For Brooks Trucking & Storage, long lasting relationships develop from excellent customer service – words and images by Dave Whyte.
There is a lot of doom and gloom around the transport industry at the moment, with the ongoing issues like freight rates and driver shortages being joined by the uncertainty surrounding the RSRT. In this environment, it is refreshing to come across a company that is investing in the future, and looking for smarter ways to do business in order to remain competitive. One such company is Brooks Trucking and Storage, a small family run company based in Corowa, New South Wales.
Brooks Trucking and Storage operates a fleet of seven trucks, mostly concentrated on servicing agricultural customers in Victoria and southern New South Wales.
The company’s four and a half acre depot in Corowa provides a central location to service these areas, with plenty of undercover hay storage, a workshop and driver’s facilities on site. It also has storage facilities in Oaklands and Wangamong, with all three sites being accessible rain, hail or shine. This was particularly important after the recent rains in area, and as Ted Brooks pointed out, “We were moving three or four hundred bales a day over this last week or so, because no-one else could access their hay. That’s the beauty of this place (Corowa depot), we’ve got 24 hours/7 days a week access,” he said.
Helping move all this hay was the latest addition to the Brooks fleet, a Kenworth T909 towing a flat top B-double combination built by Pumpa Engineering in Swan Hill.
The new combination has been built primarily for carting hay, and specifically to fit behind the T909, with a shorter B-trailer to fit within the 26 m length limit. Brooks was looking for extra productivity with the new trailers so did away with the gooseneck on the B-trailer. This keeps the deck height down to just one metre from the A-trailer gooseneck right through to the back of the B-trailer, allowing for 61 large (8’x4’x3’) bales to be loaded without going over-height. This equates to four extra bales over the standard ‘double drop’ B-double combination.
The low floor height was achieved by fitting 19.5”wheels and tyres and a low profile turntable at the rear of the A-trailer, and by getting the skid plate on the B-trailer as low as possible. This meant removing the tie-down rail from beneath the combing-rail, and relocating it to the underside of the trailer to avoid having it hit the mudguards below. Given that ratchet straps are the primary method of load restraint, this creates no issues when tying down the load, but buys around 70 mm reduction in deck height. The air and light lead (suzi coils) connections are positioned on the rear of the A-trailer and between the landing gear on the B-trailer, meaning the deck plate between the two trailers is clear of obstructions. This allows for a close fit between the trailers, maximising the available length and keeping the leads out of harm’s way.
Also helping in the productivity stakes is the low 13 t tare weight of the trailer combination. Even with the weight of the prime mover included, the whole combination comes in at just a little under 23 t, allowing a legal payload of over 40 t under mass management.
As Ted Brooks put it, “The bales are just going to get heavier and heavier. It won’t be long before we’re carting 700 kg bales, so if you put 61 of them on, you’re over 42 t payload. With these trailers, we can keep our 909s and still get a good load on them”, he said.
Ted’s son Marshal, who tows the new trailers, pointed out that there are also benefits for the loader operator, saying that the low deck height makes for easy vision from the loader. The smooth floor also aids in loading, as the bales will slide across the floor or spin around easily if required. Container pins are also fitted to both trailers, with each trailer able to carry one 20’ container.
A second combination has now been ordered, with the only difference being that the B-trailer will be fitted with a full set of container pins, allowing for a 40’ container to be carried. Ted explained the importance of the container pins, saying “Eventually, down the track, we’d like to be able put hay, or even grain, into containers. So if we’ve got these things already set up, it’s going to make them a lot more versatile and make our business a little more diverse”.
In buying these trailers, Brooks has been dealing directly with the manufacturer to get the right result. As Marshal Brooks explained, “Everyone else we’ve dealt with has only sold the product, like Hartwig’s and SX, so you’re never really talking to the factory. I thought that’s what we had to do, cut that middle man out and deal with the factory.” Given that they’ve got a second set on order, the experience must have been a good one.
Pumpa Engineering has been operating from Swan Hill, northern Victoria, for many years, but a recent change of ownership has brought new life to the company. As Jason King from Pumpa said, “We are looking to diversify a bit more. We can build to meet the ever changing truck dimensions or PBS requirements. This type of combination has been around for a while now, but it is a good thing for the hay industry, and a popular combination”.
History has also taught the Brooks’ the value of product support after the initial purchase. “One distributor for another brand only wanted to sell us the trailers. There was no real backup or support from them, which was disappointing” Ted said. “If you’re not going to give us service, we’ll go looking elsewhere. But if you stick with us, we’ll be a loyal customer”.
On the topic of service and support, Marshal was full of praise for the team at Twin City Trucks in Wodonga. “Buying trucks is easy” he said. “If I ring Justin Brooks (Kenworth salesman at Twin City Trucks, recently awarded Kenworth Salesman of the Year, and no relation) and tell him I want a truck, he knows what I want”. As far as parts and support go, he says “They pretty much have a spare truck there, even parts that you don’t think they’d have”.
Servicing on trucks and trailers is done in house, with Josh from Oakey Mobile Mechanics taking care of the regular servicing.
“He’s really good. He’s got folders in there on every truck, as well as the loaders,” said Ted. “We also use Corowa Truck and Trailer for roadworthy certificates and stuff like that. We try to be self-sufficient really”. While the trucks are based at various locations, they all return to the depot for maintenance, with Ted saying that the drivers are a vital part of the process. “They keep an eye on their trucks, and they know when a service is coming up, or it’s due. We don’t seem to have too many hiccups,” he said.
With seven trucks on the go, I asked the Brooks’ if they had any trouble finding drivers. “No, that’s why we buy Kenworths, and have the big 904s and 909s,” said Marshal. “We’ve also got the old cab-over that we try to put a new ‘learner’ in every second or third year, and get them all their licences and stuff”.
As Ted explained, “We’d prefer to have someone coming through that’s young, and teach them rather than have them bringing problems with them” he said.
“We’ve had some good ones, including one bloke who went out and bought his own truck, and we encourage that” he said. “We treat all our drivers as family. We’re not that big that we don’t not know anyone that’s working for us, and I think that’s an advantage”.
Being a family-run business, the Brooks’ appreciate the importance of getting their drivers home. “We get them home. They’ve got to be home, I don’t care what anyone says,” Ted said. “I think that’s another reason why the drivers hang around, they’re home with their families. They’re probably only away a couple of nights a week”. For those nights they are away, all the bonnetted trucks are fitted with 50” bunks and Icepack air-conditioning units to ensure they are comfortable.
The success of Brooks Trucking and Storage hasn’t happened by accident. By thinking ahead, being proactive with equipment specification and looking after those who work for them, the Brooks’ have proven that a family run business can survive and prosper in the tough world of transport. Having spent some time talking with the Brooks family it was easy to see how they have built a good business, with their attitude towards employees and customers setting a great example of how our industry should operate.