Roads Taken

Western Australia trucking outfit, Consolidated Group, has streamlined many facets of its business in recent years. This includes key suppliers.
A new Scania R 540 prime mover from the SUPER range.

Continuing to outperform the rest of the nation, Western Australia accounts for 45 per cent of national goods exports.

While it’s a given that many businesses in the state indirectly benefit from these markets, demand management is key to their fiscal sustainability.

Tempering business cycles is essential to revenue streams propped up by high commodity prices. An integrated service provider in the mining and civil sectors, Consolidated Group got its start in Port Hedland but has branched out in recent times to cope with the boom-and-bust economic reality long-synonymous with Western Australia’s mineral resource cornerstone.

The business began trading in 2013 predominantly as a rental business.

It embraced, subsequently, commercial interests adjacent to mining namely equipment hire and site services, before downturn in that area led owners Theo and Kate Tsorvas to the Perth markets where flourishing civil infrastructure alongside a broader range of work has failed to subside.

A record $39 billion investment in infrastructure investment over a four-year period by the State Government helped see to that. Expansion therefore from its diversity of services has helped Consolidated Group thrive as a service provider rather than just a rental business according to Theo.

“In amongst all that what followed was the transport component with six-wheel tippers or single-end tippers or single sidetippers and having to move our own equipment around on drop decks and floats,” he recalls.

“By us growing as a service provider it has eventually led to having a transport provider within the industry and developing it into more of a focus on a service that we wanted to grow.”

Previously, the transport component was something that Consolidated Group used internally by means of concentrating on its own projects.

Now it provides that service for larger clients throughout Western Australia and has eventually evolved these into relevant, non-competing areas.

Scania R 540 tipper with a R 620 V8.

One of those areas is in Bunbury, where it has one of its three depots – the other is in Perth – using side tippers on lithium cartage with QUBE Logistics.

Should a job have a transport requirement Consolidated Group can internally satisfy it and also fulfill other machine requirements such providing graders or wheel loaders.

“We’ve grown quite a bit from a small to a much larger business,” Theo says. “The most growth has come from the last three or four years.”

While the business has tripled in size over that time, the plan, according to Theo is to double the existing fleet size, something they are well on their way to achieving with 11 Scania trucks currently on order.

There is presently 16 Scanias in the fleet. The business employs upwards of 75 staff. At the moment road works is prevailing upon the Perth revenue stream where they are transporting road construction base.

Notwithstanding the single trailers it runs to Bunbury, the fleet otherwise specialises in pocket roadtrains, using new B-trailers all with tri-dollies on full permits. These are split between sidetippers and end tippers.

A quad float and dolly are deployed for all of the machinery the business moves around the state. In total they have over 20 prime movers. They run mainly Scania R 620 V8s interspersed with a few Scania R 540s.

The 11 additional units on order are for both new business and as part of a fleet refresh. The mixed fleet isn’t as mixed as it was previously with commendable attention bestowed upon it by the Scania Kewdale dealership having gone a long way.

“The customer support Consolidated Group has received from Scania is probably the reason we have stuck with them,” says Theo.

“The Scania truck itself is good but their delivery and backup and support has made a big impression on us.”

Initially it was just the one truck. Then a second was added and the experience suffered none.

Theo says to begin with they were treated like a big business.

“Kind of like a multinational that’s the level of care we’re getting whereas if you go deal with some other company, they’re not necessarily giving you that much assistance,” he says.

“That has resulted in us buying quite a few trucks off Scania. One truck has turned into over 20 with them.”

The service hasn’t changed or lacked since the first unit was purchased in Theo’s experience.

“It was no different between a single unit or a volume order,” he says. “The support from day one was awesome. That’s part of the reason why we looked at them more closely.”

Theo and Kate Tsorvas.
Consolidated Group directors Theo and Kate Tsorvas.

That first unit has got well over 400,000 kilometres on its odometer.

New truck orders since 2020 have all too commonly met resistance from obstinate supply chains whose inconveniences don’t often come with easy workarounds.

That has made adhering to the first principle of growth a much tougher task.

“Everyone is feeling the same pressures in those areas of suppliers,” says Theo. “With all of these factors working against you it has been hard to grow at a pace that you want to grow at. Like waiting on new equipment and then having to run old equipment. Waiting on new equipment is a big issue across the board. It’s not just with trucks though, it’s everything.

“They are the pains of it all. It’s just how you manage it I suppose.”

A welcome change to this scenario has been Scania’s ability to deliver on a few trucks prematurely following an availability that Consolidated Group has been happy to capitalise on.

“We gained access to probably five or six extra trucks earlier than what we had expected,” says Theo.

“Like any business it’s just a management thing. Finding the right people for the right roles is another issue. Everywhere you go it’s the same story. It’s definitely difficult.”

New equipment has aided the business to address some of these challenges.

“Because we’ve got new trucks and some guys have come to us and said we’ve noticed your Scanias on the road and we want to use them,” Theo recalls.

“With new trucks in the fleet, everyone looks at it and once again for us that’s definitely a big part to it. No one can whinge about the equipment because it’s brand new. We work to a high standard.”

Soon, a quarter of its equipment fleet will be based in the north, with a new location at Port Hedland coming online.

A recently launched joint venture with indigenous business EK Contracting, will see it expand into the Pilbara and Kimberley regions.

The business is no stranger to promoting charitable causes. Cosmetic makeovers to certain trucks through its dealer partner Scania Kewdale have helped to promote mental health and breast cancer awareness in recent times.

Also, standardisation of the fleet, with one make and model, is a big advantage in Theo’s view.

Whether it’s switches and basic functions of the vehicle or the drivability and intrinsic training required of it, these are considerations that add up over time, another aspect of the job that can be improved depending on how it gets managed.

“The training that Scania offer is a big thing for us,” says Theo.

“They offer an internal training platform where they send out a driver trainer and show you how best to get the efficiencies out of the trucks from fuel consumption to how to manage the truck in the way it was designed to be used. That’s all standardised for us because we’ve got the same truck everywhere we go. In a growing business it’s something that can’t be overlooked.”

Drivers moving between different brands of truck and vehicles of very different vintage, perhaps with an old PTO switch compared to a newer variant, creates time loss in showing people how to use them and the requisite retraining involved.

“It might only be small things but in this day and age standardisation is a big thing,” says Theo.

“If you show someone once and it doesn’t change that’s been a big step for us to grow without having little dramas along the way with things like that.”

Consolidated Group looks to put through groups of ten people when Scania come out for a driver training.

“I don’t know what other manufacturers offer but I haven’t seen anything equal to that at this stage,” says Theo.

“We get a lot of benefit out of it from monitoring of fuel consumption and monitoring of drivers and how they’re driving the truck and how much fuel they use and how they should be doing it. It’s good.”

Scania R 620 V8.
Scania R 620 V8.
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