The Trucking Industry – How it’s traveling and how it works

Excerpt From NIKO PRESENTS THE ROADMINDERS - With Tranzworks Managing Director Chris Smith

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Chris Smith from Tranzworks: My mornings, Nick either is generally something that you’ve got to get involved in because it’s unplanned leave or trucks not turning up or issues of some description.

Nick: Oh, geez. That’d be nasty when trucks don’t turn up.

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: Yeah, especially for your customers. But all in all, we’ve always got a backup, so that goes like that.

Nick: Yeah. So, how’s the business going, Chris?

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: We’ve been one of the fortunate ones Nick. We’ve had it fairly steadily all the way through; our office has been open, being in a central service provider, so we’ve been able to work from the office. Everybody’s been able to have certainty of work, I suppose. We’ve got a good mix of clients and they’ve been providing services all the way through, which has kept us busy as a result.

Nick: Yeah. Well, that’s brilliant. I drive trucks as well. Don’t know if I ever told you.

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: You did.

Nick: I’ve got a heavy vehicle license. I didn’t drive trucks for FedEx, but I did courier work for FedEx for a while, and that was interesting.

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: Yes. Well, we do courier work for a number of customers, similar to FedEx, not FedEx, but others, you know same sort of thing. And with the COVID and just online shopping, just growing every year–

Nick: Oh yeah. Tell me about it.

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: They can’t get enough vans at the moment; it’s just out of control.

Nick: How many trucks?

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: About 160. Any given week we’d have 160. In the busy times close to 200, and when it’s after Christmas because it’s subcontracted Nick, we recruit as we need more. And then after in the quite times, probably more drop to about 130, 140.

Nick: All trucks, Chris, or–?

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: Some vans. The mix would be 40% vans and small trucks running up to maybe four ton, and the balance are big trucks; 10 and 12, 14 pallet type rigid vehicles and 20-yard semi-trailers and a number of smaller doubles. And we’ve got some prime trucks as well for the building industry, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag of vehicles.

Nick: Well, that’s a good thing because I mean, you do need a mixed bag just to keep the business running.

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: Exactly.

Nick: Yeah, look, the transfer business is a funny business. I mean, when I drive trucks, I drive it with my brother because he still does it; that’s his main form of living. But honestly, I’m terrified of driving trucks now. I was scared, stiff, and I just got out of it because it’s just what was happening on the road with cars, just pulling out in front of you. You don’t own what they’re going to do, and they don’t realize you’re driving this massive big vehicle, and if they get in your way, you’ve got no time to stop. You can’t stop like a car, you know?

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: Yeah, that’s right. If they hit the brakes too hard, they’re likely to jackknife and backend a number of vehicles. Yeah, the worst thing that we see in the industry is, drivers driving to the road conditions; then having cars jumping in front of them because there’s a bit of space there, which takes away their breaking line. So, it’s all of a sudden, it could cause a fairly serious accident.Chris Smith from Tranzworks: 

That's Why We Created The RoadMinders

Nick: Yeah. Look, I mean, the road minder was designed to sort of look at what happens out on the road and it sort of reflection on what happens in society in some ways. I remember seeing a big double-semi or was it? No, it wasn’t double-semi. It was a big semi, racing Passes hitting up to Bright. And we thought this because mad, crazy; what’s he doing? He’s just driving too fast. Five Ks down the road we saw him flipped over, completely flipped over in the middle of the road.

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: Yeah.

Nick: Pupil, it doesn’t matter whether they’re driving a truck or a car or whatever they driving; they just go be a little bit more responsible

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: They do. There are a lot of truck drivers out there, Nick, that shouldn’t be on the road.

Nick: Yeah, we know that.

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: So, if I have to make deadlines, and those types of deadlines, aren’t anywhere near as strict as what they used to be. But even still, you know, if they’re like to get a way and they still have to get to their time slot. And there’s some guys that won’t break the rules, whatever the time slot is, but there’s some that will because I don’t know what the pressures are they’re under. But yeah, it can create some dangerous situations on the road; no doubt.

Nick: How does it deal with your drivers, how you go with your drivers like that, so–?

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: Well, we just make it very clear that safety is number one. We want all of our drivers get home at night to their families.

Nick: Of course, definitely.

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: And if a driver feels as though he’s being put under pressure by one of their customers to get to the destination by a certain time and it’s not feasible, they’ve got to call us and we’ll talk to the customer while the truck’s in transit. We’ll try and make other arrangements or we’ll send the load back because we can’t get to the delivery point on time in normal driving conditions.

Nick: What do you mean by normal driving conditions here?

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: If he’s got 50 minutes to get from Frankston to Tullamarine; it’s not going to happen.

Nick: Yeah, definitely.

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: So, regardless of what the road conditions are, so they have to be– and look, to be quite honest, the customers understand that. We’ve all been through the times when they push the drivers to get there, no matter what; those days you can’t do that. You’ve got compliance issues all over the place, which has been a great thing for the transport ministry.

Nick: I’m sure you’re thinking, you know, how am I going to do this better? How am I going to prove it? Why do people want to come to my company for, you know?

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: Nick, we have meetings every week at where we just look at jobs that we’ve perhaps could have done better, and then what we learned from those jobs and how we would do it in the future. And just to continue toolbox meetings with that team, and key drivers and customers, just to get a sense of how we’re performing for them and where we can improve. Last week we ran a survey with the top 20 clients, and in general, the comments were really positive, but there are some areas that we can improve on. So, you know, we’re working on that and we tack that on board.

Nick: And you’ve got a lot of different drivers from all nationalities as well, too; don’t you?

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: they’re fantastic. They’re willing–

Nick: Yeah, they’re willing people. They’re hard workers as well.

Chris Smith from Tranzworks: They are hard workers, and they really do get the job done. And we’ve got, look; probably every other nationality sprinkled amongst that fleet, but the majority of that fleet would be Indian descent, yeah.

Nick: You know what I’ve found even as a driving instructor because I’ve taught a lot of people from a lot of different nationalities, obviously. When they come to Australia from say like a country like India, could be Mexico, could be anywhere. 

The hardest thing I think they find is assimilating with the way we do things because then they were driving a totally different way in their country. But, they’ve got to change here, and they’ve got to understand that people think that this is the way we drive here; this is the culture of our road, so they’ve got to assimilate to that. Sometimes I don’t straight away, but one of the things, like even when they’re trying to change their license from their overseas license to an Australian license, I’ve got to basically break all their–

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