The presentation of the Personality of the Year Award at the 2020 Australian Freight Industry Awards saw a big personality awarded for all of the achievements of a long career in the transport industry. The AFIA event was a 90-minute virtual awards presentation broadcast from The Pullman hotel in Melbourne.
The Personality gong went to Peter Smith, founder of SCT Logistics and a strong presence in the transport industry since he founded SCT back in 1974. It would have been a shame that the ceremony was limited in numbers, as Peter has plenty of war stories to tell.
In an interview over ten years ago, that this writer did with Peter, his strength of character and personality shone through.
In a world where control of the railways has become concentrated in a few hands and every city is trying to develop an Intermodal system, SCT created their own path to success on the back of fully loaded louver vans criss-crossing the country supported by an on road distribution network.
Strangely, for a man who is now so closely linked with rail, Peter began his working life on the road.
“I started driving trucks when I was eighteen years of age and I drove interstate for eight or nine years,” said Peter in the interview in 2007.
With Peter Gunn he developed the Cubico operation which, was later sold to Mayne Nickless, eventually coming under the Linfox umbrella in 2002.
He turned to examining the possibilities of rail after first running containers in and out of Tasmania. The world of rail freight looked rather different then than it does today.
The SCT Operation was pulling in freight to fill louver vans from Melbourne to Perth. SCT were competing with the likes of TNT, Railex, Mayne Nickless plus another five or six private operators in a very diverse industry.
After years of steady growth in the business the atmosphere in the industry changed dramatically in 1994.
“We decided, maybe, there was an opportunity to provide our own train service going across to Perth, much to the disbelief of everybody especially National Rail who thought it was impossible to do,” said Peter.
After long and hard negotiations the first train at 600 metres long and pulled by Victorian Railways left Melbourne for Perth under SCT colours on July 13 1995.
“For us it grew very quickly,” said Peter. “We took a lot of business because we cut the freight rates by at least thirty percent across the board in the first year.”
“Are we in competition? You betcha we are! We’ve been maintaining that rating structure and keeping them honest for the last ten years,” said Peter.
Peter remained cynical about all of the talking up of rail development over the years, “I remember going to a meeting in Sydney put together by John Anderson who was Minister at the time. People like Paul Little, Bob Shreuber from Queensland Rail, Chris Corrigan and three or four other players in the industry were all there.
“I had my general manager with me at the time and he got a little enthusiastic about this meeting how they were saying this and that was going to happen. I walked out of the meeting and he said, ‘I can’t wait to get into it!’.
“I said we should go and buy twenty Kenworths because it’s not going to happen.”
He was also right in other predictions for the future. Back in 2007 he said, “I believe that in ten years time we will still be running up the same railway track between Melbourne and Brisbane. With a couple of terminals chucked in by people like SCT trying to make the thing work without us making the major investments required to really make it work.”
- Debra O’Donnell, Precise Pallet Management, Female Leadership Award – sponsored by Viva Energy Australia;
- Annastasia Denigan, Cement Australia, Young Achiever of the Year Award – sponsored by Daimler;
- Alex Fraser Group, Sustainable Environment Award – sponsored by National Transport Insurance;
- JOST Australia, Application of Technology Award – sponsored by Transport Certification Australia;
- Delta Group, Best Practice Safety Award – sponsored by Gallagher; and
- Nationwide Group, Investment in People Award – sponsored by Logical Staffing Solutions.