State­line Freight

Qui­etly go­ing about its busi­ness, Ho­bart- based State­line Freight cel­e­brates 25 years this month thanks to its strate­gic busi­ness ap­proach


The Ho­bart-based quiet achiever cel­e­brates 25 years in as an ex­pand­ing con­cern thanks to its strate­gic busi­ness ap­proach

B rothers Paul and Ger­ard Ryan are about to mark the com­pany’s 25th an­niver­sary this month with their 52 em­ploy­ees, a lit­tle “gath­er­ing” to help re­flect on how far they’ve come but, most im­por­tantly, the di­rec­tion they’re head­ing in.

Seated at his Derwent Park of­fice, Paul Ryan is re­luc­tant to speak of the jour­ney. His mod­est ap­proach is the rea­son why the com­pany has qui­etly been kick­ing goals when some other op­er­a­tors have crum­bled dur­ing tur­bu­lent mar­ket times.

A former truck driver turned busi­ness­man, Ryan is in charge of cre­at­ing his own success. With a sharp fo­cus on busi­ness growth, he’s been rein­vest­ing money back into the com­pany.

From hum­ble be­gin­nings with just one

van and a truck, State­line Freight now has 43 ve­hi­cles. It also has seven fork­lifts within four ware­houses. Aus­tralia Post was its first customer, and still is, as one of 40 oth­ers.

The com­pany was awarded a sub­stan­tial con­tract in Ho­bart in 1996 and, by mid-1997, it ex­panded to state-wide op­er­a­tions.

It now op­er­ates through­out Tas­ma­nia, Vic­to­ria and Syd­ney, and also pro­vides 3PL ser­vices to sev­eral na­tional health­care com­pa­nies, along with air­freight, six nights a week be­tween Mel­bourne and Tas­ma­nia. The broth­ers re­cently won a con­tract that saw the open­ing of their first Vic­to­ria de­pot in Ep­ping. That busi­ness has grown in leaps and bounds.

“It all fell into place; it was ex­actly what we were look­ing for,” Ryan says.

“We started off with five ve­hi­cles in Oc­to­ber and, at the end of May, we’re up to 17 ve­hi­cles; it’s been a huge in­crease in busi­ness and we’ve bought all-new ve­hi­cles [for the Ep­ping site].”

It’s not just about ex­pan­sion but how it is oc­cur­ring and aid­ing the firm, Ryan says.

“The busi­ness has grown, I would say, by at least 35 per cent,” Ryan adds.

“We didn’t quite ex­pect it to hap­pen but it’s about the ser­vice we pro­vide – years ago, it was all about the price but now it’s a com­bi­na­tion of price and ser­vice. We don’t go into any­thing I

don’t be­lieve we can’t make a dol­lar out of, and/ or add value.”


State­line Freight prides it­self on ser­vice and pre­sen­ta­tion, so much so that it once got ac­cused of “over ser­vic­ing” a customer, Ryan ex­plains.

“I don’t think it’s such a thing – for us, it’s all or noth­ing,” he says. “It’s a com­bi­na­tion of what we can pro­vide and what the customer wants. It’s not just: there’s a van, pick up a par­cel and go de­liver it – it’s all a lot more in­volved.

“We like to get re­ally in­volved with our cus­tomers through dis­cus­sions.

“Our big­gest five cus­tomers have been with us for five years or more, so we are big enough to get the job done and small enough to make changes im­me­di­ately; it’s not a de­ci­sion that has to go to the board, we can make a de­ci­sion and move quickly.

“If some­thing’s not right, we can change it, it doesn’t get lost in per­son­nel; we can fix it straight away.”

The broth­ers have built the busi­ness to a man­age­able size and are good at re­tain­ing their driv­ers, as they both be­lieve in pay­ing them above the award rates.

“Out of the 25 years, we’ve had nine that have had long ser­vice with us,” Ryan says.

“Usu­ally the good ones come to State­line and stay be­cause we pay more; they’ve got brand-new ve­hi­cles, so good clean gear, and safety is a big is­sue for us and our clients; we push on that ex­tremely well.

“If we can im­prove our bot­tom line then why not let the em­ploy­ees share in that side of the busi­ness?

“We make sure that they’re looked af­ter; we are al­ways lend­ing them money or pay­ing a bill for them, so we’re also a bank but more im­por­tantly a fam­ily. If they’re sick or in­jured, it con­cerns us.

“It’s also about manag­ing the money and cost, which is what it all comes about. We’re ex­tremely ef­fi­cient in how we do things, un­like some of the big­ger com­pa­nies – they have lit­tle idea of times and de­lays and that’s where they lose a lot of money,” he adds.

“How you do your de­liv­er­ies, save money, value add is how we can af­ford it. That’s an on­go­ing daily/weekly ex­er­cise; it’s mak­ing sure that ev­ery­thing is done and de­liv­ered in the most ef­fi­cient way pos­si­ble.”


State­line Freight has pur­chased two new Volvo FH540 and FH700 Glo­be­trot­ter semi-trail­ers to ser­vice the needs of a new con­tract that brought about the need for larger trail­ers. One was put straight to work be­tween Ho­bart and Syd­ney, with the sec­ond to hit the road in Oc­to­ber.

The Vaw­drey trail­ers are fit­ted with a dou­ble bar ad­justable loader sys­tem that al­lows for dou­ble stack­ing of sen­si­tive freight, with­out the risk of dam­age. They’re part of eight rigids, three semis and 32 vans. The ma­jor­ity of trucks are Volvo. “That’s been the way we’ve de­cided to go,” Ryan says.

“The rep­u­ta­tion, the fin­ished prod­uct re­gard­less of what ev­ery­one says, it’s the Euro­pean fin­ish and safety that is a big thing.

“If you’re go­ing to buy a prod­uct, you’re bet­ter off buy­ing the best, that way you hope­fully get a bet­ter run out of it and a bet­ter re­sell value.”

Ryan prefers to be in con­trol of his own fleet, hence the com­pany very rarely uses con­trac­tors. The com­pany has a pol­icy of one ve­hi­cle per driver.

State­line’s growth has come about purely due to word of mouth.

Ryan worked for TNT Ex­press in the 1980s as an owner-driver be­fore re­turn­ing to Tas­ma­nia to work as a Hino sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

“I then found there were a cou­ple of ar­eas in de­liv­ery there we could look at, so I got in­volved with Aus­tralia Post and TNT,” he says.

“We have built the busi­ness to a size that’s main­tain­able; we’re in a sit­u­a­tion where we couldn’t be hap­pier.

“Twenty-five years in, we’re sat­is­fied and very proud of where we’ve come from.

“You only have to look at our fleet. We have what I be­lieve is the best-pre­sented fleet on the road.

“Our peo­ple are all about clean­li­ness, uni­forms and pre­sen­ta­tion.”

Just like the fu­ture of elec­tric trucks, Ryan can’t pre­dict his own com­pany’s out­look.

“We’ll look at them [elec­tric ve­hi­cles] but we won’t be the first to try them out,” he adds.

“We’re not pi­o­neers by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion but we’ll move for­ward; the fu­ture tells us which di­rec­tion we go in, it’s im­pos­si­ble to set a plan for the next three to four years be­cause that can change dra­mat­i­cally with the same type of ex­plo­sion we’ve had in the last seven months. The plan is to be open-minded and clear think­ing.”

The com­pany has steered away from car­ry­ing gen­eral freight due to price wars, Ryan adds.

“Be­cause of the highs and lows of the vol­umes, it’s too un­re­li­able and you could lose a customer for $100; there’s some­one pre­pared to do it cheaper, so we don’t get into bid­ding wars and pric­ing.

“It’s a com­bined op­er­a­tion with our clients and we tell them what we can do and how we can do it, and it’s about value adding with our clients.”

State­line Freight uses sign-on glass tech­nol­ogy and GPS track­ing. By ap­point­ing HR and work­place ad­vi­sory ser­vice Em­ploy­sure four years ago, the com­pany is now across em­ploy­ment rules and changes.

“They make sure ev­ery­thing we do is above board and up to stan­dard be­cause we can’t be a trans­port com­pany and know all the changes,” Ryan says.

“We keep up to date but if a law changes we’re

“We’re ex­tremely proud of what we’ve turned into – the fleet and the em­ploy­ees.”

not nec­es­sar­ily in­formed on the day, you could be do­ing some­thing wrong, whereas Em­ploy­sure no­ti­fies us if there’s a change.

“We use them to au­dit cer­tain ar­eas of the busi­ness, we look for ad­vice from ex­ter­nal qual­i­fied com­pa­nies and they also han­dle our drug and al­co­hol tests.”


Ryan couldn’t be prouder of his achieve­ments, say­ing the early days, when the pair worked hard and long, were not easy

“There were a lot of long, cold win­ter nights from Ho­bart to Launce­s­ton; snow, frost, ice and, ob­vi­ously, work­ing all day.

“We’re ex­tremely proud of what we’ve turned into – the fleet and the em­ploy­ees; but also the im­age we have and the re­spect.

“I’m from an Ir­ish back­ground, so the harder it gets, the harder I fight.

“There’s never been a mo­ment where I wanted out of it and I think that’s also kept us grounded but has also made us ap­pre­ci­ate where we are and what we have achieved.”

The pair has no plans on be­com­ing the next Toll or Lin­fox but does draw in­spi­ra­tion from such com­pa­nies.

Above: Start­ing out with one van and a truck, State­line Freight now has 43 ve­hi­cles and seven fork­lifts

Above L to R: In­ter­state driver Den­nis Carmichael, Paul Ryan and op­er­a­tions man­ager Garry Reid

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