Big Rigs - - FRONT PAGE -

DUD­LEY Abra­ham sits in his of­fice at Gran­ite Belt Fruit Freighters pour­ing through a trea­sure trove of photos, de­pict­ing the years and ve­hi­cles past.

His hand me­thod­i­cally sifts through the plas­tic zip-lock bag, a sub­sti­tuted photo al­bum, in search of a fa­mil­iar worn sepia scene.

Land­ing on his catch, Dud­ley’s soft blue eyes light up.

It’s his early-model Dodge, the truck that started it all.

From a fam­ily of or­chardists on Queens­land’s Gran­ite Belt, Dud­ley’s first ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind the wheel came when he be­gan mak­ing de­liv­er­ies for the lo­cal farm­ers co­op­er­a­tive.

Slowly but surely, as many in their youth are prone to do, he be­gan to pull away from the fam­ily pro­duce busi­ness in pur­suit of his own in­ter­ests.

He found him­self en­joy­ing his time be­hind the wheel more and more.

He ul­ti­mately pur­chased a sec­ond ve­hi­cle.

“I prob­a­bly felt I liked the trucks more than I liked the farm­ing, that’s the way it went,” Dud­ley said.

“At the time when I was spend­ing so much time with the trucks my wife wasn’t so happy and I said, well, this is it, take it or leave it.

“But she took it and stuck with me ever since.

“I’m lucky for that, 50 years to­gether next year.”

The farm­ers co­op­er­a­tive went un­der but Dud­ley’s busi­ness con­tin­ued to grow.

He soon found a busi­ness part­ner and es­tab­lished a de­pot on a Stan­thorpe or­chard, us­ing the farm house as an of­fice.

In 1999 the busi­ness had even peaked the in­ter­est of a Gat­ton trans­port leg­end.

“Terry Nolan came up here and wanted to come in with us and ex­pand,” Dud­ley said.

For a short time the ar­range­ment worked but Stan­thorpe’s lim­ited sea­sons left lit­tle room for growth.

“We aren’t as busy and more sea­sonal in this area, so it fell away when we saw the de­mand,” Dud­ley said.

“But in be­tween he helped us build this com­plex here.

“It was Gran­ite Belt Nolan’s at that stage,” he said, pass­ing a sweep­ing glance over the de­pot, work­shop and beyond.

In 2005 the busi­ness was

❝I prob­a­bly felt I liked the trucks more than I liked the farm­ing, that’s the way it went. — Dud­ley Abra­ham

again met with a chal­lenge, as Dud­ley “bit the bul­let” and bought out his part­ner, who was look­ing to sell.

The fam­ily again moved from one step to the next, tak­ing on each chal­lenge as fate al­lowed.

“It’s a worry at times, you sort of just have to take a leap over th­ese things,” he said.

Dud­ley said he felt over­whelmed at first when tak­ing over the busi­ness as a whole, hav­ing to stretch from his spe­cialty of lo­gis­tics into the busi­ness side of things.

“I was never in­volved in the work­ings of the busi­ness, I didn’t have that skill,” he said.

He in­stead learnt to del­e­gate.

“You rely on other peo­ple and sur­round your­self with good ones,” he said.

Dud­ley’s sons, Rod­ney and Glen, were in­cluded.

“The boys were here then, they had been work­ing driv­ing and that,” he said.

“All their young lives they wanted to be truck­ies but when they were leav­ing school I said no, you’re go­ing to get a trade.”

The car­ing fa­ther hoped his boys would then have some­thing to fall back on.

Yet un­de­terred they both chose trade fields re­lated to their dream of get­ting be­hind the wheel of Dad’s trucks.

Rod­ney chose re­frig­er­a­tion with what is now Thermo King and Glen did a diesel fit­ter’s ap­pren­tice­ship in Stan­thorpe.

“Once they did that they came to work,” he said.

The busi­ness ex­panded for a short time with in­vest­ment, then sud­denly the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis hit its low­est point, drag­ging Gran­ite Belt Fruit Freighters and many other com­pa­nies along with it.

The sit­u­a­tion came so close to the line the boys, who were look­ing for land at that time, pitched in to use what lit­tle they had to buy their fa­ther’s home.

“We went through a very dif­fi­cult time and were prob­a­bly on the verge of go­ing un­der,” Dud­ley said.

“I said, well can you buy my place to give us a bit of money to keep the busi­ness go­ing.

“It left me home­less but with enough money to keep the busi­ness go­ing.

“I’ve al­ways been in­volved in the church and they didn’t have a min­is­ter.

“I just wanted to do ev­ery­thing I could to keep it go­ing, it could have failed but I al­ways had a feel­ing that it had to keep go­ing, I had the feel­ing it would come good, I wasn’t wor­ried about my own stuff.”

So Dud­ley lived in the manse, in ex­change he helped to run the church for two years.

“The boys at that stage were ready to run the busi­ness and I be­lieve this is all prove­nance that I was guided with th­ese things,” he said.

Ul­ti­mately the sons slowly built on the busi­ness, set­ting up another home on the lot, mak­ing way for Dud­ley to re­turn.

From that point on the busi­ness started to get back on its feet.

“We now look at things dif­fer­ently be­cause of that time, I said to the boys, we will keep trucks longer and

re-power them with re­con­di­tioned mo­tors or new mo­tors,” he said.

“That and the fuel price com­ing down en­abled us to pros­per.”

To­day the fam­ily has 16 prime movers plus lo­cal pick-up trucks and 21 re­frig­er­ated trail­ers run­ning pro­duce to Syd­ney, north Queens­land and places in be­tween.

The fleet is a mix of of K610s, Freight­liner Ar­gosys and, of course, the last of the Ster­lings, which run to Bris­bane and back.

“We are the last of them, they are slowly dy­ing off,” Glen, who runs the work­shop, said.

“They were a good truck, we had some of the last ones left, both driv­ers who use them are old-school blokes who love driv­ing them.

“We are giv­ing one a re­build now, which will be its last hur­rah.

“And we do that all here, there is noth­ing we out­source, we do ev­ery­thing our­selves.

“Rod even taught me his re­frig­er­a­tion trade so we also do all of our fridge work our­selves, with gear­boxes and re­builds and the like.”

Rod­ney, who fo­cuses on the op­er­a­tions side of things, said he was happy with the po­si­tion in which the busi­ness cur­rently found it­self.

“I’m pretty happy with the way things are go­ing, just keep­ing it at a steady flow now, sta­bil­ity in our fleet is what we are about,” he said.


LEAPS OF FAITH: Dud­ley Abra­ham has taken on the chal­lenges of the trans­port game.

Rod, Dud­ley and Glen Abra­ham.

Gran­ite Belt Fruit Freighters.

Gran­ite Belt Fruit Freighters in the early days.

A fam­ily ef­fort keeps the busi­ness mov­ing.

Ready to do the hard yards.

Gran­ite Belt Fruit Freighters back in the day.

The com­pany is the link be­tween big chains and pro­duc­ers.

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