Kevin Bakewell likes to keep the Bakewell Haulage trucks in the best condition and running under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme, keeping the fleet right, out of the operation’s depot in Wingham, near Taree in NSW.
All of the maintenance work is done by an outside contractor, which Kevin reckons is better than having a mechanic employed by the business.
According to Kevin, an employed mechanic working inside the business can often have a boss looking over their shoulder, but a business owner running a workshop has a reputation and a set of standards to maintain in order to develop their business.
The fleet does not have any B-double sets, and all of the trailers are 48 feet long, except for the refrigerated ones. These are 45-foot trailers. The choice to continue with single trailers and not go down the multi combination route is one of time. Kevin finds that a drama can manage to go to Sydney load in and load a single trailer and get back to base relatively easily. However, trying that with a B-double can be problematic as the time taken increases and the difficulty level introduces uncertainty into the working day.
“I’m not saying that I won’t go to B-double in the future,” says Kevin. “But, the model works at the moment. Drivers will do one drop and then one pick up, then go to warehouse in Sydney to top up before heading home. They can have their good days and they can have their bad days but they do get home.
“It has been testing through the Covid period, because of isolation, drivers not being able to help forklift drivers. They have to stand out of the way, so the forklift driver has to get off the truck to sort out problems, rather than having the driver stand there and help them.”
All of the trailers in the fleet are from Freighter. Kevin hasn’t changed the specifications on them since 2007. They all have gates fitted, but also use no restraint curtains. All of the freight is either on pallets or in packs, and the trailers are designed to suit the operation. Mezzanine floors are used for distribution contracts like the one for Bunnings.
“The lead time to get trailers and trucks can be a problem,” says Kevin. “I make sure I always order anything at least six months in advance to ensure they arrive on time. I do know when I’m going to get busy, so I try to make sure we are prepared. They still ask me why I get load restraint curtains and gates, but we cart kegs, and they are round, we need gates.”
The operation is in the process of getting approval to run longer, at 20m length. The productivity gain will come from extra cubic space for the high volume loads. The extra length equates to three extra trailer loads a week for the operation, with the same amount of equipment.
Most of the prime movers in the fleet North American. There are Kenworths as well as Freightliners, but there are also four DAF trucks in the fleet. The smaller trucks are mainly Hino, with one Isuzu in the mix. The engine of choice is a Cummins X15 at 525hp for Kevin, based on a long relationship with the Cummins Newcastle branch.
With all of the semis running right on 19m, the cabin choice can be tricky. Kevin tells us that the T610 cabin is actually shorter than on his older T409 trucks, due to the engine reconfiguration. This means a 32inch mattress fits in the sleeper on the T610.
“The Kenworth T610 attracts a good driver,” says Kevin. “Drivers like them, good drivability, good to live in an out of, it’s a simple as that.”
Having reached a position where the companies well-established and has got a strong group of good reliable customers, Kevin says that he can now be a little more fussy about customers. He will only take on new work if he feels secure that he will be able to do the job properly at the correct rate.
“Our eldest son is back in the business now, so we are willing to look at growth,” says Kevin.” I will always throw an iron in the fire, and see if anything comes out. However, I am careful about what I take on. We can look at growth because we have that succession plan in place now.
“We try and keep our purchasing down to two trucks a year, that means we fully own two trucks every year as well. It has been steady growth, growing with the area.”