The backbone of the trucking industry was formed by the many major regional operators, which were founded from the fifties through to the seventies, for many of those businesses it’s sixty years and counting. They built their brand and their fleets when the going was tough but the rewards were good enough to invest in growth.
Anyone on the roads of Western Australia will be familiar with the Catalano’s brand name – yellow trucks with B&J Catalano in cursive script along the side of each trailer, plying their trade around the state.
The B and the J denote the founders of the operation, Bill and Joe Catalano. They started the business in 1962 in Brunswick, a small settlement – about a 90-minute drive south of Perth near the coastal town of Bunbury.
PowerTorque spoke to founder Joe’s son, Clem, who along with his cousin, Stephen, now run the company, with founder Bill still in place as Managing Director. This is a strong family focused business which has grown from a small local country trucking operator to an operation working in many areas of the state with tippers, tankers and a large fleet of equipment involved in many major transport and earthmoving projects for governments, mining operators and others.
In the beginning the two brothers were carting gravel, hauling milk to the dairies and clearing land. They would put their hand to anything they could.
“They just started around here and got into it and that just built and built and got bigger and bigger,” says Clem. “From just themselves to the 400-plus people that it is today.”
In the current operation there’s three parts to the business. There’s the mining and civil fleet, which includes scrapers, dump trucks, excavators and dump trucks. The dump trucks go up to the 100-tonne mark and then there’s 120-tonne excavators through to D 11 dozers, down to D 6 bulldozers. The construction of tailings dams is one of the operation’s specialities but there are a wide variety of projects being managed all across WA by Catalano’s.
“My uncle and my father started the B&J company, and at the moment, my uncle is still in the company,” says Clem. “He’s 88, and fully hands on. It’s unbelievable. He’s happy, he does his own thing. There’s my cousin Stephen, and myself, we’re all hands on. We don’t sit in offices, we like to get out and get behind the wheel and go and do a job.”
The operation also has a large materials and crushing division which works with a number of resources from the north of Perth, as far down as Walpole on the south coast of WA. These quarries supply road base materials for an increasing variety of projects, too. The company also supplies other quarry products and blue metals as well, including limestone and sand. Catalano’s will handle everything from screening to crushing and also employs mobile crushers that shift from pit to pit.
On top of, and allied with, these two parts of the business is the transport operation. This fleet mainly shifts Catalano’s own products. There’s a tanker division, too, which handles hydrochloric acid, caustic soda and liquid lime. Most of the transport fleet works out of the Brunswick headquarters, but there is also a depot in the Perth metropolitan area at Hazelmere.
There’s also the heavy haulage division with a wide range of floats which are predominantly tasked with moving Catalano’s own gear. They will do a little bit of outside work as well for some of their local customers.
With all of these different arms to the operation, this is a big transport fleet, supporting a substantial business.