It was with a second hand Isuzu SBR known as ‘The Bone Rattler’ that Leigh and Barbara Allen commenced a family business on a single paper run along the coastal stretch between Warrnambool and Portland in southwest Victoria.
Demand for physical media, while not what it once was in a world of digital adoption, still retains a core function within the Allens Freight model.
In recent years, however, it has adapted its fleet of mainly Isuzu commercial vehicles to keep up with modern supply chain trends and now ferries express freight, air freight satchels and semi-trailers of bulk freight.
Even so the freight task of the business might have changed to accommodate the times, but it still delivers the Herald-Sun, The Age and Women’s Weekly out of Melbourne into western Victoria, keeping alive a service of the old news media that has survived, in one form or another, since 1803.
Hard work and perseverance have undergirded the growth of the business. By the early 1990s, the company eventually expanded its operations over the border into South Australia where it has been ably supported by Mount Gambier Isuzu for nearly four decades.
Originally known as OG Roberts, the dealership is one of Isuzu’s oldest in South Australia.
It’s here that Nathan Butler has been the chief point of contact for Allens Freight since 2001. At present the company operates 40 vehicles covering nearly every Isuzu model available.
These span F Series and N Series, narrow cab units and D-Max utes, not to mention a Giga EXY 455 hp with a high roof, one of two prime movers that work in general freight.
Of its most recent capital acquisitions Allens Freight has added three FRR Series five-tonne curtainsiders which have been put into service on a gruelling double shift.
This involves nightly newspaper deliveries followed by all-day parcel distribution.
According to Leigh and Barbara’s son, Freight Operations and Fleet Manager Richard Allen, the business has built a strong rapport with Isuzu over the years. So much so it now remains the company go-to of choice — regardless of application or size.
“When we need to buy or trade-in, we go straight to the Mount Gambier dealership,” he says. “I don’t believe in a day-shift truck or a night-shift truck, I believe in a truck.”
The business has grown exponentially since it was exclusively carrying print media. It now runs overnight seven days a week. Transit routes include Hamilton to Mt Gambier, Portland to Warrnambool and Portland to Melbourne.
“We’re a high-utilisation fleet. Some of our trucks do in excess of 1,000 kilometres a day,” says Richard. “I have F Series trucks in our fleet with over a million on the odometer and I still send them out on jobs without hesitation. These trucks are my hammers. They’re the tools of my trade. I can sleep at night knowing we’ve got quality equipment out there on the road that’s going to get the job done effectively and safely.”
From those first days in the cab with his father, through to his current role as a fleet manager overseeing some 40 mobile assets, Richard has watched the evolution of the Isuzu brand with interest.
His own driving career began in a 1997 N Series model that today is still in circulation as part of the fleet.
“I see the pounding and the punishment my N Series take, they get battered from pillar to post and I see that they’re always up for the job,” he says. “When you’re punching the amount of kilometres we do, fuel efficiency is a big deal for an owner and manager like me. We definitely see an advantage here for the Isuzus over our other truck types.”
A 425hp Gigamax, purchased in 2006, has powered through 1.2 million kilometres without missing a beat as if it was fresh off the showroom floor.
“That truck started its life as a B-double and it has barely had a spanner on it since,” says Nathan, who has followed its progress with interest. It also remains Richard’s favourite truck in the fleet.
A shared sense of history between Allens Freight and Isuzu Mt Gambier promotes a mutual respect and fondness across the products.
Sentiment aside, the Isuzu trucks, according to Richard, offer ample power and durability in each of their applications.
“They are built to a purpose and they serve that purpose well,” he quips.
Given many of the vehicles are asked to perform 100 drops a day in metro areas, Richard has yet to receive any complaints from drivers regarding the maneuverability and ease of access.
“While the comfort and technology has improved out of this world, the fact remains these trucks are capable of doing the job — over 30 years down the track,” Richard says. “Our fleet operates in a range of conditions due to the large variety of jobs they are used for and all our Isuzu trucks handle their roles with flying colours.”