Sydney operator Tristan Wernhard tried every angle he could to keep the wheels turning, but says that in the end his health had to come first.
In the face of rising costs, including a $25,000 per month spike in diesel costs to keep his small fleet on the road, Wernhard told 2GB radio host Jim Wilson that he’s had to reluctantly closed the doors on his AA Plus Driving and Transport business in Western Sydney.
“The transport rates have gone up, but they’re not coming up quick enough to meet the supply and demand, so I made the decision [to close] because I can’t see any light at the end of this tunnel” said Wernhard, who had built the business up to six trucks over the last 8-10 years with a staff of seven.
On the freight side of the business, Wernhard says the diesel costs were too hard to predict, fluctuating from $1.85 per litre one day to $2.05 per litre the next, while in the driving training sector he could no longer compete with rivals who undercut his prices.
Wernhard told Wilson he thought the rising toll costs in Sydney would also add a “huge amount” of stress on other operators.
“They’ve all said it’s just hard, they’re not making money. There are a few I know who say there is no profit in it, they’re just surviving, so this is really just the tipping edge.”
Wernhard pointed to the other operators closing in recent weeks, and expects more to follow.
“Physically for my own health, I couldn’t do it anymore, and that’s what’s going to happen; there are going to more people driven to the wall because they can’t survive with these increases.”
Wernhard is now working fulltime for a registered training organisation.
“I can go off and start at 8am and finish at 4pm and not have the stress or worry about where the next relief is going to come from.”
He’s just happy that all his staff were able to gain other employment, in some cases with the contractors he’d been working with.
“I made sure they were all looked after as much as I could. They all worked [for me] until the last minute and that was a great relief.”
Wernhard told Big Rigs in June that he was fearful for his future, and that his next big concern was the impact that the shelved Fuel Tax Credit (FTC) would have on his cash flow.
After the controversial decision by the former Coalition government to abolish the FTC until September, many operators didn’t have the cash rebate from the ATO they usually get after filing their quarterly BAS.
Wernhard said he also has to factor in skyrocketing tyre costs, insurance, maintenance, and a weekly toll bill of $1000.
“Everything’s going up, it’s not just fuel, it’s across the board,” added a frustrated Wernhard.
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