Jamie and Kelly Belfield run a tight ship servicing the needs of farmers in the Great Southern region of Western Australia and have found that having a personal touch with customers has helped develop a thriving business. They talk to Diesel News’ Paul Matthei.
“Knowing the farmers on a personal level, sometimes out of the blue they will ring me or text me and ask for a load of fertiliser and I can usually squeeze it in,” says Jamie. “We have a set number of farmers who we cart grain for and we usually deliver their fertiliser as well. Once they’ve worked out how much they need they ring or text me and I book it in and off we go.
“Most farmers are pretty good to work for, although over here in WA the farms are getting bigger. There are a lot more farms with 10,000 to 20,000 acres than there were 20 to 30 years ago.”
He says this is good in some ways but not so good in others, particularly due to the fact that some of these large-scale farmers decide to invest in their own trucks and thereafter don’t require his services as much anymore.
Jamie also says there are some big corporates who do similar work in WA but again, being small gives him the ability to duck and weave and pick up work that the bigger outfits don’t bother with.
“The big companies like the jobs where they can put 10 trucks on in one hit,” says Jamie. “They don’t seem so keen on the jobs where one farmer wants 300 tonnes of fertiliser and another wants 50 tonnes, which is good for us.”
Another aspect Jamie sees as vital to a successful business is fleet presentation.
“You need to have your gear presentable, it doesn’t matter whether it’s old or new,” says Jamie. “When you turn up and the farmer can see that you’ve painted all the wheels and everything looks pretty neat he’s more likely to think positively of his decision to engage you to cart his grain.”
Interestingly enough, Jamie owns two Kenworth T604s, one with a yellow engine and the other sporting a red power plant.
Jamie drives the ’07 model with the Generation II Cummins ISX that’s travelled one-million kilometres while Scotty drives the ’06 Cat-powered unit. While the ‘magic million’ kilometre mark is when many operators trade up to a new truck, Jamie has plans to fit a reconditioned engine and keep on truckin’ with the old girl.
“There are a lot of people around here who are keeping their old trucks and fixing them up because the new ones are just too expensive,” Jamie says. “I have a mate who worked for Cummins for seven years and he’s going to rebuild the engine so I can get another life out of it. I bought the truck second-hand in 2017 and I’ve only done a few things to it since then, so to do that many kilometres without having to spend much on it I reckon is pretty good.”
On the obvious question of which engine he prefers, Cat or Cummins, Jamie says he and his Dad have always been Cat men but this latest truck has left him rather impressed with the pre-EGR Gen II ISX.
“To be honest, I’m pretty happy with it,” he says. “It’s set at 580hp and pulls the pocket road train nicely and reliability-wise I really can’t fault it.”
While he loves his T604s and has had a great run from them, Jamie quietly concedes that they won’t go on forever. For this reason, he says a new Kenworth T610 SAR is on the wish list, and might just join the fold in the next couple of years.