Lead­ing the herd

Hav­ing been in the live­stock game since 1944, the Fraser fam­ily busi­ness con­tin­ues to evolve

Australian Transport News - - Contents - WORDS RICKY FRENCH

Hav­ing been in the live­stock game since 1944, the Fraser fam­ily busi­ness con­tin­ues to evolve

The Queens­land sun blazes down on the Frasers Live­stock Trans­port yard in War­wick but, in­side the of­fice, tem­per­a­tures and tem­per­a­ments are cool. It’s a gen­tle hum of ac­tiv­ity as staff mon­i­tor screens dis­play the lo­ca­tion of each of their 50 trucks.

They could be any­where across Queens­land to mid-NSW and even down to Bendigo in Vic­to­ria, pick­ing up live­stock from sta­tions or feed­lots and safely con­vey­ing them across huge dis­tances. One staff mem­ber gets on the phone and gives di­rec­tions to a driver to guide them to the en­trance gate of a vast sta­tion, track­ing the truck’s progress on the screen. An­other is on the phone gently re­mind­ing a cus­tomer about an out­stand­ing in­voice. Desks are awash with pa­per­work; no sur­prise given the size and suc­cess of the op­er­a­tion.

Led by Ross Fraser and his broth­ers Les and Peter, plus nephew War­wick, the busi­ness be­gan back in 1944 by Charles and Edna Fraser. Charles’ fa­ther fi­nanced his son’s ven­ture at first, declar­ing with al­most prophetic in­sight, “One day you will own a fleet of trucks.”

From a sin­gle Ford truck to today’s fleet of dou­bles, B-dou­bles, B-triples and road trains, the fam­ily busi­ness has grown from strength to strength.

Much of that suc­cess has been the will­ing­ness to grow with the times and em­brace new tech­nol­ogy, while, at the same time, stick­ing to old-fash­ioned val­ues and stock­man skills, taught by their fore­bears.

STOCK­MEN FIRST

Ross Fraser says his fa­ther had a real affin­ity for live­stock. It’s a pas­sion that car­ried through to Ross and his broth­ers.

Liv­ing on the land and grow­ing up around an­i­mals, you learn about their be­hav­iour, how to care for them and how

to han­dle them. When it comes to trans­port­ing live­stock, there’s a lot that can go wrong.

“It’s much more chal­leng­ing than cart­ing pal­lets around,” he chuck­les.

The sim­ple fact is you’re deal­ing with per­ish­able goods of the most del­i­cate kind.

Per­ish­able goods that need to be fed and wa­tered, kept calm, kept in good con­di­tion and de­liv­ered safely. With four de­pots – War­wick, Goondi­windi, Roma and Rock­hamp­ton – a lot of em­pha­sis is put on train­ing driv­ers in this unique job.

“Years ago, our driv­ers came from prop­er­ties and farms, but that doesn’t hap­pen much these days. There are just not a lot of young peo­ple on farms.”

The pri­or­ity, ac­cord­ing to Ross, is to em­ploy a stock­man first, driver se­cond. “We can teach a stock­man to drive a truck. It’s pretty dif­fi­cult to teach a truck driver to be a stock­man.”

Les Fraser agrees. “Good stock­men are hard to find, and our driv­ers have to be stock­men. If they’re on a trip and they’ve got some cat­tle that go down in the crate, the driver needs to have a re­ally strong sense of live­stock to be able to get in and get them up and make sure they get to their des­ti­na­tion in good care. So they’ve re­ally got to know their live­stock.”

With one load of­ten car­ry­ing up to $500,000 worth of live­stock, car­ing for your freight is es­sen­tial. If you don’t know what you’re do­ing, it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble.

MOV­ING THE STOCK

Ross says one of the big­gest pos­i­tive im­pacts on farm­ing and live­stock trans­port in the last 20 years has been the ad­vent of feed­lots. It’s helped farm­ers keep their stock alive by mov­ing them to feed­lots in times of drought.

“It’s re­ally opened up the pas­toral in­dus­try and com­pletely changed the way our cus­tomers do busi­ness,” he says.

Today, a typ­i­cal pas­toral prop­erty will have its breed­ing coun­try in north­ern Queens­land. From there, the live­stock is trans­ported to a back­ground­ing prop­erty where the an­i­mals grow their wean­ers to get enough weight on them to be moved into a feed­lot.

Hav­ing the feed­lots has re­duced the num­ber of an­i­mals dy­ing in the pad­dock, and been a good thing for ev­ery­one in the in­dus­try. War­wick Fraser says con­sumer tastes have changed, too.

“Ev­ery­one’s eat­ing grain-fed beef these days. South­ern Queens­land has the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of feed­lots in Aus­tralia,” he says. “It al­lows pro­duc­ers to turn over their money a lot quicker.”

Frasers Live­stock Trans­port carts about 4 mil­lion head a year, cov­er­ing 7 mil­lion kilo­me­tres. The sheep, cat­tle and pigs all have dif­fer­ent re­quire­ments in terms of equip­ment and care. With 4000 pigs trans­ported ev­ery week, the po­ten­tial for disease is high, which means trail­ers must be reg­u­larly cleaned out. The driver is re­spon­si­ble for the load­ing den­sity of the trailer. The other im­por­tant as­pect is prepa­ra­tion of the stock.

“Get both of those right and you’re on your

“The sys­tem has an in­te­grated phone, GPS track­ing and en­gine man­age­ment, which we’ve rolled out across our en­tire fleet”

way,” Ross says, adding that, of the 4 mil­lion head the com­pany carts, very few are lost. “It’s due to our care, ex­pe­ri­ence and com­mit­ment to an­i­mal wel­fare.”

Peter Fraser says of­ten a driver will ring the of­fice say­ing they’re hav­ing trou­ble with the stock and will be told to gently nurse them to wher­ever they’re go­ing. Driv­ers will reg­u­larly stop to check on the an­i­mals.

Over the years, the team has com­pleted some mem­o­rable jobs. In 1986, it took 6500 pigs from War­wick to Dar­win for live ex­port – a huge lo­gis­ti­cal ex­er­cise up the roast­ing Barkley High­way. It was too hot to stop, so a wa­ter truck fol­lowed the fleet and filled the wa­ter troughs in the trail­ers as the trucks drove. Out of the 6500, only one pig died en route.

CROSS-LOAD­ING MOD­ULE

Driver safety has al­ways been a num­ber-one pri­or­ity for Frasers Live­stock Trans­port. One of the proud­est mo­ments for the busi­ness came in 2014 when it won Best So­lu­tion for an Iden­ti­fied Work­place Health and Safety Is­sue at the Na­tional Safe Work Aus­tralia awards.

It was for a cross-load­ing mod­ule, de­signed and built by fleet man­ager Mark Collins and fab­ri­ca­tion man­ager Peter Som­merville. The mod­ule is bolted to con­crete at lo­ca­tions where two trucks need to trans­fer loads be­tween each other. It pro­vides space and a plat­form for the load­ing to oc­cur safely, and can be al­tered to dif­fer­ent lev­els on the trailer.

In the past, there have been se­ri­ous ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing driv­ers get­ting hurt by gates as they hang off the side of their truck try­ing to herd the beasts onto the new truck. Hands would get jammed and bro­ken arms were com­mon as gates flew about wildly and thou­sands of tonnes of cat­tle pushed past.

“It’s al­ways been a huge work­place health and safety is­sue,” Ross says. “This new mod­ule to­tally elim­i­nates the is­sue of driv­ers get­ting hurt. They walk from the cat­walk on the trailer across the walk­way on the ramp and onto the cat­walk of the next trailer. It keeps the driver away from the cat­tle as much as pos­si­ble.”

Peter adds that the mod­ule has other ben­e­fits. It al­lows driv­ers to drop their dog trail­ers at the cross-load­ing mod­ule and leave be­fore the other truck ar­rives. “The re­ceiv­ing truck can then come in and load the cat­tle onto his truck by him­self.”

“It was pretty sat­is­fy­ing to win the award,” Ross says. “It was iden­ti­fied as a good so­lu­tion to a se­ri­ous work­place health and safety prob­lem.”

EM­BRAC­ING MODERN TECH­NOL­OGY

While Ross is happy to give old-fash­ioned, good ser­vice, he’s learned you have to keep up with the modern world to run a suc­cess­ful truck­ing busi­ness. He says the big­gest change has been the in­tro­duc­tion of GPS tech­nol­ogy. It’s al­lowed the busi­ness to track its trucks across the coun­try at any given time.

War­wick says the busi­ness was the first live­stock trans­porter in the coun­try to

adopt GPS seven years ago. “At the time, it was a big cost and a big un­known. But it’s re­ally rev­o­lu­tionised our daily plan­ning and made it much eas­ier for our sched­ulers.”

War­wick takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for the busi­ness’s fleet man­age­ment sys­tems and is proud that the MT Data sys­tem used is Aus­tralian made. “The sys­tem has an in­te­grated phone, GPS track­ing and en­gine man­age­ment, which we’ve rolled out across our en­tire fleet.”

Be­ing able to see ex­actly where a truck is means Frasers can re­lay that in­for­ma­tion to a cus­tomer should they call. He says the en­gine-man­age­ment suite is im­por­tant for per­for­mance and safety rea­sons. The team can now mon­i­tor the real-time per­for­mance of its fleet – no mat­ter how far away from home.

“A lot of our small coun­try towns have speed zones around schools that are 40km/h. Those zones are all marked on our map here and we’ll get a no­ti­fi­ca­tion if any of our trucks are speed­ing through those zones.

“No­ti­fi­ca­tions are given if a truck takes a corner too fast, all of which en­cour­ages driv­ers to driver more con­sid­er­ately – for the sake of both the pub­lic and the truck.”

KEN­WORTH DEVO­TEES

There’s no other truck that can of­fer what a Ken­worth does, says Ross, who’s a big fan of the com­pany’s will­ing­ness to cus­tomise trucks.

“That’s re­ally im­por­tant for us. We can or­der the com­po­nents we want for the truck, which will be dif­fer­ent from most other trucks they build.”

The re­sale value of a Ken­worth is an­other at­trac­tive fac­tor, War­wick says. “The beauty of a Ken­worth is, af­ter one-and-a-half mil­lion kilo­me­tres, some­one still wants them.”

Frasers Live­stock Trans­port played a big part in the de­vel­op­ment of the new Ken­worth T610, pro­vid­ing data for Ken­worth on the tough, out­back road con­di­tions that the new truck would have to put up with.

“Ken­worth is largely fam­ily-owned, and that comes right down the chain. Busi­ness is all about peo­ple and Ken­worth adopt that phi­los­o­phy, too. I’d be sur­prised if 80 per cent of driv­ers didn’t pick a Ken­worth as their pre­ferred truck,” War­wick says.

IN-HOUSE TRAILER WORK

It’s a hive of ac­tiv­ity in­side the large main­te­nance work­shop. Trail­ers are be­ing welded and re­built, ev­ery­thing from the chas­sis up.

“We buy them new then we ren­o­vate and start again. We pride our­selves on re­ally good equip­ment,” War­wick says.

Some trail­ers have four decks for sheep, which can be con­verted to two decks for cat­tle. Twelve full-time me­chan­ics main­tain the fleet. It’s a faster, more-ef­fi­cient way of do­ing things, War­wick says.

“If some­one pulls in with a prob­lem, we can get onto it straight away. If we were to ring a work­shop, they would have to book us in. That wouldn’t work for us.”

PROUD FAM­ILY LEGACY

“We don’t think there’s any­one out there giv­ing a bet­ter ser­vice than us,” Ross says. “We fol­low our motto: In time, on time.”

You don’t stay in busi­ness for 70-plus years with­out do­ing the ba­sics right. For the Fraser fam­ily it’s about staff, cus­tomers, live­stock, ve­hi­cles and val­ues. As Ross says: “You get that right and the rest will flow along.”

With the way things have been flow­ing since 1944, there’s lit­tle doubt the Fraser name will re­main as­so­ci­ated with live­stock trans­port in Aus­tralia for gen­er­a­tions to come.

Above: Le­gends in live­stock trans­port - the name says it all Op­po­site: Ross, Les, Peter and War­wick Fraser

Top: It’s Ken­worth all the way for Frasers Trans­port

Above: A fa­mil­iar sight on coun­try roads through­out north-eastern Aus­tralia Op­po­site top and be­low: Un­load­ing into the cat­tle yards at War­wick; Trailer be­ing re­fur­bished at the War­wick yard

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.