Train truckers:

The small fam­ily-owned op­er­a­tion Bromp­ton Road in Western Aus­tralia has come up with an in­no­va­tive so­lu­tion to haul­ing train wheels, with a cou­ple of 2006 Ken­worth K104s lead­ing the way. Peter and Di Sch­lenk write

Deals on Wheels - - Contents -

A small fam­ily-owned op­er­a­tion WA has come up with an in­no­va­tive so­lu­tion to haul­ing train wheels

Bromp­ton Road is a small fam­ily-owned and op­er­ated com­pany based in Bulls­brook, 25km north of Perth on the Great North­ern High­way.

Char­lie Berne and his wife Julie started Bromp­ton in the early 1970s. To­day the cou­ple’s two sons Ja­son and Tim are an in­te­gral part of the busi­ness.

Deals On Wheels re­cently caught up with

Char­lie and Ja­son at the BP Kew­dale truck stop. The boys had just grabbed some break­fast and were about to head off to un­load.

“Ex­cept for a brief time off­shore I have been with dad since the day I left school in ’95,” Ja­son says. “That’s over 20 years now.”

Like many op­er­a­tors Bromp­ton Road saw the ad­van­tages of spe­cial­is­ing. The com­pany has been work­ing for rail com­pa­nies for the past 30 years.

“I should call my­self ‘TNT’, trains not trucks,” Char­lie laughs. “We are not gen­eral car­ri­ers, we just spe­cialise in look­ing af­ter our cus­tomers’ needs.”

For Bromp­ton Road that has meant the need to solve a few tricky prob­lems while work­ing out trans­port so­lu­tions for their clients. The ad­di­tional ser­vices means it’s more than just a trans­port com­pany.

One of Bromp­ton Road’s big jobs is haul­ing rail wag­ons from Ade­laide to Port Hed­land. Char­lie ex­plains that the pi­lot ve­hi­cle costs on that job alone were $280,000.

Char­lie and Julie or­gan­ised four trucks to carry out the work, with the help of a sub­bies, two of which were tow­ing Bromp­ton trail­ers.

Ja­son ex­plains that they would un­load the cars, take the bo­gies out of the bins and put them on the track. “We hook up the hoses and ei­ther Char­lie or Julie do a brake test,” he says.

“So we com­mis­sioned the cars and that is why we se­cured get­ting the job and with the com­bi­na­tion that Ja­son’s got, we go up with three wag­ons and were only us­ing 150 litres more fuel than the trucks car­ry­ing two.

“Life is full of chal­lenges and we love chal­lenges.” Bromp­ton’s most re­cent chal­lenge was mov­ing rail­way wheels. The wheels come out of New­cas­tle to Bromp­ton’s yard be­fore be­ing trucked north.

“It is a new con­cept be­cause, pre­vi­ously the wheels were in skip bins un­re­strained. The new ‘pal­lets’ al­low the old wheels to stand up,” Char­lie says.

“Ev­ery­thing is held and re­strained; we have a patent pend­ing on this sys­tem. We think it is pretty good and it’s so sim­ple and yet works so well.

“The wheels go into the ro­bots ly­ing down and they come out of the ro­bot stand­ing up and that’s how we de­signed it.”

De­spite their hands-on work, Char­lie and Ja­son both agree that Julie is the back­bone of the com­pany.

“She does ev­ery­thing,” Ja­son says. “Mum cooks for us, does the pa­per­work, the fi­nances and drives a truck, and she keeps us all hon­est.

“For some fam­i­lies it doesn’t work, but for us I think it is the fea­ture of our busi­ness. We all work to­gether for a com­mon good.”

The Bromp­ton Road fleet, which was all bought new, con­sists of five trucks – a Ken­worth for each mem­ber of the fam­ily and an old Mack Value­liner which is at home in the shed be­ing re­stored.

“She will look like new af­ter a while,” Char­lie states. “We al­ways have a truck be­ing re­fur­bished and re­built … we don’t buy sec­ond hand.

“We pride our­selves on our main­te­nance, that’s why our trucks look like new,” he adds.


Ja­son’s Ken­worth K104, de­spite clock­ing up 1.7 mil­lion km, looks to be well kept, al­though Char­lie ad­mits his K104 is look­ing “a bit daggy at the mo­ment”.

“I’m do­ing a lot of main­te­nance and I have to pri­ori­tise; and main­te­nance comes be­fore beauty.

“I’m al­ways on their backs say­ing it’s al­right to spend a cou­ple of hours on your truck mak­ing it look good.

“You must spend a few hours of main­te­nance, even if you are only un­der there smok­ing a cig­a­rette and just hav­ing a look.”

As an ex­am­ple, Char­lie retells the ex­pe­ri­ence of driv­ing one of his trucks over a shaker at Maru­lan. The truck was seven years old and Char­lie asked them to put it through the ringer to see how good his main­te­nance regime was. “It came out with one light on the rear not work­ing,” he says. “It was day­time and I check my lights be­fore dark.

“The of­fi­cer said it was still a fault and I told him I’d fix it straight­away, which I did.

“I said to him that just be­cause it has a WA plate on the front doesn’t mean that all trucks from WA are heaps of garbage.”

The in­no­va­tive trail­ers be­hind Ja­son’s Ken­worth are the first of two, with an­other cou­ple ar­riv­ing shortly. They have been re­fur­bished and re­brushed, with new elec­tri­cal, hoses and air, bear­ings and valves.

Paul Els­den Trans­port Equip­ment does the trailer re­fur­bish­ment and Char­lie says the com­pany was sur­prised at the good con­di­tion of the brakes.

“I was asked when I last changed them and I replied I hadn’t. That trailer was a 2002 and had done 960,000km,” he says.

Char­lie and Ja­son are quick to point to the ex­cel­lent con­di­tion of the deck on both trail­ers.

“Our trail­ers are all the same, not beaten or bashed,” Ja­son says.

“We treat our gear with re­spect and you get the best out of it.

“Dad has drummed it into us over the years and it cer­tainly has paid off.”

When Char­lie is out on the road his pri­or­ity is to check the rig when­ever he gets out of the truck, and again be­fore he climbs back in.

“When I am haul­ing a load I’m look­ing and check­ing un­der the truck for any water or oil.

“Then I go for a bit of a walk around, check­ing tarps and turnta­bles. The last thing is the oil and away you go,” he says.

Char­lie says they pride them­selves on their gear and hav­ing a pro­fes­sional setup. “We have a good rep­u­ta­tion with these com­pa­nies,” he adds.

“I still love what we do and do it to the best of our abil­ity, all of us, the whole fam­ily.

“We are in it as one.”

We treat our gear with re­spect.

Above: Bromp­ton Road’s two Ken­worth K104s

1. Ja­son and Char­lie Berne of WA fam­ily trans­port busi­ness Bromp­ton Road. 2. Haul­ing rail­way wheels in

up­right fash­ion.

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