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With a motto of “No wor­ries mate, we’ll get it done”, the team at ABC Tow­ing in Townsville will haul any­thing and ev­ery­thing – even beached whales

With a motto of “No wor­ries mate, we’ll get it done”, the team at ABC Tow­ing in Townsville will haul any­thing and ev­ery­thing – even beached whales. War­ren Aitken writes

NO ONE WILL EVER tell you the trans­port in­dus­try is an easy game. If they do, chances are they aren’t in it. Sur­viv­ing takes per­se­ver­ance, re­silience and de­ter­mi­na­tion. Suc­ceed­ing in the in­dus­try takes all those things as well as an in­cred­i­ble work ethic, an aver­sion to lie-ins and the abil­ity to adapt and evolve to what­ever gets thrown your way.

The Singh fam­ily, who run one of north Queens­land’s big­gest tow­ing firms –

ABC Tow­ing – is a true suc­cess story. They also epit­o­mise all of the at­tributes just men­tioned.

ABC Tow­ing has been a pres­ence in Townsville and Queens­land for well over 20 years. The team be­hind the suc­cess of the com­pany is Ru­pen Singh, his wife Sud­heshna, and their kids Rav and So­nia. Ru­pen is ap­par­ently at­tempt­ing to take a step back from the busi­ness and look to­wards re­tir­ing, but as he’s spent his life work­ing flat out it may be too big a leap. Hence, it was no sur­prise to find that Ru­pen was away work­ing when I called in to meet the team. So I sat down with Rav and an­other mem­ber of the team, Lenny Turner (who ap­peared in Owner//Driver’s March 2018 edi­tion). Both filled me in on the colour­ful non­stop jour­ney that has led to ABC’s suc­cess.

A very en­ter­tain­ing book could be made from sto­ries told at the Singh fam­ily get-to­geth­ers, I’m sure. Ru­pen was run­ning a suc­cess­ful trans­port com­pany in Fiji while in his early 20s. Rav re­calls the time his dad joked about hav­ing to un­load 21 tonnes of river rock off their sin­gle-axle truck when the scales were un­able to read the gross weight. It was a dif­fer­ent era in Fiji in the 1980s; the roads back then ac­tu­ally made the cur­rent Bruce High­way look like an au­to­bahn.

Ap­par­ently with some of the loads they would choose to re­verse up and down a lot of the hills as the low re­verse gear was safer.

Mil­i­tary coup

In 1987 the army coup in Fiji re­sulted in some ma­jor life changes for Ru­pen and his young fam­ily. The Fi­jian Army bought all of Ru­pen’s trucks and his work, leav­ing him with some big de­ci­sions. He chose to pack up his fam­ily and mi­grate to Aus­tralia – Townsville to be pre­cise – and start afresh.

If there was a way of bot­tling and mar­ket­ing the Ru­pen’s work ethic and ded­i­ca­tion to his fam­ily, you could make a for­tune. Start­ing from scratch in a new coun­try, Ru­pen set about do­ing what­ever he could to pro­vide for his fam­ily. He spent the next decade try­ing his hand at any op­por­tu­nity that came along, in­clud­ing run­ning a fish and chip shop, then a min­i­mart, fix­ing and re­selling old cars, even be­ing a pizza boy for a while. You name it, he tried it.

While do­ing a bit of ev­ery­thing he was also work­ing as a me­chanic at his brother’s work­shop. It was this job that gave him the open­ing to get back into truck­ing. In 1997 he bought a small Toy­ota Dyna from its owner who was de­liv­er­ing break­downs to the work­shop. The truck was al­ready branded ABC Tow­ing when Ru­pen bought it. “It was in the days of the old phone books,” Rav re­calls, “so it was called ABC to get it at the front of the book.”

From the one small Toy­ota Dyna the Singh fam­ily’s hard work has grown the fleet to al­most 50 ve­hi­cles. Rav is the first to ad­mit though that that num­ber varies a lot. “The num­ber of trucks he has changes daily,” he laugh­ingly in­forms me. “If there’s a bar­gain out there he will find it.”

Like the fleet num­bers, the work of ABC tow­ing is ex­tremely var­ied. The Singhs have made it al­most a mantra to ac­cept any work that comes along.

“When peo­ple don’t know who can move it, or peo­ple ques­tion how they’re go­ing to move it, then they call a com­pany like us,” Rav says. “We say ‘yes’ and then work it out from there.”

Those words aren’t just for show though. The will­ing­ness to tackle any chal­lenges for their cus­tomers has seen them mov­ing ev­ery­thing from cars to fork­lifts, bogged four­wheel drives to re­cov­ered truck wrecks, cubby houses to eight-me­tre wide loads, bird aviaries to over­size fish tanks and even he­li­copters and dead whales. Yes, and I mean a dead whale. Rav still lists that as their most in­ter­est­ing and chal­leng­ing move.

“We got a call from the mar­itime guys who said they had a baby blue whale that had died and they wanted it for re­search in Bris­bane.” So, in ac­cor­dance with the fam­ily’s motto of “no wor­ries mate, yeah we’ll get it done”, the ABC boys sent a tilt tray out to help bring in a very rare baby blue whale car­cass.

“He’ll never get rid of that one … he loves that truck.”

Road­side break­downs

An­other re­cent ad­di­tion to the ABC ver­sa­tile port­fo­lio is its road­side break­down vans. The com­pany it­self has two full­time me­chan­ics work­ing in its fully kit­ted work­shop. Ru­pen, how­ever, saw the need for a road­side as­sis­tance team that could as­sist in ev­ery­thing from locked keys and bat­ter­ies to ma­jor break­downs. Any­thing that can’t be fixed on site can be picked up by one of ABC’s var­ied tilt trays or tow trucks.

In the of­fice, both Sud­heshna and So­nia han­dle ABC

Tow­ing’s ad­min­is­tra­tive du­ties, con­tin­u­ing Ru­pen’s can-do at­ti­tude and strong work ethic. Al­though Rav spend his youth work­ing the dirty over­alls side of the busi­ness, he has also moved into the of­fice as Ru­pen at­tempts to re­tire.

Rav re­it­er­ates his fa­thers’ com­ments though when he ap­plauds the staff they have helped with the suc­cess of the busi­ness “We have a lot of good guys” Rav says. “It’s more like a real fam­ily.”

Lenny is one of those adopted fam­ily mem­bers, and added to Rav’s de­scrip­tion of Ru­pen’s hec­tic story. Lenny has been with ABC for al­most a decade and speaks very highly of the Singh fam­ily and the va­ri­ety he gets in his job.

“I do any­thing and ev­ery­thing; road trains out west, Coates hire stuff, al­ways some­thing dif­fer­ent,” Lenny tells me.

Orig­i­nally trained as a me­chanic, his ca­reer be­hind the tools lasted as long as an Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter’s reign. “Once I fin­ished my ap­pren­tice­ship I started driv­ing trucks,” he laughs.

Lenny’s var­ied skill sets and adapt­abil­ity serves him well at ABC. He still does do a fair bit of driv­ing but is cur­rently as­sist­ing the team in re­build­ing and re­ju­ve­nat­ing an­other of Ru­pen’s ‘right place, right time’ pur­chases – a 2007 388 tri-axle Peter­bilt.

Yes, the Pete will be a work­ing truck when needed, but was orig­i­nally bought sim­ply due to Ru­pen’s love of trucks. Its iconic paint job will stay and the truck is des­tined to be­come one of his spe­cial rigs.

“He’s a per­son who takes a lot of pride in his fleet,” Rav in­forms me. “Most of the fleet is uni­form; then we have a cou­ple of spe­cial ones.”

An­other of those spe­cial rigs is the one that Rav ad­mits is his dad’s favourite, a 1979 W-Model Ken­worth. “He’ll never get rid of that one,” Rav says. “He loves that truck.”

It’s fit­ting that in a fleet of over 50 ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing jaw-drop­ping T904 tow truck, Ru­pen’s favourite is a 1979 clas­sic. The W-model Ken­worth dis­plays all of the traits that has made the Singhs so suc­cess­ful. Rav says it’s up for the chal­lenge, it’s ver­sa­tile enough to do any­thing and it’s can han­dle hard work.

Yes, the trans­port in­dus­try is a tough arena, but Ru­pen and the team at ABC Tow­ing have shown that the re­wards are there if you’re will­ing to put in the hard yards.

Above: With 750hp com­ing from the ACERT en­gine, ABC’s Ken­worth T904 is ca­pa­ble of tow­ing ev­ery­thing from pud­dle jumpers to triple road trains

Above: Part of the team: Rav Singh and Lenny Turner

Be­low: Even run­ning out west, the ABC fleet looks stun­ning. One of their re­cent Western Star loaded up with con­tain­ers. Photo by Lenny Turner

Above: Ru­pen’s 2007 388 Peter­bilt doesn’t just look the part, it packs a punch with is 650hp C15 Cat

This pic: One of the ABC stars show­ing the di­ver­sity of the loads you see be­hind their rigs. Photo by Lenny Turner

Top: The pride and joy of Ru­pen’s fleet: A 1979 W-Model Ken­worth. It’s been said the 500hp 8V92T was orig­i­nally built by Frank Gaffiero, driver of the Bandag Bul­let

Above: In-house main­te­nance and ser­vic­ing as well as re­pairs is taken care of in ABCs fully equipped work­shop

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