Trailer Magazine


Ablett’s family ties

  • Posted on Tuesday 31st, January 2012
Ablett’s family ties

The strength and sustainability of family-run enterprises like Ablett’s Transport keep helping Australia’s commercial transport sector ride out political upheavals and economic rollercoasters. Both agile and resilient, they are able capture and keep both existing and prospective markets.

The strength and sustainability of family-run enterprises like Ablett’s Transport keep helping Australia’s commercial transport sector ride out political upheavals and economic rollercoasters. Both agile and resilient, they are able capture and keep both existing and prospective markets.

According to industry association Family Business Australia, family businesses account for around 70 per cent of all businesses in Australia and generate an average turnover is $12 million per annum. They penetrate just about every nook and cranny of the Australian economy and drive both innovation and employment.

Canberra-based company Ablett’s Transport is one such cornerstone of Australia’s economy. Employing about 80 staff, it is about twice as big as the average Australian family business. Established in in the country Victorian town of Drouin in 1954, it has grown to become one of the most regarded businesses Australia’s trucking community.

Almost 60 years ago, Arthur Ablett purchased a Leyland Comet to cart timber from Bairnsdale, a township in the Gippsland region, into Melbourne. In 1957, Arthur moved the family to Bairnsdale, where the foundation of today’s Abletts Transport was laid.

Starting off carting timber into the Snowy Mountains and Melbourne, Arthur soon focused on catering for the booming northern suburbs of Canberra. In 1962, with a fleet of seven prime movers, he opened a yard in Queanbeyan, which would become the company’s main depot and has remained a key facility until today.

In 1968, current Managing Director, Ray Ablett, joined the business as a driver, but soon purchased his first truck and embarked on an interstate transport career of his own. It was not before 1980 that Arthur and Ray decided to amalgamate the two companies and form what is known today as Ablett’s Transport.

The following decade saw drastic growth for the company, and the Queanbeyan yard had to be extended from one to six blocks. The purchasing of Melbourne company Cooper’s Transport then helped Ablett’s gain ground in Victoria before Arthur and Ray decided to also establish a second depot in Sydney. Ablett’s could now be regarded as a national company servicing the entire Eastern seaboard.

The 1990s, however, saw Ablett’s experience an extended period of stagnating growth and economic volatility. But, the family business was able to weather the economic woes of the decade, proving that their resiliency and adaptability make them a buffer against economic shocks and dislocations.

By 1997, the company began to bounce back when Ray Ablett assisted in establishing a large transport conglomeration called Combined Distribution Management (CDM). The group consists of five companies combining a total of 500 trucks to jointly tender for large-scale contracts. The group currently distributes for Big W, Reject Shop, and Amcor, amongst others. The company’s fleet now comprises a wide variety of trailers, including a selection of CIMC 36 pallet B-double flat deck curtain-siders.

To provide adequate warehousing and administration facilities, Ablett’s soon had to acquire new headquarters, but remained in the Queanbeyan area. With the expansion came a strong emphasis on OH&S that has remained the company’s first priority until today. The company was also inducted into the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) module for Maintenance Management.

Today, Ablett’s is accredited in the Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) and Concessional Mass Limits (CML) modules to ensure that all vehicles are strictly maintained, all drivers are fit for duty with adequate training, and the company is conducting all business in accordance with professional guidelines.

But, regardless of the continuous pursuit of perfection, the mainstay of Ablett’s has remained its family spirit. The company has many longstanding employees, and strives to provide them with a welcoming working environment that is unique to a family-run business. “We believe that being a family business provides us a competitive advantage,” says Arthur.

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