Bendigo serves as a freight hub for more far flung towns like Swan Hill, Castlemaine, Kyneton, Rochester and Echuca and all the areas in between. The freight coming into Bendigo, for distribution in the city and further afield is many and varied, as is the freight coming in from those areas for onward shipment into the capital city.
One operation over two hours north of Melbourne is based on a small industrial estate on the edge of Bendigo. Damian and Emma Power run Power’s Country Express. It is a strong local business covering Bendigo and Central Victoria, offering a specialised service across a broad range freight.
“Our work has evolved over the years and there are some parts of Bendigo which we covered with a small van,” says Damien. “Now we may need one or two trucks to cover the same area. We are growing with customers, so the more freight we handle competently, the more freight they can be confident in sending with us.
“We have an attention to detail, if we need to fix something we just fix it. Sometimes there is a cost with that, but it is something that we pride ourselves in. That’s probably why we have so many long-term customers. When they send stuff with us they know it’s going to be right.
“We are lucky, we have a really good bunch of staff who had been here a long time and do a great job. They are all multi-skilled, so that, if you have someone who is away, someone else can step in and it is like nothing has changed. I don’t tear my hair out as much any more, not like I did in the early days.”
Eighteen hour days were the norm for Damien and Emma at the beginning, running from Bendigo to Swan Hill every night. This first run was followed a few months later with a nightly run to Melbourne for another customer. Like many people when they first start a business, sleep becomes a precious commodity as the business builds.
The operation runs two B-doubles, which handle two trips each to Melbourne and back or maybe three if the business is really busy. The base the operation uses in Melbourne is shared with a couple of other country carriers from elsewhere in Victoria.
Some of the customers in Melbourne are large enough for the trucks to load at their premises while others are consolidated in the Melbourne depot. As a a freight hub for more far flung towns, some of the Power’s clients will deliver their products directly into the depot in Bendigo.
Improved Freight Hub Efficiency
“We have just taken delivery of 30 brand-new scanners to help,” says Damien. “Up until now all of the freight which was not on the Toll Ipec system was paper-based, but that is changing now. The new system we are using has a portal where customers can enter all of the information at night and we can deliver it the next day using the handheld devices to sign for the goods.
“Some of our large customers are still happy to work on paper, but we made the decision that we wanted to move with the times. It will give us a lot more visibility about what is going on. We need to be ahead of the curve, to be ready for what may come along in the future. If we can see where things are and if we have a problem, we can fix it earlier.
“The team are pretty good at the moment and we are not getting many mistakes on the floor, but if the system gives us this that extra 10 or 15 per cent, it’s worth it.”
Power’s have fitted some GPS tracking in a couple of their trucks, but that it’s probably as far as it will go. This is because the new scanners which will be used by all of the drivers actually have a location based GPS system within them. This will be sufficient to ensure that the operations team know exactly where each truck and driver is.
The new system will offer instant visibility to the company’s customers, they will know immediately when freight has been delivered and where, as the POD and delivery location will be forwarded at the same time. Customers will also be able to check in on and track their freight as it comes through the Power’s system.