BEST SER­VICE ON EARTH

Strong busi­ness part­ner­ships – in par­tic­u­lar with PACCAR Aus­tralia and Ken­worth DAF Hal­lam – have un­der­pinned the run- away suc­cess of earth­mov­ing busi­ness Eastern Plant Hire ( EPH), Ricky French writes

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It’s a cool morn­ing in Mel­bourne and Eastern Plant Hire (EPH) manag­ing di­rec­tor Michael Will­son sur­veys a scene that can only mean good news: an empty yard. Around 25 trucks are based at the Dan­de­nong fa­cil­ity but to­day they’re all out ser­vic­ing a never-end­ing stream of earth­mov­ing and lo­gis­tics projects around Mel­bourne.

It’s a sim­i­lar story in EPH’s Syd­ney and Bris­bane branches. Across the eastern se­aboard on any given day 1,000 trucks are ser­vic­ing EPH cus­tomers, and all in­di­ca­tions are that the num­ber will only in­crease. The busi­ness is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ex­po­nen­tial growth, and with the re­cent fed­eral bud­get an­nounce­ment of a surge in in­fras­truc­ture spend­ing, de­mand will con­tinue to out­strip sup­ply.

But with growth brings chal­lenges, and Will­son is care­ful not to get ahead of him­self. The one thing he won’t be do­ing is com­pro­mis­ing the rep­u­ta­tion EPH has built over the past 22 years by al­low­ing any drop in qual­ity of ser­vice. It’s EPH’s com­mit­ment to ser­vice that has largely driven its growth, and that’s not about to change.

NOW IS THE TIME

The re­cent fed­eral bud­get has promised $75 bil­lion over 10 years to be spent on road and rail projects around the coun­try. For lead­ing earth­mov­ing and lo­gis­tics busi­nesses such as EPH it’s a time of op­por­tu­nity and growth.

Not that EPH has ever been short for jobs. In Mel­bourne alone the com­pany has been awarded the con­tract for the new Metro Rail project and has al­ready com­menced cartage on the West­gate Tun­nel project.

“We’ll as­sist you ev­ery step of the way to get you ready to work on these projects”

While large road and rail in­fras­truc­ture projects are huge wins for the busi­ness, EPH will do ev­ery­thing from the largest gov­ern­ment projects down to back­yard land­scap­ing. It of­fers a full lo­gis­tics ser­vice, from project manag­ing to con­tract cartage to find­ing des­ti­na­tions for ma­te­rial com­ing out of jobs.

The growth has meant a con­sid­er­able in­vest­ment in new equip­ment, in­clud­ing a re­cent pur­chase of a fleet of 14 Ken­worth T610SARs. But Will­son says the most im­por­tant in­vest­ment a busi­ness will ever make is in its peo­ple. EPH is cur­rently of­fer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for owner/ op­er­a­tors as well as em­ployee driv­ers to join the team and share the spoils of the boom.

“There’s an on-go­ing short­age of truck driv­ers for con­struc­tion projects and we’d re­ally en­cour­age op­er­a­tors to get in con­tact with us, reg­is­ter for work and join the team. It’s a won­der­ful chance to build their own busi­ness and their own fu­ture,” he says.

Will­son says it can be daunt­ing for driv­ers who haven’t worked in this in­dus­try to get them­selves up to speed with com­pli­ance and tick­et­ing re­quire­ments for large in­fras­truc­ture projects. Luck­ily, EPH makes it easy for driv­ers, pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion and on-go­ing sup­port and train­ing.

“We’ll step them through what equip­ment, tick­ets and li­cences they’ll need, and the process of get­ting their truck com­pli­ant. We’ll as­sist them ev­ery step of the way to get them ready to work on these projects,” he says.

Will­son adds that EHP’s quick pay­ment cy­cles and paper­less sys­tems mean op­er­a­tors can have con­fi­dence they’ll get paid on time and ac­cu­rately ev­ery time.

The big­gest chal­lenge for driv­ers in the past few years, ac­cord­ing to Will­son, is the push on com­pli­ance. It’s high­lighted by the fact that five years ago EPH’s com­pli­ance team didn’t ex­ist. Now there’s a team of two

in all three states, as well as a na­tional com­pli­ance man­ager.

“It plays into our hands,” says Will­son, “be­cause it’s our strength. We know the rules and can nav­i­gate new driv­ers through the pa­per­work and help get them com­pli­ant for ev­ery project they work on.”

DRIV­ERS’ TRUCK OF CHOICE

A truck is a driver’s work­place, and a big fac­tor in job sat­is­fac­tion, so it’s lit­tle won­der Will­son put a lot of con­sid­er­a­tion into choos­ing EPH’s new fleet.

He says he’s gone with Ken­worth T610SARs for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, most of which come down to one salient point: driv­ers love them. The truck was de­signed in Aus­tralia for our unique con­di­tions and has quickly be­come a favourite for driv­ers and op­er­a­tors across the coun­try.

“The T610SARs are a great blend of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy and com­fort with the clas­sic, rugged Ken­worth look and feel,” he says.

Will­son adds that with a lot of EPH’s jobs be­ing in busy met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas the en­hanced vis­i­bil­ity that the T610 of­fers makes it es­pe­cially ap­peal­ing to driv­ers, and has all-round safety ben­e­fits.

“You have a great view of what’s be­hind you and what’s down the side of the truck, as well as the great view for­ward out of that big wind­screen. You’ve also got the com­fort fac­tor with the spa­cious cab,” he says.

And when or­der­ing the trucks from Ken­worth par­ent com­pany, PACCAR Aus­tralia, Will­son says he was able to spec­ify cus­tom re­quire­ments.

“We were pretty much able to se­lect ev­ery part of the truck, from the gear boxes to the en­gine right through ev­ery com­po­nent.

“Be­cause it’s Aus­tralian-made right here in Mel­bourne in the Bayswa­ter pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity it gives us great con­fi­dence that it’s built for Aus­tralian con­di­tions,” he says.

EPH still runs many DAF trucks along­side the Ken­worths, and Will­son

“Be­cause it’s Aus­tralian-made it gives us great con­fi­dence that it’s built for Aus­tralian con­di­tions”

says they’re equally well-re­garded. “The re­li­a­bil­ity and com­fort you get from a DAF is just what you’d ex­pect from the lead­ing Euro­pean brand,” he says.

STRONG BUSI­NESS PART­NER­SHIPS

Along with strict ad­her­ence to cus­tomer ser­vice, a ma­jor fac­tor in EPH’s suc­cess and growth has been the strength of the busi­ness part­ner­ship it has de­vel­oped over the years.

Will­son is par­tic­u­larly proud of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween EPH, PACCAR Aus­tralia and Ken­worth DAF Hal­lam.

“Hav­ing strong part­ner­ships in busi­ness is re­ally im­por­tant to us. We’ve been for­tu­nate to build a great re­la­tion­ship with the PACCAR group and Ken­worth DAF Hal­lam, which has al­lowed us to fo­cus on the busi­ness and meet­ing our cus­tomers’ needs,” he says.

“It’s a re­la­tion­ship that goes back years, and one that has kept EPH sup­plied with well-main­tained, re­li­able equip­ment. Ken­worth DAF Hal­lam ser­vice EPH’s trucks overnight, mean­ing the trucks can be dropped off in the late af­ter­noon and be ready to go by the next morn­ing, max­imis­ing up­time for the busi­ness.

“Pro­duc­tiv­ity is re­ally im­por­tant to us, and a truck isn’t mak­ing any money when it’s parked up.”

PACCAR deal­ers han­dle the ser­vic­ing na­tion­wide and be­cause of the tight com­pli­ance regime Will­son says it’s one of the most im­por­tant things to get right.

It’s the PACCAR deal­er­ship net­work that Will­son says gives him the con­fi­dence to take on jobs and plan ac­cord­ingly, know­ing he’ll have the trucks avail­able and ready to go.

“The ser­vice and cus­tomer sup­port they give us is out­stand­ing. At any time of the day or night we can pick up the phone and they’ll deal with any is­sue in a pro­fes­sional man­ner. We re­ally do rely on the PACCAR dealer net­work to help us main­tain our pro­duc­tiv­ity.”

The avail­abil­ity of parts is some­thing that Will­son val­ues es­pe­cially highly.

“We al­ways find that what­ever parts we need are read­ily avail­able from the PACCAR dealer net­work, and that goes right back to some of our older fleet. One of the rea­sons we’ve gone with Ken­worth and DAF for our new fleet is that we were able to get such good parts sup­ply and ser­vice backup on our older trucks,” he says.

The cur­rent fleet was pur­chased through PACCAR Fi­nan­cial, which Will­son says gives bet­ter ben­e­fits and flex­i­bil­ity than go­ing through banks.

“They have re­ally com­pet­i­tive rates, they give us an ex­tra year war­ranty and a large pre-ap­proved limit so we can buy what we need.

“They re­ally un­der­stand our in­dus­try and what we need in both the prac­ti­cal and fi­nan­cial side of things,” he adds.

GEAR­ING UP FOR THE FU­TURE

Things have come a long way since 1996 for Will­son, who cred­its his brother David with open­ing his eyes to the value of cus­tomer ser­vice back when he started the busi­ness. The words ‘ The Best Ser­vice on Earth’ writ­ten on EPH’s trucks aren’t just a slo­gan, they’re a phi­los­o­phy.

But great ser­vice re­quires great peo­ple. The need to re­cruit driv­ers, as well as project man­agers, is just as im­por­tant now as it was in the days when Will­son would drive round in his car jot­ting down phone num­bers that op­er­a­tors would have printed on the doors of their trucks, then ring­ing them up in the evening to of­fer them work. Thanks to mo­bile phones and the in­ter­net, get­ting in con­tact with driv­ers is now a lot eas­ier, as is set­ting up new driv­ers for work with EPH, thanks to their on­line por­tal for train­ing and reg­is­tra­tion.

“Be­cause we’ve been do­ing this for so long we re­ally know what’s re­quired and how to make life easy for new driv­ers.

“We’re re­ally able to help new op­er­a­tors ven­ture into the earth mov­ing in­dus­try over the next few years and we en­cour­age them to make con­tact with us and reg­is­ter for work,” he says.

With EPH’s nat­u­ral growth, a new fleet, a strong econ­omy and fed­eral funds flow­ing, it seems the stars are align­ing. There’s never been a bet­ter time to make the earth move!

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