Labour of Lovatt
How Scott Lovatt followed in his father’s footsteps to build his own business
How Scott Lovatt followed in his father’s footsteps to build his own business
Scott Lovatt knows better than most what it’s like to learn from the best. Being the son of William ‘Billy’ Lovatt – a big name in the Sydney container transport game – means you come from good stock, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee success on its own.
After working alongside his father for several years, Lovatt went out to gain more experience – running operations in a number of transport companies in Sydney.
However, the last four years have seen Scott focus on building his own business, Scott Lovatt Container Cartage. The lessons he learnt from the old man, coupled with a wealth of contacts, knowledge of the transport world and a lot of hard work, has seen the new venture flourish.
With 25 per cent growth a year, 10 trucks and a dedicated team, Scott Lovatt is focussed on growing the Lovatt name to even loftier heights.
CONTAINERS IN THE BLOOD
Scott Lovatt went straight into the trucking game as a young man, spending seven years with Billy, learning the ropes and building up experience. He looks back on his early days with fondness. There was never a dull moment.
“Billy is 100 miles an hour,” Lovatt says. “He’s old school and no nonsense. We have a great relationship and the skills he taught me are invaluable.”
But the time was always going to come when Scott Lovatt would have to go out alone to gain more experience. He went out with Hobbs Bros for six years, running their operations and adding to his formidable
book of contacts. He remembers the hectic days of loading packs of timber coming off the wharf at Darling Harbour.
He also secured the Airport tunnel drilling machine contract with the government. It was a huge project for a young bloke, but Lovatt has never been afraid to throw himself in the deep end and trust in his abilities to get a job done.
After a brief period back working with his dad, Lovatt returned to Hobbs for a 10-year stint before they were bought out by another company. The contacts he built up over those years meant he could hit the ground running when the time came to go out on his own.
“I put a lot of work into my previous business and I gained many fantastic contacts and experiences,” he says.
THE EARLIEST OF DAYS
November marks the four-year anniversary for Scott Lovatt Container Cartage. It began with three trucks and a bunch of subbies. Twenty-five per cent growth every year has seen the business grow to 10 trucks and much less reliance on subbies.
Nothing came easy, though. The early days were just that, with Lovatt arriving to work at 4:30am and not leaving until 11:30pm.
“My wife was bringing me in food. It was stressful stuff,” he says.
Although he was doing nearly everything himself, Jody Penny started working officially in office administration and accounting and learnt quickly to book jobs in the system. She is loyal and dedicated to her role and her relentlessly positive attitude is clearly infectious.
“I love this job, it’s the best job I’ve ever had,” says Penny, who stresses how important having the right people is. It’s one of the first things you notice when walking through the door.
Victoria Edmond’s eye for detail and professionalism in the workplace ensures slot co-ordination and customer relations run smoothly. Rob Lepre, warehouse manager, co-ordinates and oversees his five hard-working warehouse staff as they unpack 12 containers and load out up to 12 trucks a day.
Kieran Black is transport manager and a former professional rugby player. Lovatt says Black is accepting his new responsibilities with zeal.
Also vital to the team is Corey Smith, who describes his job title as “new boy”. Smith’s humour fits right in to what is a tight team. They have a laugh but know that work is the priority.
“All these guys stay until the work is done. No one packs up unless everything’s done.”
But Lovatt is no tyrant. He prides himself with building rapport with everyone and appreciates the lengths his staff go to. They have a big staff lunch every Friday, and everyone knows their contribution is valued. Lovatt demands commitment from his staff but also rewards the hard work.
“Scott’s best trait is communication,” Penny says. “In this business your communication has to run. He’s straight to the point and very honest. It’s a really happy place.”
THE FLOW OF CONTAINERS
The freight flows in several ways through the Lovatt depot. There a several major direct customers that Lovatt runs off the wharf.
“Now I buy everything brand new – trucks and trailers”
Direct deliveries make up more than half his containers per week. The rest comes in the way of country work, unpacks and redelivery.
Up to 60 containers come in to the depot each week, and are unpacked by hand, sorted and redelivered. The freight ranges from steel to dry goods and nearly everything in between. A lot of the unpacked freight is warehoused in the yard.
“We’ve got about 3000 square metres of warehouse, and about 1000 pallets in storage,” Lovatt says.
For his warehousing equipment, Lovatt has gone with Kalmar reach stackers. He’s just bought a new DRG450 to complement his existing 16-tonner.
“Kalmars are very comfortable for the drivers,” he says. “The cabs are great, it’s like sitting in a car. You also get a quicker turnaround for the yard. If you go second hand you’ll probably end up spending $100,000 a year on maintenance.”
Lovatt has two Volvo FH600s, two FH540s, two Mercedes Actros 550s, three Hino side-loaders, one Sterling series 60 and a Freightliner Columbia.
In the early days he would buy second hand but today he always goes new.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of older vehicles in other companies I’ve been with and the headaches they brought with them. Now I buy everything brand new – trucks and trailers, a model I’ve learnt off Billy that seems to work well.”
All the trucks are NHVRS and all have concessional mass limits (CML).
“We get an extra tonne. The trouble [when picking containers off the wharfs] is you don’t know how they’re packing it overseas.
“It could be heavier up one end. That’s out of your hands.”
RUNNING ON ROADRUNNER
Lovatt runs the Roadrunner Freight System and says that although the warehousing side is a bit cumbersome, the transport side is excellent.
“It’s all in the cloud, so we don’t need a server. It was the old DOS system; they’ve now gone into the Windows system.”
With the trucks running various legs from wharf to depot to customer destination, it’s important to track each leg.
“If you want to break it down to revenue for every leg, you can do that,” Lovatt says.
“You can get proper revenue from every vehicle for every part of the job. One container might come back to the yard then go out on a side-loader, get picked up by another side-loader then return empty. You can track all those legs with all those trucks.”
Lovatt says in the future all drivers will have a tablet: “We will get to the stage of sign on tablet, interface with customer, email sent straight to customer.”
He says he’ll be looking at new IT systems in the future.
LIFE ON THE PORT SIDE
It’s takes a certain skill set and a lot of experience to run trucks to and from the tightly regulated Sydney ports. Mistakes will cost you both time and money.
“There are new regulations in the waterfront. We’ll get fined if we’re not on time, even if we’re 10 seconds early for a slot.”
All trucks around the port precinct are tracked by scanners through each truck’s unique RFID tag. Go through a scanner before your allocated slot time and it’s a $100 fine.
Arrive late and it’s $50, and more than half an hour late you could be turned away.
“It’s like a big chess board,” Lovatt says. “You have to plan for the day and it’s continuous swapping trucks to jobs. We run our empties back to the port then go to the wharf.
“Sometimes you’ll get held up at an empty park for two hours and miss your slot. So then we’ve got to put someone else on. It’s constantly swapping around trucks.”
It’s times like these when having your old man nearby comes in handy.
“I use Billy if I need to run empties into his yard because I can’t get a slot. We back each other up. I help him out here when he needs it and he helps me out. It’s a handy back up, and it makes you realise the value of maintaining strong relationships.”
Fast growth means Scott Lovatt Container Cartage has eyes to the future. The hard yards are done, but plenty more lie ahead.
You wouldn’t bet against Scott Lovatt taking things to the next level. It’s in his blood. Be confident. Trust in your abilities. Use your contacts.
“I’ve learnt a lot from Billy. Don’t take no for answer. Get a result. Make shit happen.”
There’s little doubt that with Scott Lovatt and his fleet of blinged-up, shiny silver trucks that big stuff is happening.
Opposite: Empty containers getting loaded onto a Scott Lovatt Container Cartage truck
Above: Scott Lovatt demands commitment from his staff but also rewards hard work
Top: Lovatt embraces technological advances to bene t business productivity
Above: Tying down another load at the Millperra yard
Opposite: Teamwork and office discussions are a key feature of the work day; Admin guru and Lovatt’s right-hand woman, Jody Penny; Warehousing is done at the Millperra premises