Trailer Magazine

Etching a milestone in the fuel industry

  • From the August 2020 issue.
Etching a milestone in the fuel industry

Celebrating 30 years of independent ownership this year, Liquip Sales Queensland has thrived on the back of a diverse product portfolio that incorporates core Liquip road tanker equipment sales and service, and much more.

The original Liquip Queensland was established in 1981 as a company-owned branch and in 1990 became an independent entity. At this point Ernest van Soest came onboard as Engineering Manager, and in 2011 Ernest assumed ownership of the company.

Ernest hails from New Zealand and prior to making the big move ‘across the ditch’ he was working for a company that built fuel tankers and fire trucks.

“We’ve been a proud Liquip distributor that whole period which means we’ve backed the local petrochemical industry by selling and supporting the Liquip componentry as well as managed associated servicing and repair work,” Ernest says.

By the mid-1990s, Liquip Queensland had established a strong presence in the fuel industry and in order to achieve further growth Ernest saw the need for some form of diversification. It was then that Ernest decided to put to good use some of the skills he’d accumulated during his previous working life in NZ.

“We were struggling to get enough work to support the diversified-based growth we were seeking, so we tendered to Queensland Fire Appliances and were successful; we built three prototype fire trucks in ’96 and by the year 2000 we were building three to four units per year”.

“That same year a large fire appliance producer went into receivership and was consequently well behind in its production and deliveries to Queensland Fire and Emergency Services,” Ernest continues. “As a result, we received a sizeable parcel of work to help clear the backlog, which enabled us to transition into a large player as a Queensland manufacturer in this field of work.”

This led to a steady stream of fire appliance building work that has bolstered the Liquip Sales Queensland business and engaged around one third of its workforce over the past two decades.

The extra workload led to a number of changes, not least a move to larger premises at Pinkenba in 2006 that allowed Liquip Queensland to continue supporting the fuel and fire appliance industries, a site the company still occupies today.

“Over the next couple of years we significantly expanded our support services, taking on two engineers – one electrical and one mechanical – as well as a purchasing officer, due to the serious growth in the business at that time,” Ernest says. 

Despite the extra resources channelled into the fire appliance division, the core business centred around the petroleum industry which remained strong, according to Ernest.

“Over the years since the mid-90s we’ve done a lot of ‘re-horsing’ of bulk LPG transportation trucks as well as repair work on petroleum tankers,” he said, adding that one of the major improvements to the business came after moving into the Pinkenba site where a dedicated dangerous goods (DG) workshop was established.

“As a drive-around facility, B-doubles can be driven in one gate and out another which is a huge improvement over our previous site where they had to be driven in and backed out of the same gate,” Ernest explains.

“The location is ideal for our line of work, with the three major petroleum companies less than five kilometres away and we’ve also been servicing the major petroleum distribution fleets across Southern Queensland for a long period of time.”

As a DG workshop our services include: Degassing tankers, SLP inspections and hydrotests, hazardous area electrical repairs, Calibration and Certification of Bulk Flow metering Systems, installation and fitment of Liquip’s level gauging systems (including the industry leading Swift delivery system), and the supply, fitout & testing of Liquip fuel and LPG hose reels.

According to Ernest, the workflow of business at current facility is consistently buzzing and their afterhours tanker service support is always in demand, but there is still room to do extra on-site petroleum work which enables the workload to be managed without the inconvenience and cost of relocating.

That said, Ernest describes another arm of the business building mining service vehicles which has tailed off in recent years due to a downturn in the mining industry.

“Around 2008 we started working in conjunction with another local manufacturer producing large service trucks based on Caterpillar 773 and 775 off-road trucks for the mines,” Ernest says.

“The other company built the body and we did the installation and fitout and we were completing between two and three units annually.

“That work slowed in 2016 but in the meantime we’ve been building a lot of smaller service vehicles which has kept us busy. In fact, we recently finished a series of 23 small service trucks for a Western Queensland mining operation and are currently completing another six for a large mining contractor,” he says. 

The company currently has 53 staff members including boilermakers, fitter/welders, auto electricians, painters, diesel mechanics, hydraulics fitters and a sheet metal worker.
“Having this wide range of skilled tradespeople enables us to complete the varied and diverse work that has kept the business in good shape over the last 30 years,” Ernest says.

“As a Liquip distributor, we work closely with the other Liquip distributors which allows us to participate in national projects which could include flame-proofing of a number of vehicles from one of the larger petroleum outfits, for example,” Ernest adds.

“We are very proud of the fact that we are an important part of a strong nation-wide Liquip sales and servicing network that effectively helps maintain Australia’s energy and resources supply sectors.”

Fast Fact
Liquip Sales Queensland has a 30-year history in the service, repair and maintenance of road tankers and equipment as well as the building and fitout of other specialised gear including fire appliances and service trucks for mine sites.

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