Trailer Magazine


Family focus

  • From the April 2020 issue.
Family focus

When Robert and Sarah Hawthorn of Southern Refrigerated Transport purchased their first Vawdrey freezer van, Paul Vawdrey and his wife took the time to meet them personally to discuss the business they had built. The latest Vawdrey Iceliners to join Robert and Sarah’s fleet are labours of love, set to see extensive service along Australia’s east coast.

Robert Hawthorn and his wife Sarah launched their family owned and operated business Southern Refrigerated Transport in Strathmerton, Victoria, in 2011. Almost a decade on – currently 38-staff strong – the company has experienced growth, and so has their immediate family. While two-year-old son, Axle, is the talk of the office, Murray (15) and Bill (17) are focused on their high school studies in Queensland.

Robert says Southern Refrigerated Transport’s formula for success has been a direct result of understanding client needs, maintaining excellent communication and ensuring his highly skilled operators receive continuous training and are supported by suppliers and modern equipment.

As part of Southern Refrigerated Transport’s expansion, it currently has sub depots in Wodonga, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane with capability to service customers from a single pallet to full loads.

The fleet comprises about 15 FH/FM prime movers and rigids and 24 refrigerated trailers ranging from three-pallet rigids to 34-pallet b-doubles.

Southern Refrigerated Transport specialises in the cartage of hanging meat from abattoirs as well as chilled, frozen and ambient goods such as fresh meat, produce and freezer transport similar freight – running trucks along the east coast between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

“We transport around 300 tonnes of fresh hanging meat into Sydney and Brisbane a week from the southern states, seasonal produce from the Goulburn Valley,” Robert says – explaining that the top three products are fresh meat, fresh pet food and seasonal produce. “We service wholesale meat customers, fresh produce markets and all the major supermarket chains as well as cool stores.”

Southern Refrigerated Transport has operated out of Radfords Meats Warragul for the past nine years according to Robert. “With the support of Robert Radford and his Business Radfords Meat, our business has been able to grow from two trucks and service other markets within refrigerated transport,” he says.

To accommodate growth in operations, Southern Refrigerated Transport has taken delivery of a pair of Vawdrey Iceliners – 22-pallet double loader freezer vans. For Robert, the most important aspect of this trailer procurement is the relationship his business has established with Vawdrey Australia.

“Dealing with a family Business who understands our needs and the aftersales support from their business is important,” Robert says. “We are seeing improved fuel economy from both our trucks towing these vans and also the fridges – they get to temperature a lot faster due to the full seal and stay at temperature which is important for our business taking into account we are selling refrigerated space.”

The Vawdrey Iceliners feature loading bars rated for 760kg as well as loader boxes that are accessible either side of the trailer.
“Our drivers are enjoying the lightweight double loader bars and love the fact they can grab the bars from left or right side depending on where they are loading at,” Robert says.

The internal side walls of the Vawdrey Iceliners are white, reinforced with scuff bands and feature bright LED lighting for better visibility, particularly for vehicle operators when loading and unloading manually and via forklift, also providing a safer working environment according to Robert. He also says the workmanship – the quality finish of the builds – are impressive. “One of the biggest takeaways from our chat with Paul Vawdrey was the incredibly thick seals on the reefer doors as well as the sealant used along the inner walls and along the edge of the heavy-duty flooring. Ultimately, this will give our business an advantage and cost saving due to our fridges not working as hard to keep product at temperature; we have had vans in the past that leaked water once washed out and we found those vans used a lot extra fuel. When we wash out the Vawdrey Iceliners, however, we have no water leaks.”

As for the trailer refrigeration units, Robert specified Thermo King Precedent to pull temperatures down very quickly.

“A complete cold chain for our customers and products is very important to our business,” Robert says. “The more we can keep products at a constant temperature the better for the cold chain.”

Southern Refrigerated Transport’s vehicle operators also commented on how well the truck-trail combination tracks on the road, noting the VDL Weweler suspension.

On axle groups, Southern Refrigerated Transport uses a 10.1 axle spread on all of its B trailers for better road support and stability.

Aside from the technical specifications, the Vawdrey Iceliners are immaculate.

“Fleet presentation is very important to our business as we are carrying fresh meats and dood,” Robert says. “The last thing a customer wants to see is a dirty unmaintained van turn up to carry their perishable product. The Finish on the Vawdrey Iceliners are outstanding and we have had quite a bit of praise from our customers.”

The family business connection that Southern Refrigerated Transport shares with Vawdrey Australia, Robert emphasises, is essential. “Owned companies have supported our growth over the years, we are located in a small country town and pride ourselves on giving back to our community and supporting our local family business in the area, be it fuel, insurance or maintenance. In return, these companies can employ more people. We also find working with family owned companies like Vawdrey Australia gives us outstanding after-hours support when we need it as these business owners care and pride themselves on service.”

(Image: Robert Hawthorn of Southern Refrigerated Transport.)

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