Kundabung’s railway station closed in 1974 and the local general store and service station has been bypassed. Yet the location, on the Pacific Highway just a few kilometres south of Kempsey, has a crucial advantage – it’s almost midway between Brisbane and Sydney and ideal for the thriving operational base of Hines Refrigerated Transport.
Robert Hines has earned his good reputation and doesn’t really have to chase work as the phone keeps ringing from regular customers.
The trucks operate mainly between Brisbane and Sydney on both the Pacific and New England Highways servicing areas such as Tenterfield and Inverell on the inland routes and Coffs Harbour and Forster on the coast.
Hines trucks deliver directly into Newcastle from Brisbane and also provide a regular delivery of seafood from the north coast into the Sydney Fish Markets and throughout the metropolitan area.
The constant supply of freight and careful organisation of the logistics results in the Hines Refrigerated trucks running fully loaded in both directions most of the time.
Back when Robert was on the road and driving full time himself he made a point of approaching possible clients and establishing relationships with them. From those efforts the company has grown.
“We may have been doing a small amount of work for certain customers and out of curiosity I’d ask them: ‘where else do you send stuff to?’” he says. “Because I was always asking, when something did come up the people would see if I wanted to look at doing it for them.”
Robert says that’s how he grew from one truck going to Brisbane three times a week to then going to Sydney.
More trucks were added to go from Brisbane through the New England area and demand has resulted having at least one truck now actually based in Tamworth and running between there and Sydney.
The Hines Transport customer list is extensive and every one of them is treated as a valued client. Robert also appreciates the essential services his company is able to provide to regional areas.
“How do the IGAs in Barraba and Bingara get their fruit and vegies?” he asks. “How does Bidfood in Tamworth get serviced? How does PFD in Inverell get serviced? It’s through us.”
Providing service to a multitude of ‘smaller’ customers is a part of the business plan as it helps to maintain stability and not just by relying upon one or two big clients.
Most of Robert’s customers are of a size that cannot take full loads and this contributes to the need for logistics expertise.
Added to that is the use of Hines trucks to directly pick up from customers such as smallgoods manufacturers around Sydney rather than the easier option of being loaded from a distribution centre.
The variety of products carried by Hines Transport is quite broad and local pickups include fish and oysters from the coast, and eggs and dairy products from the Wauchope area.
Pilchards are carried by the pallet and delivered to professional fishermen for trap bait.
“We don’t do much sub-contract work other than an occasional pallet for another carrier. It’s hard enough doing it when you’re the main contractor let alone working for a lower rate as a sub- contractor,” says Robert.
A one man business that started with a five tonne rigid has grown to now having eight prime movers and trailers, two Fuso rigids plus a handy Mercedes-Benz Sprinter fitted with a refrigerated body.
Robert was an early adopter of service agreements and had a couple of Sterlings on contract more than a decade ago.
As he has been progressively changing over to Mercedes-Benz prime movers he has continued to avail to the concept of known servicing costs and the associated risk reductions.
“It’s easier to have a truck on a service contract and know that you are covered,” Robert says. “We’ve been operating for 22 years and took our first service contract about 10 years ago and ever since I’ve gone that way the business has never looked back.”
Through his local dealer Mavin’s in Kempsey, Robert is a long term customer of the Daimler Truck brands, from the Sterlings he had a few years ago through to Freightliner Argosy’s, Fuso rigids and the recent additions have been Mercedes Benz Actros models.
The latest 530hp high roof Actros is showing valuable benefits in its fuel consumption returning 38 litres per 100 kilometres carrying an average weight of 29 tonnes.
This compares well with the earlier 480hp V6s that were averaging 40-41 litres per 100 kilometres performing not dissimilar work. Like several of the other Actros’s in the fleet, this newest truck is equipped with the optional retarder.
“We like the retarders because it means we don’t wear trailer brakes out. Our mechanic gets under to adjust the brakes every two weeks and hardly has to touch them on the trucks fitted with the retarders.”
Robert also has most of the newer trucks on Daimler’s Agility program which locks in a guaranteed buy back price.
Robert feels changes in the chain of responsibility (CoR) regulations that came into effect during late 2018, combined with the introduction of electronic work diaries, should deliver a more level playing field in the industry.
The Hines fleet is satellite tracked and Robert pays close attention to the results from the on- board telematics.
“Electronic log books will not make any difference to our company operations because we play it straight,” he says. “I have a Golden Rule for our drivers: if you’re tired, stop!
“I understand we’re carrying food and staff might be waiting for it to arrive so they can put it away. I’d ask them to just look in the street ads see if anyone is starving to death? If there’s no one there dying for it we don’t need to die trying to get it there.”
Robert’s no compromise attitude towards fatigue and overall safety adds another dimension to the respect in which he and his business are held.
The dedication to customer service and operating an efficient and reliable fleet complete the formula for success for Hines Refrigerated Transport.