Running a Tight Ship

running a tight ship

Brisbane based container carrying company DNV Transport manages a fleet of 14 trucks and PowerTorque’s Paul Matthei met a hard working couple, who are running a tight ship, with a fleet including one of a limited edition of 100 units built in Australia to celebrate Mack’s 100th anniversary.

Having started with one Kenworth cab-over around 10 years ago, David and Virginia Carswell, owners of DNV Transport, have relentlessly pursued their dream of building a successful container carrying and logistics business. 

As with most transport businesses, their road to their current situation has been long and winding, with many obstacles along the way that have been successfully negotiated to enable the goal to be achieved. 

Quite often, those that start from scratch begin with a single truck and slowly build their fleet in sync with an increasing workload, which, in turn, comes from a hard-won reputation for providing consistently high levels of customer service. 

This archetype describes DNV Transport to a ‘T’, with the company having started with David driving the truck during the day and helping with the administration work at night.

running a tight ship

“We started out contracted to just one small company and then that grew to three or four small family businesses, sharing myself around,” says David. “This worked well because they were not all busy at the same time so when one was quiet, another would have work for me.”

David wasn’t a full-time driver before he and Virginia started DNV Transport. He had considerable prior experience in operations management and had decided to get his truck driver’s and Dangerous Goods licences when working for a fuel company so that he could learn all the ins and outs of the business including loading fuel at the fuel terminals. 

“Starting our own business really was a natural progression for David from what he used to do,” says Virginia. 

Today the number of trucks in the DNV fleet stands at 14, comprising a mix of Kenworth cab-over and T409SAR conventionals as well as Mack Granite and Trident variants.

Rewinding to when they first started the business, David says the Kenworth trucks they bought initially were second- hand units because that was what they could afford at the time. 

running a tight ship

“We started off buying $100,000 cab-over Kenworths and gradually worked our way up through $130,000 units until we had five of them. Then about five years ago we purchased our first brand new truck,” says David. “This was a Kenworth T409SAR with a Paccar MX engine and we ended up buying another three identical units over the next few years.”

Today, the number of Kenworth cab-overs in the fleet sits at three, with one of these due to be traded on a new T410SAR around the middle of this year. 

Touching again on the subject of parts commonality, David says it was important that the T410SAR runs the same MX engine as the T409SAR. He says once the last Kenworth cab-over is sold in the next few years there will be no more Cummins engines in the DNV Transport fleet.  

As the topic turns to business growth, both David and Virginia agree the current business size is about right and that they will now focus on streamlining to improve efficiencies.

“We are where we need to be and now it’s a matter of honing and fine-tuning what we’ve got to do to improve productivity,” says Virginia, adding that COVID-19 has had no detrimental effect on the business whatsoever, in fact completely the opposite.

“Coming up to Christmas last year our workload went crazy because all the container ships that were held back earlier in the year, some spent several weeks waiting in Singapore, came in and had to be unloaded,” says David. “Some of our customers who normally get one container every three months were getting two turning up at once, and they don’t have the room to unload two at once, we were getting smashed.”

running a tight ship