Mills Freight­lines of Brinkworth, South Aus­tralia, has spe­cialised in bulk haulage since 1966. Ta­mara Whitsed speaks to Paul Mills about the fourth-gen­er­a­tion truck com­pany

Owner Driver - - News -

PAUL MILLS was watch­ing the weather radar when he spoke to

Owner//Driver re­cently. Storms were frus­trat­ing grain grow­ers and car­ri­ers at the start of the South Aus­tralian har­vest.

Paul op­er­ates Mills Freight­lines with his wife, Jayne Mills, and his par­ents, Gavin and Margi Mills. The busi­ness is based in Brinkworth, 150km north of Ade­laide.

Most of their clients are farm­ing fam­i­lies. Some have sup­ported Mills Freight­lines since Paul’s grand­fa­ther, Bob Mills, be­gan cart­ing farm sup­plies in a Ford Thames Trader in 1966.

Paul is quick to praise his par­ents’ on­go­ing role in build­ing the dy­namic busi­ness, which cel­e­brated its 50th an­niver­sary last year. Gavin over­sees all facets of the com­pany and Margi is a vi­tal part of the ac­count­ing team. Paul’s sis­ter, Toni Ashby, also works at the busi­ness, man­ag­ing OH&S.

Paul and Jayne mar­ried in 1994. Jayne is in charge of co­or­di­nat­ing Mills Freight­lines’ trucks and day- to- day busi­ness. Their son, Thomas, has con­tin­ued the Mills tra­di­tion into a fourth gen­er­a­tion.

Hav­ing such a strong man­age­ment team makes it pos­si­ble for Paul to spend time on the road. From March un­til Au­gust each year, he col­lects gyp­sum from his fam­ily’s two gyp­sum mines and spreads it on farms in the mid- north, up­per-north and Yorke Penin­sula with a Mercedes- Benz Ac­tros 2644.


Each Novem­ber, Paul’s fo­cus moves to the grain har­vest. Right now the Mills fleet is busy cart­ing ce­re­als and pulses to Viterra si­los from farms through­out mid- north SA.

The fam­ily runs 23 trucks. Eleven are used for the com­pany’s re­cy­cling busi­ness, Clare Val­ley Waste, which spe­cialises in the col­lec­tion of curb- side re­cy­clable waste. Sev­eral truck brands are rep­re­sented in this fleet – Volvo, Isuzu, Iveco, Fuso, Hino, and Mercedes- Benz.

The 12 trucks in the red and white Mills Freight­lines fleet are all from the Daim­ler sta­ble – three Mercedes-Ben­zes and nine Freight­lin­ers. The new­est are a 2015 Freight­liner Coron­ado 114 with a 34-inch sleeper cab and a 2015 Freight­liner Ar­gosy.

They were both pur­chased in 2016, and old black- and-

“It was light­weight but still had plenty of horse­power”

white pho­to­graphs have been re­pro­duced within the white stripes in cel­e­bra­tion of the 50th an­niver­sary – ‘50 years, est 1966’ is cut into the stain­less trim, and ‘Cel­e­brat­ing 50 years’ is painted on the re­mov­able road train sign cov­ers.

Long- term driv­ers have been an im­por­tant part of Mills Freight­lines’ his­tory. Shane Ver­ran has worked for the fam­ily for 38 years. Bart Bur­ford has spent 21 years with the com­pany. Pye Gray has been there for a decade, and Paul is im­pressed with the 69- year- old’s en­ergy and en­thu­si­asm.

They value young driv­ers too. Jake Ver­ran, 26, joined the team eight years ago and now drives road trains.

Paul has been vis­it­ing Daim­ler Trucks Ade­laide since he was a baby in his father’s arms. Back then it was a Mercedes- Benz deal­er­ship. “We’ve had a cou­ple of very good sales­men who’ve looked af­ter us, and very good parts peo­ple,” he says.

Gavin and Margi op­er­ated 1418 Mercedes- Ben­zes back in the 1970s. They up­dated with more mod­ern and pow­er­ful Mercedes.

But Paul says by the mid- 1990s they were look­ing for a truck that was “more fuel- ef­fi­cient, car­ried a bit more weight, with a bit more horse­power”. So in 1996 they bought a Freight­liner FL112 with a 460hp Cum­mins.

“It was light­weight but still had plenty of horse­power, and it was B- dou­ble rated.”

To­day, most of the Mills Freight­lines fleet is pow­ered by Detroit en­gines. The new­est trucks have 560hp DD15s.

“We’re very happy with our Freight­lin­ers. They’re er­gonom­i­cally well de­signed inside. They’re driver-friendly. They’re very com­fort­able,” Paul says.

He likes the Freight­lin­ers’ com­par­a­tively low tare weight: “It still has the fuel econ­omy with the Detroit in there, and the horse­power to get the job done.”

The trucks travel as far as West­ern Aus­tralia and Victoria. Incitec Pivot Ltd, Gee­long, is among Mills' old­est clients.


Pur­chas­ing Clare Val­ley Waste back in 2007 was a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone in the com­pany’s his­tory. To­day, this di­vi­sion of the com­pany em­ploys about 12 peo­ple, col­lects curb-side re­cy­cling from four mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, ser­vices five trans­fer sta­tions, and has over 1000 skip bins.

Paul pre­dicts Clare Val­ley Waste will con­tinue to grow: “There’s al­ways waste.”

The fam­ily’s two busi­nesses com­ple­ment each other. Mills Freight­lines car­ries some of the Clare Val­ley Waste re­cy­clables.

Paul is con­fi­dent the busi­ness will cel­e­brate many more an­niver­saries: “I don’t plan on go­ing any­where un­til I’m prob­a­bly up to­wards 70 years old, and then I’ll let the kids come in and have a crack at it if they choose to.”

Paul, Jayne, of the Mills fam­ily: Three gen­er­a­tions Gavin Thomas, Margi and

The 2015 Coron­ado 114 carts grain, gyp­sum, lime, fer­tiliser and scrap metal

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