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Irresistible force

On 27 September 1974, Vawdrey’s story began. It was when Mick Vawdrey first opened a business in Braeside, Victoria, a move that would change the game forever.

In his early working life, Mick was a plumber by day and a tow truck driver by night. He worked both jobs to generate an income until, at the age of 24, he was involved in a car accident which left him a paraplegic.

Six months later, after leaving the hospital and returning to work, Mick, with a characteristic restlessness and a five-year-old son to support, decided to go out on his own and create his own truck body building business. Vawdrey was born.

At the beginning, Mick would spend most of his days trying to sell his equipment, and at night he would build it. And, despite being wheelchair-bound from his accident, he found strength in what others might have perceived as a disadvantage.

Mick would tell his son, Paul, that the wheelchair was an asset to the company as it made him focus on growing the business rather than losing himself in the actual production process. Now, as he proudly watches his son guide the company through the next generation of Australian transport, it’s clear that he was right.

That being said, Mick is still very much involved in Vawdrey’s production process. The founder continues to check every trailer combination before it leaves the yard to ensure customers are receiving the same renowned quality since he opened the business’ doors 50 years ago.

Ultimately, Mick’s true contribution to the industry lies in his commitment to people – a commitment that he passed on to his son who shares the same view.

“Everyone here has a sense of ownership for the brand and the product, and that is arguably Mick’s greatest achievement,” Paul says. “Along the way, he has ‘adopted’ so many talented people who are now seen as part of the extended family. The loyalty people have to Mick and the company is quite special in a time like today. For Mick, Vawdrey would be nothing without his people.”

Paul and Mick Vawdrey. Image: Vawdrey Australia.

Since the early days, Vawdrey has gradually grown into one of Australia’s most prominent trailer builders while also managing to retain local manufacturing.

It has become an institution of modern Australian trailer design and has paved the way for today’s revolutionary technology which is often taken for granted. Mick and his team, for example, pioneered the OH&S movement with the launch of an automatic mezzanine deck system and the development of an automatic, load-rated buckle-less curtain just over a decade ago.

Since 2012, Vawdrey also helped the Performance-Based Standards (PBS) scheme expand beyond the classic truck-and-dog segment and brought it to the general and refrigerated freight market, effectively helping Australia’s road transport community cement its reputation as the most progressive in the world.

Vawdrey’s PBS journey began with the design of a Super B-double capable of hauling two 40’ containers at once, operating under strict PBS guidelines set out by Victoria’s traffic and road authority. It also rolled out a whole range of Super B-double combinations less than a year later based on the same concept, marking a major milestone in increased access for Higher Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFV).

“Vawdrey understands the unique challenges Australian operators have to face and provides a wide range of solutions, and the company’s portfolio is constantly expanding,” Paul says. “As a specialist in the design and construction of PBS trailing equipment, backed by a solid repair and service network, Vawdrey has, time and time again, strengthened the transport capabilities of businesses to maximise payload gains and improve vehicle operator safety.”

Following the uptake in PBS-approved equipment, Vawdrey has brought several other innovations to market as well, such as variations of the Wingliner which provides the security and load restraint benefits of a van with the flexibility of a curtain-sided trailer.

On the other hand, Vawdrey’s buckle-less curtain system took load restraint to the next level by combining safety and efficiency. The load-rated curtain’s strength comes from carbon fibre straps that are connected to the roof of the trailer using a pivoting double roller system. A specially designed lower hook and tensioning system provides the tension required and flawless load restraint.

Above all else, Vawdrey provides a comprehensive product range including robust skeletal trailers that are designed to withstand heavy impact loading, Titeliner trailers, flat deck and drop deck semi-trailers, dry freight FRP vans, and, of course, its well-known Iceliner freezer trailer line. All of these trailer types are available in configurations from single applications to B-doubles, B-triples, road trains and A-doubles.

To bolster the diverse trailer portfolio, Vawdrey also adds value with innovative technologies such as the Auto Lock Deck System which optimises deck handling safety and efficiency.

“We have built a reputation on our ability to custom build products to meet the exacting needs of our customers,” Paul says. “Our national presence continues to grow as we look after our local and international clientele. Demand from logistics businesses worldwide is on the rise for valuable safe and efficient trailing equipment branded with the Vawdrey name.”

As an integral player in the evolution of Australia’s semi-trailer building industry, Vawdrey stands unfazed with a lasting reputation based on quality, innovation and dedication. And, as the business enters the second half of a century, it’s already making strides.

Image: Vawdrey Australia.

Looking ahead, Paul says Vawdrey is still in growth mode.

“We just bought a new facility across the road from our main plant in Dandenong South in Victoria that we’re going to be expanding on,” he says. “The state-of-the-art facility will become our new service and repair warehouse, and it will be operational by the end of this year.”

Paul reveals Vawdrey’s previous service and repair warehouse will be transformed into a new dedicated refrigerated trailer manufacturing plant. This, he says, will enable Vawdrey to grow its freezer trailer products while also increasing production output in its main factory.

“We’ve seen enormous growth over the last five years with temperature-controlled trailers and the refrigerated supply chain,” he says. “It’s been a massive growth area for our business, so we’ll be bringing in two more refrigerated trailer lines as well.”

Meanwhile, all of the factors which have allowed Vawdrey to become a dominant force will remain in place. Paul says Vawdrey will continue to use Australian resources such as locally sourced steel and aluminium wherever it can, while simultaneously making further advancements in the field of PBS.

“We will keep pushing the boundaries while continuing to focus on our customer service,” he says. “It’s an evolving industry, so we’re always learning things and changing things. We will continue to be the leaders in PBS by putting bigger trailers on the road which allow for a lot more freight to be carried.

“We are still in growth mode after 50 years, and we will continue to expand and increase our market share.”

Image: Vawdrey Australia.

Dyers Distribution is another Australian family business which has stood the test of time. The business, which celebrated its 90th anniversary in recent years, also has a rich and extensive history with Vawdrey which covers a significant portion of its existence.

Dyers Distribution was founded in 1932 by Leo Dyer in Sale, Eastern Victoria. Now under the leadership of Leo’s grandsons, David, Greg and Scott, the family business maintains its heritage as it approaches a 100-year milestone in the industry.

Dyers Distribution specialises in food logistics and also offers services for contract logistics, fast moving consumer goods distribution, warehousing, linehaul and 4PL. Having gained a plethora of experience since its inception, the family now prides itself on being an enduring service provider for road distribution across eastern Victoria.

For 35 years, Vawdrey has captivated Dyers Distribution. Holding an exceptional ability to manufacture high quality and lasting builds, Vawdrey, for the last quarter of a century, has also been Dyers Distribution’s primary trailer supplier.

“Their build quality and attention to detail is without question the best,” says Dyers Distribution Director, David Dyer.

The relationship between both successful businesses, David recalls, truly cemented in 2002.

Dyers Distribution was awarded a new metropolitan distribution contract that required 50 trailers to be built in the span of just a few weeks, so David and his brothers turned to Mick and Paul for an immediate solution. Looking back, David says they weren’t let down, to say the least.

“It’s a great story,” he says. “It was a week before Christmas. We went in to Vawdrey and ordered the trailers on a handshake with Mick and Paul. But when we got back to our office, which is a two-hour drive, we worked out that we hadn’t made sufficient provisions for electric pallet jacks that would go on the back of the trailers. So, I rang Paul up and said to him, ‘We’ve mucked up some of the dimensions on the length, I’m just wondering whether we could change it?’ and he said, ‘I better go out and tell the guys in the workshop, they’ve already started cutting the rails.’

“By the time we got home, they had already commenced building six trailers. To not only provide that responsiveness but have faith in our organisation and be able to adhere to our timelines is remarkable. It was unfortunate that we had to change the length of the first six trailers, but we realised at that point that Vawdrey had our back 100 per cent. They were going to make sure that we met our deadlines, and we did.”

The full order of trailers, consisting of a mixture of dry and refrigerated vans, were deployed for the metropolitan contract which Dyers Distribution still holds.

In these operations, the fleet transports freight for some of Australia’s biggest food and supermarket giants along the eastern seaboard through Brisbane, Victoria and Adelaide, as well as in regional areas within a 400-kilometre radius of these cities.

On top of this, Dyers Distribution is heavily involved with interstate linehaul between Melbourne and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and Melbourne and Adelaide.

Still powering the metropolitan contract to this day, David says, are the Vawdrey trailers purchased two decades ago.

“Some of those trailers are still being used on a daily basis 20 years later,” he says. “These vehicles have done 50,000 metropolitan loads and they’re still operating in one of the most demanding tasks.”

Following the initial order, Dyers Distribution has accumulated a range of trailers from Vawdrey. The fleet is primarily made up of PBS units which David says have increased productivity significantly across the business due to the way they are constructed.

“Vawdrey is very innovative with their designs, so the trailers bring a lot of efficiency,” he says. “Above all else, they are reliable and dependable. Vawdrey will basically build anything we want, and that’s probably one of their biggest strengths. Most of our orders are PBS trailers, so they are custom built for specific combinations and routes in some cases.

“Their design and engineering team are first class. With vehicle design, most of the room for innovation is in the trailer. We’ve got absolute confidence in the Vawdrey team that they are the best supplier to achieve that innovation, and in turn, efficiency.”

David Dyer and Paul Vawdrey. Image: Vawdrey Australia.

In hindsight, David believes it’s hard to come by businesses that can offer bespoke equipment, and, at the same time, have an incredible dedication to their customers.

This, he says, is why Dyers Distribution was fortunate to find Vawdrey.

“There are very few businesses in life that show faith in their customers like Vawdrey does,” he says. “I believe their ability to make trailers and do it so well is unmatched. Every time a trailer turns up it is built exactly how we expect it and it’s ready to work.”

As a fellow family business in the industry, Dyers Distribution commends Vawdrey on what it has achieved.

“We’re very appreciative of everything they have done for us,” David says. “More importantly, it’s just fantastic to see such an incredible story of a family business that has really succeeded in such a tough market. Vawdrey is going from strength to strength and their range is increasing. They’re doing exceptionally well.

“We understand the amount of drive, passion and overall teamwork that is required to make what they have done happen, and we’re really proud to be close enough to them to witness it.”

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