Starting your own business needs a serious amount of determination. Alison Treloar caught up with Andy and Olivia McMullin of Trucks on the Run to see at first-hand how their Toowoomba-based business was growing
Starting as a diesel mechanic apprentice at the tender age of 15, Andy McMullin couldn’t have imagined where his interest in the transport industry would take him. But inspired by that passion, and with a healthy dose of hard work and determination, today he and wife Olivia are the proud owners of Trucks on the Run, a Toowoomba-based business that offers 24/7 mobile and onsite truck and trailer maintenance and repairs.
It hasn’t been an easy road, his youth working against him when it came to getting a job after he left school. But his determination came to the fore and Brisbane City Council took a chance on the teenager, offering him an apprenticeship within the council’s bus division.
“They were the only ones that would take me so young, and while I knew I wouldn’t have a job with them when I was done, all I wanted was my trade ticket,” recalls Andy, who goes on to admit it wasn’t a bad place to start. “I got to learn about the whole bus, so it was really good. Back then we got to learn everything about the machines.”
Once he had his ticket, there was no stopping him and he made his way to the Cummins branch in Darwin, before returning to Toowoomba two years later.
“I came back and worked for a great business and part of me didn’t want to leave, but another part of me wanted some career progression,” said Andy.
“I started to think about after-hours work and breakdowns and thought there could be a niche there. Everyone wanted to bring stuff back to the dealerships. But I liked servicing trucks in the field. So, I bought a ute, had my toolbox and just started selling my services. I started working one day a week, on Sundays, when no one else wanted to work.”
Identifying this gap in the market was an ideal solution for Andy, who was reluctant to leave Toowoomba at that time to find new opportunities, particularly as Olivia was pregnant with their second of three children. In terms of location for a fledgling business like Andy’s, Toowoomba was ideal, being a centre for many agricultural and industry sectors, and a key linking point for road trains.
“Within three-to-six months I had left my employer and was working seven days a week. Fast forward 10 years and we now have our own workshop, three full-time service trucks, three mechanics and three apprentices,” explained Andy, who still enjoys being hands-on in the business on top of his management responsibilities.
“Even though I’ve got my shed and I’m the boss, I still want to go out in the field. I don’t like to be in one place. I like the variety of jobs. We can be out as far as Roma or near Bundaberg. It’s a challenge when a truck breaks down. You go out flying blind and need to get it back on the road as quick as possible.”
Trucks on the Run today services an area from southern Queensland right up to Gayndah in the North Burnett area of Queensland, and the work is as varied as the locations. A job can include anything from machinery at crushing plants and onsite vehicles in Gayndah’s concrete industry, to the more conventional road transport work closer to home, particularly with the increase in heavy and super heavy vehicles now making use of the Toowoomba bypass.
A common factor across all these jobs though is the need to have them resolved as quickly and seamlessly as possible, with ready access to parts being vital to his business and the need for speedy solutions.
“Toowoomba is very diverse. From cattle, grain, oil, gas. You name it, it’s up here. Trailers are a large part of business given the town’s role in linking road trains, and we can also see some really old gear from farmers. Stuff from the 60s and 70s that they don’t want to get rid of. This can be a challenge, but we’ve overcome it by working closely with local businesses when it came to parts supply and getting the client back up and running without costly downtime,” Andy said.
“I’ve dealt with Truckline Truck and Trailer Parts in Toowoomba over the past 17 years and basically we do 90 percent of our trailer work with them. The local team have the experience and knowledge we need, and they supply everything from airbags to brake shoes and any parts needed to keep trucks and trailers on the road.
“The value of a knowledgeable parts interpreter who can identify the product needed in a phone call can’t be underestimated. And because they’re not stuck to one brand, they have a larger variety of products,” he added.
The diversity and varied locations keep work interesting for Andy and Olivia, which was exactly what Andy was wanting when he began. What started quite small, to where the McMullin’s stand today, can be attributed to their high standard of service, dedicated team and willingness to attend every phone call or request. This is something Andy prides himself on.
“We run a roster but I’m always the first point of call. It’s the only number anyone calls, and I always answer,” concluded Andy.