For Simpson’s Fuel Supplies, company growth results from always focusing on the needs of the customer. Words and images by Warren Caves
Born of humble beginnings in a small petrol station and mechanical-repair/panelbeating business, Simpson Fuel Supplies has found a comfortable niche within the fuel transport arena.
The small enterprise was opened in 1963 by Jack Simpson and his son Neville on the Great Western Highway at Wentworthville, NSW, with the workshop being part of a service station known as Star Auto Centre.
Initially, fuel sales at the site were around 30,000 litres per month, hardly groundbreaking stuff. Over time these fuel sales figures grew to a very impressive supply of 1.25 million litres per month, and with such a substantial increase the fuel sales eventually became the primary focus of the business, overshadowing the mechanical and panelbeating side of the operation.
At that time, the Star Auto Centre was one of the largest fuel volume sites in Sydney.
Jack Simpson passed away in 1979, and by 1983 Neville Simpson was in need of a change. A fuel distributorship became available by way of a single truck, single depot operation at Oakville on Sydney’s far western outskirts.
The deal was done and Neville, who still runs the business today alongside his son Jason, set about his new career.
The distributorship then based on the current five-acre site was a far cry from what it is today. At the time of purchase the business was moving around 75,000 litres of product per annum, a lot of which was transported on flat-top trucks in drums. Within 12 months Neville had moved from drum transport into tanker deliveries, and this paved the way for the business to expand and grow to its current size where it employs 35 staff. The annual movement of petroleum products has now reached the 70-million-litre mark, supplied through three depots located at Oakville, Werrington and Mittagong in the Southern Highlands.
Simpson Fuel Supplies still utilises the Oakville site as its main operations and administration centre, and from here it manages fleet allocations to its own depots and retail and commercial customers.
The Simpson fleet comprises one 19 m B-double tanker, four single tankers, six rigid trucks, seven mini-tanker on-site refuellers and a couple of flat-top trucks for oil and AdBlue deliveries.
The semitrailer and rigid trucks are predominantly Kenworth, with a mix of tanker design from Omega, Marshall, Tieman and Holmwood Highgate, with the latest tanker being a PBS quad-axle unit (see TrailerTorque for full review). The mini tankers are based on Isuzu truck chassis with a couple of Hinos in the mix.
All the Kenworth and Isuzu trucks have been purchased through Gilbert and Roach Trucks at Huntingwood.
North West Trucks at Riverstone handles all the maintenance and repair work for Simpsons, with 18,000 km service intervals on the semitrailers and 19 m truck and 10,000 km intervals for the rigids.
“They look after our schedules and let us know what needs doing and the timeframe, streamlining our maintenance operations. Liquip takes care of the tanker maintenance requirements,” said Jason.
“Initially we utilised our trailer fleet to only service our own depots; however, we have expanded to include around 9 service station retail sites and 10-12 commercial customers, which has increased equipment productivity substantially. Coupled with our increasing mini-tanker operations we see this as an expanding market due to Sydney’s expanding infrastructure growth, and this has resulted in our company becoming the Leading BP fuel supplier in Sydney,” explained Jason.
“I see our position as somewhat of a niche market supplier. We don’t do or actively chase line-haul work, preferring a close relationship with our clients where we can understand their needs and requirements, providing that personalised family company service that our reputation is built upon,” explained Jason proudly.
“Our clients just want to know that, when they go to their bowsers or tanks, there will be fuel there. They just expect us to never let them run out and this is what we have done for some of our customers for over 30 years, providing a service level that we are very proud of”.
“The recent purchase of a quad-axle single tanker enables us to do just that, providing better service for the needs of our clients while maximising our profitability at the same time,” added Jason.
“Our new tanker is coupled to a new Kenworth T409 prime mover powered by an ISXe5 Cummins engine @ 550 horsepower and 1850 ft-lb of torque, driving via an 18-speed Eaton Roadranger manual gearbox”.
“We will evaluate the combination’s performance for about 12 months and see where we go from there, but, even if the quad-axle tanker was only utilised on deliveries to our own depot, I believe we would already be in front in terms of productivity and added safety”.
Jason Simpson is very much a hands-on player within the business as was highlighted by the hi-vis workwear when we met recently. He has been involved in all aspects of the day-to-day operation of the business, which he says plays an important role when you are directing employees to carry out tasks – he’s been there, done that, and will still get out and change a tyre, a valve diaphragm or deliver a load if required.
The success of businesses of this type is very much reliant on this type of real-world experience from the higher ranks, whether it be taking orders from customers, delivering the loads or just understanding the difficulties faced by your drivers out on the road each day. This provides a firm foundation for success, growth and retainment of clients, particularly in an industry where the phrase “Old mate up the road can do it cheaper” is far too often thrown around. Perhaps he can do it cheaper, but will your tanks still be full when you need it?
“With our varied mix of work, incorporating retail and commercial fuel supply, our plans to expand on our mini-tanker market and the greater freedom of design in equipment by way of the PBS scheme, we have a really positive outlook for the future,” added Jason.
A family business, good work ethics, industry knowledge, and an eye on innovation should see Simpson Fuel Supplies continue to grow.