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
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