South East Qld Hauliers: Innovation & diversity

Brett Plummer is a man totally focussed on customer requirements. Rather than simply going with the flow on a daily basis, he is continually looking to the future and how he and his 50 strong truck fleet can be best positioned to provide services beyond the norm.

Brett is managing director of South East Qld Hauliers, a company established many years ago and one he has been at the reins of for the past 13 years. He has seen the freight market change and made alterations to operations to suit those needs. For example, the company operated 20 trucks with a large number of tippers in Brisbane and had a large presence in the transport of bulk materials, but as demand changed in the northern capital he moved away from that type of cartage and built the truck number to 50, mainly concentrating on container cartage as the Port of Brisbane underwent continual development.

While Brett discontinued tipper work there, operations in Sydney is another matter. Sydney is home to a fleet of trucks playing a vital role in the operations of Abrasive Sand Distributors and Nepean Landscape Supplies plus Tiger Pack Australia, diverse businesses running in conjunction with trucking and highly successful in their own right.

“Those businesses allow us the opportunity to remain profitable during the peaks and troughs in transport and are designed to cater for specific markets with a high rate of demand,” Brett says.

But the mainstay of his business activities continues to be container transport in the South East Queensland region and he is continually seeking ways to improve handling and transport methods to offer streamlined services, with minimal delays and a high degree of reliability.

As mentioned, Brett always looks to the future, and when Haulmark Trailers embarked on the design of a PBS based two trailer combination, Brett Plummer could see the benefits and worked closely with the company to get the concept up and running.

The result is what has been labelled an A-double combination, a unit delivering substantial capacity and safety gains while delivering a reduction in emissions. The A-Double has an overall length of 29.95 metres and runs on specific routes at a gross weight of up to 85 tonnes. Being a modular unit it offers a high degree of flexibility and allows the use of potentially any B-double prime mover while the dolly can be utilised under any trailer.

South East Qld Hauliers has taken delivery of four combinations and another six are due to go into service in coming weeks. The A-Double can carry two 40 foot containers, four 20 foot containers or a mixture of both, effectively doubling productivity.

There is a requirement to move 100,000 tonnes of grain to the Port of Brisbane loaded in 27.5 tonne containers, with only one carried on single trailers under permit. The containers can be carried into Toowoomba by road train, however the combination has to be split with single movements made, but the A-double enables two to be transported. It is estimated 4000 truck movements are required to handle the task but by using the A-double this is reduced to only 2000 truck trips.

“At the end of the day we are providing a general service and it is vital we look to innovation in order to open up new markets particularly for exporters. It is our continual aim to do our very best for customers and it is imperative we look ahead to reduce costs and to offer advantages to the people we carry for,” Brett comments.

“We are very big on developing operational systems to ensure reliable and dependable service, minimise problems and deliver what we say we will. Coupled with that our people care, that is critical, and what does make us a little different is that all of our management people can go into any role in the operation should it be required. If it needs to be done we will do it.

“I am pleased to say we have an excellent team of people who understand both ours and the customers’ business and that is critical to success in any organisation,” Brett says matter of factly.

“It is all about the customer and we must continually look at ways to improve our services to them, offering service they value and working towards ongoing improvements to meet their needs in every way possible and people are certainly part of that process.”

Brett himself drives, and in fact is more than happy to do so, and when the first A-Double combination went into service two months ago, he was behind the wheel on runs between Brisbane and Toowoomba to gain first-hand experience on its performance.

“I can tell you I like what I see in the mirror,” he smiles. “The A-double handles beautifully, is extremely manoeuvrable and is fitted with the highest level safety systems available.

“The truck is under IAP for route compliance and weight is recorded and monitored through a system developed by Tramanco that is extremely accurate and sends reports constantly.

“It is a quantum leap forward in all aspects and I must say it has been a collaborative effort between Queensland Transport and Main Roads, the National Transport Commission and mass management people. It has been a two year program that has come to fruition with so many benefits for everybody,” he says.

While this innovative concept will undoubtedly open new doors for the company, with obvious productivity benefits, it represents a high capital investment from the early stages of development through to having the combinations on the road and in operation.

Brett, who has made a considerable investment in the project both financially and in the time it has taken, says he is more than happy with the outcome and can see value increased in his business operations.

“It is vital to invest in the future, the freight task is continually growing and we must keep ahead of requirements by looking at how we can do things batter, improving productivity and efficiency to deliver world class transportation services benefitting our economy and ultimately the community.

“Road transport in this country is renowned for its innovative approach across all areas of freight movement but we cannot afford to be complacent. There must be a continual focus on bettering the manner in which we do things and the A-double is just one example,” Brett says.

South East Qld Hauliers is a big user of the Mack product, in fact all new vehicles entering the fleet have been the Bulldog breed, and Brett says this will continue as the brand of choice for the company.

“We operated a mixed fleet of makes but now Mack is our preferred brand across most aspects of the business and I must say as part of the A-double development all of our suppliers worked very closely over a long period to gain the best results possible,” Brett points out.

South East Qld Hauliers, through its innovative approach to meeting customer needs, has established a reputation for quality service, for example establishing transport hubs to better organise delivery with minimal delays.

“You have to look at what customer requirements are and what impacts on their businesses and address any issue that adds cost or disrupts the smooth flow of freight. We continually look to offering services that aid and better their requirements which in return deliver efficiencies to all,” he says.

“It is also imperative we seek safety improvements where possible and I feel road transport does that probably better than most industries. We are constantly under the safety spotlight and we must be able to show the community we are highly responsible in every aspect of operations, working for them in the best manner possible and we have to be seen as responsible.

“The transport task is not going away and the public must understand we are all doing our utmost to enhance safety along with productivity which provides obvious benefits for everybody.”

The A-double is already proving an invaluable tool for South East Qld Hauliers and as a company concerned with the impact of trucking on the environment Brett is well aware of reduced truck trips making a significant contribution.

“It is our responsibility to look at environmental issues too and by halving truck movements this is also a leap forward for the industry. This is another area where trucking has received more than its fair share of criticism, but we are very responsible in reducing emissions.”

South East Qld Hauliers has proved it is committed to making every aspect of its operations desirable by customers and the general public alike. It will remain focussed on providing the best in trucking while considering ways to improve performance by developing further systems and strategies through innovation and personal attention throughout its activities.

Growth has been based on implementing services designed to provide value for customers in the best manner possible.

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