Trailer Magazine

Why Nolan’s switched to FTE

  • From the July 2017 issue.
Why Nolan’s switched to FTE

Making the change to Fibreglass Transport Equipment refrigerated trailers was no simple switch for Nolan’s Interstate Transport, but is one that is now paying off for the family business.

With a history dating back to 1908, Nolan’s Interstate Transport has more than a century worth of experience in the transport business – one steeped with traditions that aren’t easily changed.
Based in the town of Gatton in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley – also known as Australia’s ‘Salad Bowl’ – Nolan’s Interstate Transport appropriately specialises in the transportation of fresh produce, alongside a smattering of general and frozen freight.

Now, the fifth generation of Nolans is at the helm, with family members Darren and Adrian ‘Flea’ Nolan taking Director roles and stepping into some big shoes. “Although the business can trace its roots back to 1908, it wasn’t until our parents, Terry and Daphne, took over that it really started to become the business it is today,” says Flea. “Sadly, dad passed away from cancer three years ago, but mum is still the owner and active in the business.”

Flea says that running a family-oriented business is seen as a positive thing in the transport industry, as clients can pick up the phone and talk with an owner or a family member at any time. “It’s all about customer relationships, and having my mum, brother, and wife Sandie all involved in the business is important for our customers and suppliers,” Flea says. “We have a lot of business relationships with suppliers that have been in place for decades, and they don’t change easily.”

However, one supplier to recently break into the family business is refrigerated trailer specialist, Fibreglass Transport Equipment (FTE). Though now a convert to the famed FTE trailer design, Flea says that wasn’t always the case – in fact, switching from its previous brand to the fiberglass units involved a process that proved the trailer builder’s dedication without a doubt.

After taking delivery of its first-ever FTE 24-pallet refrigerated van in November 2010, Flea says the reefer ran a 12-month trial that didn’t quite make the cut. “The thermal efficiency was fantastic, but the shape didn’t quite fit what we needed,” he begins. “The back end attachment at roof level was set up with a large lip, which for us would not allow our randomly-packed produce to fit through, so we told FTE that we couldn’t buy any more trailers unless it was redesigned to better fit our business.”

So that’s what FTE did. According to Flea, FTE came back with a solution “straight away” and from that day it has only purchased refrigerated vans from the fibreglass specialist. “That was the biggest challenge. Anything you buy can have teething issues, but FTE has always found ways to overcome them. In this industry, where so much is unpredictable, it’s how you deal with issues that is so important.”

Flea says that he is pleased that FTE came up with a solution that would enable Nolan’s to purchase more of its refrigerated vans, as their thermal efficiency and fuel savings are hard to beat. “We did a comparison of an FTE freezer unit and another brand, each running the same route from Gatton to Melbourne at the same time. On return, the FTE-built combination used 100 litres less fuel,” Flea says. “More importantly than fuel savings is temperature control. It’s number one in our game and FTE trailers have great thermal efficiency.”

According to FTE, its reefers have been independently tested in Australia’s only steady state environmental test centre, with its composite fibreglass panels returning results that echo Flea’s claim. “FTE has built a good reputation in the transport industry purely because it’s a tight-knit family with the highest standards,” Flea says. “It doesn’t let anything go out of its workshop unless it’s up to scratch. By the end of 2017, we will have 76 FTE vans in the fleet.”

Nolan’s currently has three 34-pallet B-doubles, four 24-pallet singles and a 14-pallet rigid on order, which will bring the fleet total to 160 for all prime movers and trailers. The growth, Flea adds, is customer-driven, with the company adding more FTE vans as demand increases. “Having enough trailers to fulfil customers needs is a balancing act that can sometimes be challenging – you need to have enough to get the job done without growing too big too fast.”

However, Flea says that Nolan’s current 160-unit fleet, 360 staff members and depots in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and head office in Gatton are just right. More than just impressive facts and figures, they’re a product of five generations of the family’s hard work and strong relationships.

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