In the Mt Isa Carriers operation, getting trailers in the right place at the right time is always a bit of a juggling act. The trucks heading out of Pittsworth in Queensland make a number of stops heading West, starting in Barcaldine, where the operation has got a number of agents around that area, covering Longreach down to Tambo and further West. Meanwhile, the operation’s Townsville depot runs services direct to Mt Isa.
“When I first started doing Darwin, you knew absolutely what everyone on that run,” says Kent Baillie, Managing Director of Mt Isa Carriers. “If it was nighttime, we could still pick out any truck going the other way, by the time and by the configuration of their lights or whatever. It was only in the early 90s, triple road train drivers, there wasn’t many of us.
“Back then, we had to hook up our triples in Mount Isa. Then it came back 230km to Morven and then it came back another 90km to Mitchell. Now it’s another 85km closer to Brisbane, at Roma. Apparently, soon we’ll be talking about Toowoomba, which is 350km closer. There’s more and more road trains on the road, whereas we were the big boys back then.”
The operation has single trailers coming up the Toowoomba Range on the 160km drive up out of Brisbane, arriving at the Pittsworth depot. At this point, they are hooked up as double road trains and head West. One of the trucks will be doing. a ‘dog’ run, heading out of the yard as a double road train and traveling to Roma.
At Roma the dog trailers are separated and then added to the other doubles, turning them into triple road trains for the run to Mount Isa, another 1330km further. The dog runner picks up a couple of trailers returning from Mount Isa and runs them back to Pittsworth. The whole system works like a sort of constant conveyor belt.
The system for running to and from Townsville with triple road trains is much less complicated. Triples can run all of the way from Mount Isa into the pads at the Port at Townsville and these are then broken up to run as doubles, under permit, across from the Port to the Mt Isa Carriers yard in Western Townsville.
Every driver works on standard hours and the runs and stops have been arranged to ensure drivers do not need to drive any more than 12 hours a day. The relationship with customers has developed to the point where Mt Isa Carriers will tell a customer when any freight can get delivered, and not the other way round.
“I refuse to be pushed,” says Kent. “So, my drivers all work on standard hours and we are constantly checking them, every week. Every day driver comes in, he’ll hand his logbook sheets into Sharlee and then we’ll check them against the tracking. We don’t want them breaking any laws. I refuse to overload, we’re old school, and I want to keep it way. It’s a really fine line between wanting to keep that old school culture and when you’ve got to bring the technology into it.
“I have done million-dollar deals on a handshake. People these days still find that hard to believe. If a customer’s got a problem, every single customer that I have, has my mobile number. You’re not going to go to a call centre. If they’ve got a problem, they’re going to ring me and I’m going to sort it out for them. The only thing I have to sell is a service, that’s all I’ve got, and that’s what wins them over.
“A lot of companies fail to understand that it is a service industry. I have had a delivery from a major company recently. I’m finally supposed to be getting it today. They lost it, then delivered it to the wrong place. It took six weeks for them to actually acknowledge they’d stuffed up and would replace it. Every time I spoke to someone different and so you’d have to start again from scratch. We don’t have that here.”