The evolution of West-Trans

West-Trans Group Managing Director Jim Whittle highlights the key to the company’s success as it celebrates 25 years of business. 

The evolution of West-Trans began 25 years ago when Jim Whittle, an engineer by trade, and his father saw the value in acquiring a small business. 

Having worked in the lifting industry and experienced in manufacturing, Jim would over time became a transport expert. In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, West-Trans redirected its focus into hooklift and skip loader manufacturing. Its business growth was further accelerated when it picked up the distribution rights for HMF Vehicle Loading Cranes in 2009. What started out predominantly as a tipper business progressively transformed into a niche manufacturing hooklift and skip loader company and one of the only businesses of its kind in Australia. Over the years, it diversified its business by branching into importing and selling related products such as hydraulic oil tanks and tarping systems. 

Starting with an office and factory in Mulgrave, NSW, the business expanded over the decade that followed. Growing demand led to Jim opening up first in Victoria, then adding a sales office in Queensland, before completing the map with a service workshop and sales office in Perth. Since then he has added another factory building at the Mulgrave complex, and a third factory nearby. Now celebrating 25 years, the company employs more than 70 staff with skills covering design, fabrication, engineering, fitting and technical support, all tailored to meet its customers needs. 

With his two sisters employed at the company and his son now in an entry level position in the business, Jim says that West-Trans prides itself on being a family business. 

Jim says he attributes success to having the right employees who are experts in their areas, which translates into strong backup support that keeps customers returning.

“Being able to still manufacture in Australia is something we are particularly proud of. 

“We spent a lot of time early in the piece working directly with our customers. We looked at the design and the existing bins and offered a standard product tailored to local needs, and that’s how we expanded across the Australian market,” he says.

“It’s slightly different to what we compete against from the European market. We are designed more for Australian conditions.” 

Customising elements such as deck length, tie down points, hand rails, hook or chain unloading systems, West-Trans works with a range of small, medium and large enterprises to continually develop its products to meet the ever-increasing demand for quality and reliability in the waste collection industry. The company offers a range of hooklifts, skip loaders and tarping systems, in standard and custom builds and colours under the West-Trans brand. 

As a response to an increased demand for safety, and to ensure it is supplying the latest products, West-Trans has evolved into offering more tarping and load covering systems for scrap metal and other waste and recyclables carriers. 

Since launching, the take-up of the tarpaulin systems in the Australian market is growing steadily. West-Trans has continually been refining its service offering. 

Products such as the HyCover and Mini HyCovers use air rather than hydraulics to extend the tower, and a high-duty cycle electric motor to extend and retract the heavy-duty tarp. The products operate in unison with a hooklift or skip loader. The efforts result in a system that weighs just under 200 kilograms, which is half the weight of the traditional hydraulically actuated tarps currently being used in Australia, at roughly 70 per cent of the cost. Other systems such as the DoubleCover can also be used for more heavy duty applications such as large tipping trailers.  

“The tarping systems we use are lighter and alleviate the need for drivers to jump on the back of the machine for load covering,” Jim says. 

 In relation to their local manufacturing, he says there are more automated processes coming onstream. “A welding robot is something we are looking at for later this year,” he says. He adds that this and areas such as jigs will help manufacturing meet the growing demand for volume growth and quality.

A variety of locally designed and manufactured products are on offer, ranging from three to 15-tonne skip loaders, and hooklifts from six to 28 tonnes. Jim says that minimising the weight of equipment to carry higher payloads remains an ongoing priority.

The wide range of hooklifts are supplied with telescopic jibs, with some models available with an articulated jib and handcrafted to meet customer requirements of both quality and durability. Skip loaders are offered standard with telescopic arms, or custom-made with bi-fold or straight arm variants, taking the specific requirements of local operators into account. According to West-Trans, the HL20a is the hooklift of choice for all of the major scrap and waste contractors nationally. The company notes they build everything in house, and use only quality locally sourced components that are easily serviceable anywhere in Australia.  

Working with his younger son who is studying at trade school, Jim hopes he too can carry the family business into the third generation, building Australia’s toughest hooklifts and skip loaders.