Based in the Murray River border town of Cobram, family-owned Hicks Transport Group (HTG) can look back at a typical rural business biography. Family patriarch, Brian Hicks, started out in farming and regularly drove his own truck to deliver the farm’s produce to market. When neighbours asked him to carry their produce, too, he simply attached a dog trailer to his D-series Ford – and found himself in the transport business. “Since those early days, the business has grown organically in line with demand, but I never expected it to get to the stage where it is now,” he says.
Today, fruit and other fresh produce are HTG’s key cargo when travelling from regional Victoria to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Brian says most fruit are picked up directly from the farms using refrigerated rigid trucks, with semi-trailers coming into play when volumes and access allow for it.
As with many a rural fleet that has grown patiently over time, HTG can boast an eclectic line-up of European, American and Japanese prime movers made by Freightliner, Kenworth and Volvo. The company’s rigid fleet comprises of Iveco, Volvo and Fuso equipment, with three new UD rigids being the latest addition – two of which feature eight pallet, curtain-sided bodies and mezzanine decks to cater for long or awkward freight. An 8×4 Scania with a refrigerated body has also recently joined.
Brian says he never really expected his son Warren or daughter Naomi to join him, but admits that working together has taken the company to another level. “Warren and Naomi have brought with them new, innovative ways of thinking and they have modern things at their fingertips that I would never even think of,” he says. “Our customers are thrilled to see fresh ideas coming through and excited by the sense of longevity the children have brought to the business.”
With the family working so closely together on the success of the business, there is a strong sense of legacy surrounding Hicks Transport Group. Brian’s wife Lorna, who passed away in 2002 suffering from Motor Neurone Disease, was instrumental in supporting the growth of the transport business by tending to the farm they had at the time, and her spirit is still palpable today. “Without Lorna, the business would not have been where it is,” says Brian. “She’d be handling the farm while I was away driving. We wouldn’t have been able to scale the operation if she hadn’t kept the home fires burning all those years ago.”
Brian says Lorna’s legacy will be honoured with the imminent arrival of a new trailer set featuring a Motor Neurone Disease charity on the curtains, as well as the Reach Foundation, which supports young people.
“I’m fortunate to have great staff and a family that has worked with me through all lows and growing pains to create what is now a great workplace,” he says. “But I believe there’s an opportunity out there for everyone if you drive it.