Vince Mannone works on the principle that without drivers there is no transport business. He acknowledges that they are the face of the company to the clients and ambassadors for the business, VA Hire, a transport operation steeped in diversity.
The operation was originally formed 10 years ago as a driver hire business for Australian television broadcasting companies. The company’s own transport operation started around five years ago. It now that comprises a wide range local, regional and interstate general freight operations as well as container carrying and warehousing. Accordingly, the company’s trailer fleet consists of curtain-sided, flat-top, side-loader and skel trailers.
“We have interstate clients who I’ve not met; our drivers are delivering to them on a regular basis and they are therefore, literally, the face of the company,” Vince says. “It’s really pleasing when we get great feedback from these customers, telling us how good the drivers are in doing their jobs well and meeting their expectations.”
Vince says the trucks all have GPS tracking to enable him to see where they are for the purpose of informing customers about delivery times.
“I say to my drivers this is not about me checking up on you; if a customer rings and asks when the delivery will arrive, I simply open my iPhone and bring up the App which shows me the exact location of each truck,” says Vince. “I can then provide the customer with an accurate estimated time of arrival.
“At night, before I go to bed, I check the location of each truck and if they are pulled up I ring the driver to make sure everything is okay. The truth is, if I didn’t trust them, I wouldn’t put them in the truck in the first place.”
Meanwhile, as the conversation turns to the trailers in the fleet, Vince says he runs a wide variety including curtain-siders, flat tops, side-loaders and skels and side-loaders.
Side-loaders are an important tool in the VA Hire operation as the company, based at Epping in Melbourne’s northern fringe, has warehousing storage facilities which require the regular transfer of containers to and from the premises.
“The Hammar side-loaders have served us very well,” says Vince. “They cop a beating and a half and stand up to it all without any issues. It’s a really solid, well-built product.”
Other work that the company performs dovetails well with the warehousing, with Vince saying he will carry pretty much any sort of general freight.
“If it fits on the trailer and within the legal mass and dimension requirements we will carry it,” he says.
Getting back to the trucks, Vince says his rule of thumb is to keep them for around five years and then trade them in. However, he says this can vary depending on how they are running after five years and how much they are costing to keep on the road.
“The second hand TGS 540 I bought from Penske will have covered around one million kilometres after five years and at that point it will probably be traded in,” says Vince. “Before then it will likely be retired from interstate work and see out its time as a local truck.”
On a final note, Vince says his hope for the industry is that there will eventually be a level playing field where all people in transport are treated with due respect and will extend the same respect to others.
“I would love interstate rates to be set at fair levels and to see all customers being fair to drivers and treating them as they would like to be treated,” says Vince. “This needs to be reciprocated, of course, across the board.”