Galvanising – why outsource when you can do it yourself? Words and images by Ed Higginson
When you run a successful manufacturing business, there are a lot of options for distributing your products out to market. Such as using a 3PL or full 4PL model, or simply booking a transport company to make the final shipment. But when you want to stay in control and interact directly with your customers, some choose to run their own warehouse and fleet of trucks.
This has been the method chosen by GB Galvanizing since its early beginnings in the ‘80s so it could offer superior customer service. It also helps when the owners are passionate about their vehicles, and it shows with a pristine fleet of trucks mainly bearing the Volvo brand name.
The business started in 1980, when the Gucciardo family consisting of four brothers and a sister started a steel fabrication business in Bayswater, in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. After a couple of years, the family decided to specialise and went into galvanising, a business that has subsequently grown progressively with a workforce of over 200 employees and 15 trucks working across three sites.
GB Galvanizing has been responsible for large projects such as the Sound Tube on the Tullamarine Freeway in Melbourne (the galvanised arch that lights up in multi colours) to everyday items such as highway barriers, fencing, car box trailers, plus more.
In the beginning, the family started with a small Hino tray truck, and then soon afterwards purchased a Hino prime mover rated at just 170 hp with a six-speed transmission. The work proved too much for it, so it was soon traded in for a bigger unit, this being a Volvo N10 purchased from CMV Springvale and a fresh-faced Rohan Cook back in 1985.
When speaking with Rohan, he still remembered the truck from years ago.
“Their early Australian-built N10 was a 1985 300 hp with a 16-speed gearbox. What a truck, and built here in Australia,” recalls Rohan.
“Volvo has a great history in Australia, and is linked to many great businesses like GB. It’s fantastic to have great working partners like Vince and Gian with links back to their first heavy truck they purchased. The steel galvanising products that GB Galvanizing transport across Australia are demanding loads as they are heavy and catch the wind with their odd shapes,” Rohan added.
In 2001, the next generation of the Gucciardo family, brothers Gian, Vince and Mick, along with cousins Frank and Marc, bought GB Galvanizing, at the same time also purchasing the neighbouring business of the Australian Galvanizing company.
As the five new owners had grown up together, living just one street apart and spending holidays helping out at the factories, they knew how to grow the business to where it is today, now having two of the most modern galvanising facilities in Australia.
Gian explains that, “The world is a different place now. As 12 and 13-year-olds we’d drive trucks around the yard and use the cranes to load up our trailers on the weekend. But we can’t do that today, so our young kids just aren’t interested anymore”.
As Mick held the passion for trucks, and particularly Volvos, he managed the fleet and specced the trucks until he unfortunately contracted leukaemia, passing away in 2004.
Gian recalls, “Mick always said that our vehicles had to be “cool”, so we made sure they stood out. We have always ordered the trucks with white chassis and guards along with plenty of chrome so we can easily see when they are dirty”.
“The Volvo bearing the rego MICK10 is our oldest truck, being the last truck that Mick ordered. It was delivered just three days before he passed away, so it’s a special truck, to which CMV added the rego MICK10 in his honour. It was a FM 9.0-litre rated at 380 hp with the I-Shift auto and a single drive on higher diff ratios for better fuel on the highway. It was specced well because Mick always wanted them to look cool”.
On the day of our interview, I took pictures inside the cab of MICK10, a 13-year-old truck with over 700,000 city kilometres, and also of the new MICK6, which is a brand new FM11 with just 16,000 km on the clock. Apart from the design, you would be hard pressed to spot the age difference. A testament to the driver who had it for the first 12 years of its life, and also of how the business looks after their trucks.
Over the company’s history, the family has tried various brands such as two Kenworth T400s with 300 hp Cummins running B-doubles, a K100, two Columbia’s from Freightliner, and also three Argosy models. Whilst also keeping an eye on other brands, the company has kept coming back to Volvos.
“Our brother Mick was a big fan of Rohan, and always stayed in touch even when buying other brands for specific tasks,” said Vince.
“From the N10, we had a FL10, then the original-styled FHs at 420, which we kept for eight years. We still see one of our early FHs running around Melbourne,” Vince added.
In the past year, the brothers have added another five new Volvos to the fleet, two FH540 6x4s rated for running B-doubles around Victoria and for runs to their Adelaide depot. These have the 13-litre, Euro 5 Volvo engine with 2600 Nm of torque running through the I-Shift 12-speed automatic transmission.
For the single trailers, three FM 11-litre units were purchased. One in 6×4 configuration rated at 410 hp with 1950 Nm of toque, and also two in 4×2 configuration rated at 370 hp with 1750 Nm. The single-drive units come with higher diff ratios of 3.44:1 as the business has found that these give better fuel economy for the weights that they run at along the highway.
“We now try to buy fit-for-purpose,” Gian explains.
“I was really surprised after jumping into the FM410 before Christmas. I hadn’t driven for over a year and wondered what the new FM would be like. Initially I thought it was a boring ride, but took Stud road that is stop/start and soon realised how awesome the new FMs are. I got every set of lights and watched how the engine worked through the gears staying in the torque range so you got up to the speed quickly without realising it. They are quiet and great around the city for long shifts”.
All of the new trucks now come with sleeper cabs for extra room for the drivers, I-Shifts and Bluetooth hands-free connections for the phones, which operate from the steering wheel for added safety, plus a few more options for them to stand out on the roads.
One of the biggest challenges they now have is the competition for drivers in the Eastern Melbourne area. With some big distribution centres opening, where drivers only need to hook up a trailer, it’s hard to compete when you carry loads that can be a challenge to secure down when they vary every trip. On the plus side is that the fleet of new trucks is specced to make the life of the driver as easy as possible.
The trailer fleet comprises predominantly of Vawdrey flat decks, but the company has trialled building its own, saving considerable money at the time.
“Mick was great at engineering, teaching himself AutoCAD in order to design our own B-double trailer for carting steel. Now with 28 trailers, we aim to bring 4 or 5 trailers in a year to refurbish them back to new,” said Vince.
GB Galvanizing have chosen full contract maintenance programmes on all its Volvo trucks, a decision reinforced by the close location to the dealership and for peace of mind when it comes to maintaining the fleet and organising maintenance records. For the trailers, they now rely on a mobile mechanic who regularly services them on site and attends to any repairs that are needed.
As well as the passion displayed by GB Galvanizing for its trucks, the company has also been a strong supporter of V8 racing over the past seven years, with its logo standing out on the Erebus V8 Holden last season. For the information of V8 race fans, the car had its best finish at Bathurst with a 4th position. And, of course, the company Volvo FH540 Globetrotter decked out in the GB Galvanizing branding played its own part in promoting both the sport and the company as it pulled the team trailers during the race season.