner from our business, it was just convenient for us too. If we had a problem we could just go straight there.”

Even now, from where they are based, it’s only 15 to 20 minutes from the depot. Their latest Isuzu addition to the fleet, a FYH 300-350, is being used for bulk tankering operations.

Ben says it’s the largest truck available to complete such operations, for weight reasons, unless you go for a semi-tanker.

“That truck has a 16,000-litre vacuum tank on it specifically built to make sure it’s not overweight,” he says. “Like all of our tanks, it’s made out of aluminium. Whereas normally they’re made out of steel. That’s how we were able to get our weights higher than most trucks on the road.”

Ben has driven this vehicle himself a number of times, and like his workers, he thinks it outperforms in virtually every task. “It’s comfortable and very easy to operate,” he says. “It’s a nice truck to drive for the size of it. It’s light on steering too, because you’ve got four-wheel steering versus two, so the weight capacity is easier to control.”

Suzanne agrees that the twin-steer unit is a favourite in the fleet.

“All the drivers seem to find it easy,” she says. “They’re all liking it, the ones that have driven it. There’s been no complaints yet. So far, it’s running smoothly.”

The liquid capacity on this Isuzu is the key differentiating factor between the fleet’s previous units. According to Suzanne it has even given Adelaide Liquid Waste Solutions an edge over its competitors.

This was also the main reason why she and Ben originally leaned towards the bigger model.

“There’s not a lot of companies in Adelaide that, other than a tanker, have a truck that can take 16,000 litres,” she says.

“So, it’s good for bulk tankering, because there’s a lot of subdivisions in Adelaide or South Australia that haven’t been connected to sewer and need tankering from one site to another.

“We just thought we’d go with the bigger truck. We were going to go with the same as the two we had, the FXZs, but then we decided to get the bigger twin-steer just to give us that edge in the market.”

The fleet’s attention to detail is another way Suzanne believes it excels in the waste sector.

Ben Harris of Adelaide Liquid Waste.
Ben Harris at work with the new truck.

“I think we do have a massive edge in Adelaide,” she says. “Adelaide’s only small. It’s a bit of a niche market over here. There is probably only half a dozen other companies like us, but we feel like we have the edge now with this new truck.”

The trucks are immaculately presented, well maintained and now feature the company’s new branding.

“Our drivers enjoy coming to work and they enjoy what they do,” says Suzanne. “They keep them clean, and they are always getting comments on how great they look.”

The FYH 300-350, following its initial tasks with Adelaide Liquid Waste Solutions, recently went for its first post-sale service at North East Isuzu.

The registered inspection of the truck, Suzanne says, couldn’t have gone better.

“We dropped it off at a certain time, and they had it back to us within the time they said they would,” she says. “So, everything has been good in that regard.”

While Ben and Suzanne haven’t planned for any further expansion in the fleet as of yet, they aren’t counting out further investments in Isuzu products.

“I think we’re where we’d like to be,” Suzanne says.

“We’re happy where we’re at, but we said that two trucks ago — that we weren’t going to get any bigger, and we did. For now, I think we’d just like to establish ourselves with the six trucks we’ve got for another couple of years. But you never say never, I suppose.”

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