One of the distinct characteristics of owner-drivers and small fleet operators is their ability adapt to a tricky load to handle and secure. They are inventive in responding swiftly to changing conditions, be they market or equipment-based changes, and modify their operations accordingly.
Based at Benalla in North-Eastern Victoria, Jamesy’s Transport is a two-truck operation that carts pine posts and concrete feeding troughs for farmers and rural supply stores, a tricky load to handle and secure. Paul Matthei caught up with company owner Andrew James who runs a tight ship, utilising the best in equipment to ensure the operation is as safe and efficient as possible.
Unlike larger companies, which can, to a certain extent, ‘carry’ an underperforming area of the business temporarily, small fleets and one or two-truck operators need to be at the top of their game consistently. Their very survival depends upon it.
Andrew James is no stranger to operating trucks, having been an owner-driver for 30 years and also having founded a company called North East Tilt Tray Hire about 20 years ago. The business boomed for a good few years with a national plant equipment hire company providing the bulk of the work, but that all changed virtually overnight, forcing Andrew to seek out other opportunities.
“We were running floats and heavy-duty tilt trays and all was going swimmingly until our major client closed down its Benalla branch and moved everything to its Shepparton and Albury branches which were already covered for transport, leaving us high and dry,” says Andrew.
The change of business name to Jamesy’s Transport and purchase of a flat-top trailer saw Andrew venture into subcontracting work for some of the larger transport companies for a number of years until he found his current niche.
For the past five years he has been hauling the pine posts which today make up about 90 per cent of his work, with the remaining 10 per cent comprising the transport of concrete farm feed and water troughs that are manufactured at Kerang.
“Even if we only carted the posts we couldn’t use a conventional log trailer because the bolsters are far too high and too far apart for what we do,” explains Andrew. “So we engaged a local engineer who installed pockets for the bolsters in the coaming on the original flat-top at every cross member as a trial to see how it would work – and it has worked quite well.”
While Andrew’s original flat top trailer has done sterling service in the dual-purpose role, his dream was to acquire a new flat-top trailer with easily removeable bolsters and auto tensioning straps to make the job safer and easier. Swan Hill-based specialty trailer builder Pumpa Manufacturing has recently made that dream of Andrew’s come true.
“What Pumpa came up with was superior to the original trailer,” says Andrew. “They took the ideas I gave them and massaged them to come up with this solution that has truly exceeded my expectations.”