On 16 August 1965, Noel Beavis, a trainee draftsman, began his employment with Freighter Industries. It was an association that lasted over 16 years.
“I can remember thinking, why do they need draftsman?” he recalls. “Every trailer looked the same to me. Then you get into it and find out.” Alongside 14 other draftsmen, he began working on trailer designs. These were largely for single-axle units.
“In those days, they weren’t very big – everything was small by today’s standards,” he says. “As they were required to carry more weight, they got bigger and bigger.”
One of the initial challenges, according to Noel, was the shift from vacuum brakes to compressed air. The predominance of air suspension in the market made for several key advancements.
“This equipment is now far superior to what it was and what it has been over the past 20 years,” he says. “It’s come in leaps and bounds.”
31 March, 1982. Noel remembers the date clearly, as it separates the births of his daughters. It was also his first day at White Transport Equipment. He recalls joint owner, Garry White, with fondness, citing him as a mentor. “He was someone with integrity,” Noel says. “The company had great business ethics. The whole approach made them a pleasure to work with.”
Noel was heavily involved in the introduction of Performance-Based Standard (PBS). A defining moment came when his team created a matrix, for which they could plug-in virtually any truck, regardless of brand, providing they had crucial details such as engine capacity and driveline specifications. From this point onwards, the individual trucks purchased by clients no longer had to be analysed. It led to the revolution of the dog trailer industry.
“If it was in a certain wheelbase range or specific power range, transmissions, diffs, that sort of stuff, we just fit it in,” he says. “It made it a much quicker process to attain approvals and it actually reduced costs as we could confirm an up-front standard figure we could charge.”
This soon enabled his team to offer special equipment in the market. Noel takes pride in the barrel running B-doubles he helped build for Zarb Road Transport after the client’s facilities proved prohibitive for using more standardised equipment.
“We ended up building for them rigid and six-axle dog side tippers for carting sugar,” he recalls. “It was tailor designed to suit their application and they’ve been very successful. Without PBS, we would never have been able to achieve that.”
Noel finished up in Adelaide designing special equipment at Freighter, and then upon returning to Melbourne and transferring to Ballarat, became the production manager on the container and van line. The responsibility of planning production he says gave him new insights into the operations.
“I think that it probably made me more conscious on what we were spending money on when we were designing stuff,” Noel says.
His career, spanning half a century, is all the more remarkable for having been essentially conducted under the one company umbrella.
Nowadays, while on the road, Noel is proud to see some of the Hamelex White products he worked on.
“I must admit, I always get a sense of satisfaction when I see opposition brands using similar designs,” he says.