ALRTA, Industry Issues

Running a Fleet of Company Trucks and Subcontractors

Running a Fleet of Company Trucks and Subcontractors

Amy Throckmorton who works as an Operations Manager for TGR Transport in Geelong, running a fleet of company trucks and subcontractors hauling various loads around the country, and is the winner of the Rural Transport Rising Star award for 2023.

Amy actually works from home and she became the operations manager after her boss, Tom, who used to run the business by himself, approached Amy to take on the task. He is still strongly involved in the business, which also has a sales manager and one of the drivers acts as as a point of contact for a lot of subcontractors, as well.

“We’ll be the phone to each other all day, but I work from home, and it’s fantastic,” says Amy. “We’re building a new depot, so once that goes in, I’ll do a few days in the office every week. It’s great compared to the jobs I did previously, like working as a service manager. It’s a whole different world.

“I’ve been in the job just over six months, he used to be customer of mine, for the last year five years, when I was at the Kenworth dealership. I started off there as a service advisor and moved into service administration to supervise running the office, when they first created the role. That was crazy, I could be there from five o’clock in the morning to eight o’clock at night.

“I was lucky I had a pretty good team at the time and we had a really good workshop team. We needed to progress and they put two management positions in place and it was a really good move, but a very different environment.

“I started off working at Wettenhalls, years ago, that was probably my first real dip into the industry. That was in Geelong and they were a big company. When I first went into there, I was processing worksheets, and then moved into the workshop doing the administration stuff.

“Then the workshop manager left suddenly, and I was basically asked, can you run it? So I ran the workshop and that had its own set of challenges. I was only about 22 or 23 at the time, I was lucky my dad had trucks and I had a clue about what was going on.”

This was just the beginning of set of challenges for Amy. The fleet manager had a disaster in his family was suddenly out of the picture and Amy had been working closely with him. So she then took on fleet management work as well. It was a period Amy describes as when she would ‘run around like crazy person’.

“I used to live there, Wettenhalls was life,” says Amy. “But I wouldn’t have learnt any other way. I’m still friends with those guys now, but getting past that initial barrier was a very big challenge, but I loved it. That was the first real high pressure, constantly on the go scenario that I’d had.

“I was at McColls for a while, handling milk cartage, and that roster is the craziest thing I’ve ever been on. It used to chop and change all the time as soon as it went dark. It was all around midnight to 3am because that industry just doesn’t stop.”

Managing Change

Amy was nominated for the RTRS award by her current boss Tom Allan from TGR Transport and is a member of the Livestock and Rural Transporters of Victoria. He is involved in the business community in Geelong and Amy talks about his aim to try and reduce the stigma around the trucking industry.

One of the issues Amy is currently dealing with is around changes which GrainCorp have made to the way they interact with transport companies. It’s upended everything the TGR business does and arrived with very little consultation. The TGR relationship with its network meant they were more able to handle it than others.

“We coped well with the changes because we’re on board with the technology as well,” says Amy “For me to be able to sit there and really work out what they’ve changed, how it changed, what affected us, how to deal with it.

“They allocate part of our loads, we book the rest of them, or anyone who we’re carting for. All the permits and all the paperwork changed, so their computers began averaging out what our trucks are carting, so when you went to book, all of a sudden, you needed extra tonnes because we used to book at 44 tonnes, all of a sudden, the new 44 was 44.3.

“All the permits, everything has to be uploaded to GrainCorp, they need all your permit numbers. It asks us to input permit numbers and all these sorts of things. So it completely changed everything, overnight, and it’ was a really big couple of weeks just sorting it out.”

In bringing in a system to protect the grain company from chain of responsibility liability it has pushed the responsibility fro proving compliance onto the operators with little real notice.

GrainCorp are responsible for whatever they load a truck with. They are now demanding visibility as to the PBS permits for the trucks involved and their access permits. Operators have to demonstrate that they have the permits for that route that GrainCorp have allocated the load for.

“I have about eight interactive maps bookmarked on my computer, because states like New South Wales have three different sets of maps,” says Amy. “We’ve only got two A-doubles, which we run as a company, so we’ll pick and choose where our boys go, depending on what loads we’ve got that week, because we know we can 100 per cent get there.

“We’ve got one subcontractor with an A-double and because we’ve got them, we know where he can and can’t go and can manage his workload. We will allocate loads to him based on what we know. It will get more complicated as more of the subbies start to get onto the A-doubles.

“It’s nothing for one of our permits to sit in the Victorian system for a long time, we’ve got a few in there now at 230 plus days or 300 days. The other week we had a great day, we got like 10 or 15 approvals in one day, we were very excited.”

 

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