THE JELLYBEAN HERD
Many transport companies boast of humble beginnings, but Burtchell’s Transport’s beginning was more humble than most. Tamara Whitsed visits them in Echuca
TIM AND MANDY Burtchell were young parents in their early 20s when they paid $15,000 for a six-metre 1981 Hino tray truck and founded Burtchell’s Transport in Echuca, Victoria, in 1994.
They started small, focusing on parcel and pallet delivery. Pallets remain a core part of their business today, but they have gradually grown and now accept freight ranging from the size of a shoe box to a full B-double load.
Tim is the son of a stock and station agent and says his love of trucks was nurtured by the livestock carriers who occasionally let him travel with them when he was young. After completing a mechanic apprenticeship, he drove a concrete agitator and then carted general freight for a local company.
He realised there was a demand for a small parcel truck between Echuca-Moama and Shepparton, and the small towns in between. “There were plenty of little courier vans but no one with a truck that could take pallets or packs of pipe or anything,” Tim says.
Six months after forming Burtchell’s Transport, Tim was attracting too many parcels and pallets for the little Hino.
“It was only eight-and-a-halftonne gross.” But he was careful not to let his enthusiasm and love of trucks lure him into the trap of overcapitalising. He sold his personal Toyota HiLux to add a second-hand
Toyota HiAce van to his little fleet.
“Now we’ve got eight trucks,” says Tim, who employs six drivers: Murray Brown, Phil Blain, Pete Stafford, Johnny Dunn, Dennis Tyres and Charlie Stritch.
Murray has been there since almost the beginning and has become a vital part of the team. Phil was 14 when he started washing Tim’s trucks. He worked in another industry for a while but returned to Burtchell’s Transport about 10 years ago to drive trucks. Allison Simson has worked in the office for 10 years.
Most of the year Tim’s drivers are busy moving pallets, containers and general freight. “Every day we’ve got a double and single in Melbourne.”
It is usually only during the grain and grape harvest that all eight trucks are on the road at the same time.
Burtchell’s Transport runs a mixed fleet. “The jellybean herd, I call it – all different shapes and sizes,” Tim says. There are three Volvos, a Scania, a Sterling, a Ford Aeromax and two Fusos.
He bought the 1996 Aeromax LTS9000 second-hand 16 years ago and it is his favourite truck. “I call her my honey. She’s an absolute ripper.” With regular maintenance, the Kentucky Hard Runner “just goes and goes and goes”.
The 2011 Scania R560 is his newest truck. Like most of his trucks, he bought it second-hand.
If he had to buy a truck tomorrow, Tim says he would choose a secondhand European truck – probably a Scania or Volvo – because they are comfortable, quiet and offer good visibility.
Rich River Truck Repairs looks after the fleet’s major repairs. Smaller repairs and regular maintenance are carried out by a couple of mechanics who work at Tim’s yard on weekends.
Tim worked long hours on the road in the early years. Now he spends
Tim Burtchell’s favourite truck is the 1996 Aeromax Kentucky Hard Runner which “just goes and goes and goes”
his time Tim spends most of Transport managing Burtchell’s but still loves driving
The Scania B-double runs Echuca-Melbourne five days a week