Based on the fate of three valiant Dutch children, the history of De Bruyn’s Transport is a turbulent tale of daring the almost impossible and redrawing the boundaries of road transport.
The saga began in Holland in 1910, when John de Bruyn’s great grandfather purchased a boat to transport sand, gravel and heating fuel along the inland waterways. In 1924, he passed away at the age of 37; and his three eldest sons – aged 13,11 and 10 – were forced to continue the family business to support the rest of the family.
“The little boat was pulled along the waterway by hand, transporting around 12 tonne of product at the time,” great grandson John de Bruyn recalls. “In 1930, trucks slowly started to emerge in Holland, and the brothers were forced to venture into the road transport industry.”
Just before World War II the brothers’ fleet had grown to seven trucks; but the German army force confiscated the vehicles because the family refused to work on Germany’s behalf. “Luckily, though, they managed to hide one truck in a barn, and started from scratch in 1945,” says John.
After the death of John – the eldest son – in 1956, the three families separated – with one migrating to Tasmania and eventually buying a local transport company, West Coast Transport, which serviced the mining communities on west coast of the island. In 1978, the two remaining families followed and took over West Coast Transport.
In 2005, the business was renamed and became De Bruyn’s Transport. Until today, it has remained a privately owned Tasmanian company, operated by brothers John, Dirk and cousin John de Bruyn. “Due to our determination to succeed in the fluid business environment that is the Australian transport sector, the business now has four depots in Burnie, Devonport, Launceston, and Hobart,” says John. “De Bruyn’s Transport currently has a workforce of some 180 people and a fleet of about 110 trucks plus 150 trailers and other specialised equipment.”
From the Wivenhoe based head office, the company mainly serves the local mining industry carting dangerous goods, such as explosives and ammonium nitrate, as well as general bulk freight. “Our Burnie depot was purpose-built to serve the mining community. We supply all the mines in Tasmania.”
According to John, serving the mining industry is the most challenging task the business has to face. “We deliver underground, driving straight into the mine to unload freight well below the surface,” he explains. “There are special storage facilities set underground where we operate our own fork lifts.”
Working in such a demanding environment, De Bruyn Transport has to rely on special transport equipment. “With temperatures up to 45 degrees, we had to think about buying a new, air-conditioned Volvo truck to improve our peoples working conditions,” says John. “Most importantly, though, are the different radio systems we need to communicate in different mines.” As fire protection is vital in an underground operation, De Bruyn’s vehicles are also equipped with a fire suppression system to protect the driver.
Above ground level, meanwhile, the family operated business is specialised in carting cement, grain, and fertilizer using pneumatic tippers and tankers. “We also offer a Tasmania-wide overnight service,” says John. “In addition, we offer a reliable interstate transport service.”
To maintain a flawless image and offer a consistent level of customer service, De Bruyn’s Transport takes pride in the company’s modern fleet. “We operates skels, flat top trailers, tautliners, tippers, side loaders, bulk tankers, tippers and tipping skels; the majority built by Barker Trailers.
“We need a supplier who understands our business and is able to develop a design to meet our specific needs. And Barker has always been capable of delivering custom tailored transport equipment,” says John, whose experience combined with an understanding of customer requirements has allowed De Bruyn’s Transport to become one of Tasmania’s leading transport companies.
In fact, De Bruyn has recently given their very first Barker model – a 16-year-old flat top – a complete overhaul, including a coat of paint and new floor boards. “Spending most of its life working in Tasmania’s harsh West, the trailer is still in a great condition and does not have a single crack,” John resumes. “To maximise efficiency, we also incorporate BPW axles, air suspensions and EBS brake systems as standard on all our new trailers.
To stand up to Tasmania’s harsh environment and join the De Bruyn fleet, a new trailer has to be built to the highest standard. Drawing on 30 years of experience in equipment design, John explains, “A good trailer has to be durable and able to withstand the Tasmanian road network, which is winding up and down steep hills and goes around sharp corners.”
It is no surprise that presentation and maintenance are paramount to John De Bruyn. “We stick to the green, red, and white colour scheme my grandfather established when he bought his first truck in Holland in 1934, and we are proud to hold up the tradition. In addition, our logo features Tasmania’s beautiful West Coast Mountains in remembrance of the humble beginnings in Tasmania,” says John.
To ensure the fleet is well maintained, De Bruyn’s Transport operates an in house workshop in Burnie to take care of all major repairs. “I have a mechanical background and a keen interest in what happens in the workshop,” says John. “But we also outsource service work if needed.”
Even after a whole century in the industry, De Bruyn’s Transport is still determined to grow the family business. According to the family motto, “Think outside the box and dare taking a risk”, the company keeps striving for excellence. “After all we’ve experienced, we still hold on to our slogan. If we say it, we’ll do it,” adds John. “After all, determination and audacity are family heritage.”