Kings Transport & Logistics is an Australian-owned and operated company that was established in 1991 with only three staff, two vehicles and a vision to succeed in the contested taxi truck and courier business. 24 years on and the start-up has transformed into a mature corporation that employs more than 700 staff and engages over 1,300 subcontracted drivers nationwide.
But even though Kings’ start-up days are long gone, the company’s original vision to continuously reinvent itself as an organisation is still very much valid today, says CEO, Aaron Cole. “Organic growth and the strategic acquisition of other transport businesses have seen the Kings Group reach a revenue level of $200 million a year,” he says. “Growing from a courier and taxi truck background into a business of this size has been a remarkable experience and proof that we haven’t lost sight of our original vision.”
According to Aaron, the key to Kings’ success has been the company’s ability to maintain a small business mind-set while adapting to the corporate world. “We are still a highly responsive and agile business, which allows us to succeed where many larger competitors move too slowly. On the other hand, we are big enough to invest capital in equipment, operational efficiency and IT to ensure we are always up-to-date with the latest technology and processes.”
Supporting Aaron on his quest to maintain a start-up mind-set in the highly regulated corporate environment is Kings National Road Asset Manager, Craig Summers. A mechanic by trade, Craig can draw on ample experience in the automotive industry, especially in fleet management. At one point, he looked after a 90,000-vehicle fleet with a team of 13. Aaron says Craig’s management style is a perfect fit for the Kings business, as it allows for more flexibility than usual in a business of such size.
The key to remaining so flexible, says Craig, is to bring in help from outside, which is why sub-contractors play a vital role in the Kings operation. Almost all of the 1,200 or so couriers and taxi trucks in the Kings fleet are owned by sub-contractors, as are 60 vehicles bearing the Walker’s Haulage logo, a company that Kings acquired in 2014.
The Kings Group itself currently owns 497 assets, including motorised vehicles, trailers and forklifts. Of that total, only about 200 are trucks, and interestingly enough, many of them are actually sub-contracting to other transport businesses.
Even though it’s time and capital-intensive, he says only a consistent fleet management approach with a safety focus will ensure the Kings business can remain as nimble as it was back when it first started out. “Safety considerations are never compromised, even if it requires some lateral thinking,” he explains.
“Many of the brick trucks, for example, are fitted with hydraulic cranes that travel in an extended state just to reduce injury risks. Naturally we arranged for the cranes to have their lockouts and alarms modified to account for this modification, but it’s a good example of how much thought goes into this part of the business. Again, we expect our suppliers to be just as flexible as we are to accommodate these kind of things.”
Craig says regular load restraint audits and simple policies like insisting on long trousers and shirts for drivers also help Kings make a difference in the safety department and add to the company’s good reputation.
At the heart of it all, however, are Kings’ people, say Craig and CEO Aaron Cole. “You need the right talent in the business, especially in a time where regulations keep evolving. The truck can’t do anything itself; we need people to do it,” Aaron explains. “There will be some transport companies that fall by the wayside because they just can’t keep up with the requirements. Our aim is to stay in front of the game by having the right people working on the business as well as in it.”
Aaron says that as Kings relies on sub-contractors as well as its own staff, that people focus is vital to the company’s long‑term success. And that success, he adds, is best measured in repeat business. “You don’t really have a contract until they ask you back. We believe it’s not just about the first three or four years of the contract, it’s about able being able to align our goals with our customers’ goals. And to do that, we need to remain as nimble and flexible as we were on day one.