LONG-TERM LI­AI­SON

Putting all your eggs in one bas­ket can be laden with risks, but Care­ful Car­ri­ers has main­tained a suc­cess­ful soli­tary cus­tomer re­la­tion­ship for more than six decades. Greg Bush writes

Owner Driver - - Contents -

Putting all your eggs in one bas­ket can be laden with risks, but Care­ful Car­ri­ers’ has main­tained a suc­cess­ful soli­tary cus­tomer re­la­tion­ship for more than six decades

ONE TRUCK, ONE CUS­TOMER. Sound fa­mil­iar? For most in­di­vid­u­als, it’s the first step to­wards a pos­si­ble suc­cess­ful busi­ness ven­ture as they take the ini­tial plunge into the world of truck own­er­ship. Back in 1954 Sid Smith be­gan haul­ing pa­per prod­ucts around south-east Queens­land un­der the ban­ner of Care­ful Car­ri­ers. He had one cus­tomer and, ac­cord­ing to Sid’s grand­son Zacc Smith, that first truck was a Bed­ford. Sixty four years later and al­though some things have changed, oth­ers have re­mained the same. Through the decades Care­ful Car­ri­ers has main­tained that suc­cess­ful re­la­tion­ship with its one and only cus­tomer (which, for the pur­pose of this ar­ti­cle will re­main un­named). How­ever, the Bed­ford is long gone, its fleet now num­ber­ing eight trucks, all Ja­panese, with Hino in the ma­jor­ity.

Zacc is now the Care­ful Car­ri­ers boss and has been a Hino cus­tomer since 1991. He joined the busi­ness in 1994, tak­ing over the di­rec­tor’s role 10 years later when his father Ken­neth Smith re­tired. How­ever, Zacc’s move into the fam­ily’s freight trans­port busi­ness wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily a given.

“My father al­ways had an ethos that he didn’t care what I did as long as I was happy with what I did,” Zacc re­calls.

“I trav­elled for six months and went away think­ing about what I did want to do. I came back and this is it.”

It’s been a smooth tran­si­tion through the gen­er­a­tions for Care­ful Car­ri­ers with a va­ri­ety of truck mod­els along the way, in­clud­ing a cou­ple of ACCOs. “But that was a while ago,” Zacc says.

The cur­rent Care­ful Car­ri­ers fleet con­sists of four rigids and four sin­gle-axle prime movers. Five of the trucks sport the Hino badge, while the other three are Isuzus. A ninth truck, a 1998 Hino R10, was re­cently sold, its place taken by the lat­est mem­ber of the fleet, a new 350hp Hino 500 GH 1835.

Zacc says one of the rea­sons be­hind the mixed bag of trucks, es­pe­cially with the prime movers, is that Hino at one stage pulled out of the sin­gle-axle prime mover mar­ket.

“They were only do­ing bo­gie prime movers; then they came back into the sin­gles so we went back to Hino.

“But we’re happy with Hino or Isuzu; they’re both good makes of trucks.”

Keep on keep­ing on

The prime movers travel ap­prox­i­mately 20,000km a year, a mod­est amount com­pared to most fleet op­er­a­tors. But it’s an ob­vi­ous ben­e­fit to aid­ing in the longevity of the ve­hi­cles.

“We only have one ap­pli­ca­tion and for me, to be dead straight, that is gold,” Zacc ex­plains.

“The rea­son we keep on us­ing Hino, and Isuzu, is that they just keep go­ing.

“We’ll do tyres and we’ll do fuel, but when it comes to the ac­tual ve­hi­cle, they just don’t have prob­lems.

“I can’t af­ford to have trucks down with blown en­gines.

“We build our trucks, we build our fleet; we build ev­ery­thing around our cus­tomer,” he says.

When Zacc’s client de­cided to go to a 3-me­tre aper­ture at the rear of the trailer, he ap­proached Freighter to come up with a so­lu­tion. Hence the ‘Wedge­liner’, an aerodynamically-de­signed slop­ing trailer where the back is slightly higher than the front.

“We need to go to 4.6 me­tres high and to go to 4.6 you have to have 50 per cent of the deck un­der 1.2 to able to get the 3-me­tre aper­ture,” Zacc ex­plains.

With raise/lower valves on the trail­ers’ air-bag sus­pen­sion, the drivers are able to lift the back of the trailer to dock height for load­ing and un­load­ing, then drop it back down and head out on the road. The prime movers have low pro­file tyres and the turntable is kept un­der 1240mm, al­low­ing for the trailer aper­ture to be 3 me­tres and able to carry dou­ble 1.5-me­tre high pal­lets.

“You have to lift it up to make a lot of the heights on reloaded docks, oth­er­wise it’s way too low at the back end.

“It’s a very spe­cific busi­ness,” Zacc adds. “We’re not air freight car­ri­ers. We’re not car­ry­ing air on top the trucks.

“A lot of our loads full of 3-me­tre high pal­lets – 48 pal­lets are only 10 to 12 tonnes, so it’s very light­weight stock.

“You can rear load, side load, you can do very ver­sa­tile de­liv­er­ies. That’s part of what we do,” he says. “We’re very ver­sa­tile.”

Zacc says Care­ful Car­ri­ers and Freighter have built up a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship over the years.

“I can’t af­ford to have trucks down

with blown en­gines.”

“They make sure that they’re not putting some­thing on the road that’s not go­ing to work, that’s against ADR or some­thing like that.

“They build a good body, and they build a good trailer.”

De­pend­able drivers

Al­though Zacc has the op­ti­mum com­bi­na­tion of trucks and trail­ers down pat, driver re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion is equally as im­por­tant to the oper­a­tion.

One of his six drivers, Derek Tot­man, has been with the busi­ness for around 15 years. An­other who re­cently re­tired had been driv­ing Care­ful Car­ri­ers’ trucks for 30-odd years.

“Derek is also the 2IC. He’s in the of­fice as much as he can, and John Phelps works in the dock, check­ing all our stock and loads in the af­ter­noon,” Zacc ex­plains.

In times of emer­gency, Zacc and John can fill in be­hind the wheel when re­quired, with Zacc’s pre­ferred drive the new 350hp Hino 500.

“It’s a lit­tle more pow­er­ful than what he needed, but it’s nice to have a lit­tle bit ex­tra.

“I’ve passed med­i­cals, I’ve got my Coles in­duc­tion, I’ve got my Met­cash in­duc­tion, so if some­thing needs to go, it goes. But me jump­ing in the truck is dis­as­ter re­cov­ery. That means some­thing’s gone really bad be­cause ob­vi­ously I’ve got a busi­ness to run.”

Those down­times at Care­ful Car­ri­ers are few and far be­tween. It’s mostly a smooth oper­a­tion, with Zacc lean­ing to­wards older drivers, “be­cause we find they stick around for a while”.

“We get a lot of owner-drivers too; they just de­cide they want to drive for some­one but don’t want the fast pace.

“It’s not a hard life in what we do. We’re not sleep­ing be­side the road out west and we don’t run long hours.

“It means they don’t get paid as much, but it does mean it’s an eas­ier life and they’re home with their kids ev­ery night,” he says. “We’re fam­ily ori­en­tated, and we want to look af­ter them.” Ev­ery de­liv­ery is well-sched­uled, with drivers hav­ing am­ple time for breaks.

“So long as you roll on and do what you need to do, your day’s easy. If you start stuff­ing around, you’re go­ing to strug­gle.”

Zacc’s phi­los­o­phy is based on av­er­ages. As he says, any­one can have a bad day.

“As an av­er­age, if you’re keep­ing up and ev­ery­one is keep­ing up the same, there’s no prob­lem. But I don’t mind a lit­tle bit slower. You don’t need to be speed­ing around town to get th­ese things done. It’s just slow and steady,” he says.

“We’re the Care­ful Car­ri­ers for a rea­son.”

Above: Re­li­able work­horse: A 2000 model Hino R8

Left: An artist’s im­pres­sion of Care­ful Car­ri­ers’ founder Sid Smith

Above: The Care­ful Car­ri­ers’ Hino line-up, in­clud­ing the new 350hp Hino 500 (far right)

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