Macfield is spreading its wings

According to Macfield Group Director, Ben McDonald, the family-owned company – established back in 1972 – has a long history of being out in front of the competition, and it has every intention of staying there.

While it has a relatively low public profile, Macfield has long been a trailblazer in the design, supply, assembly and leasing of cost-efficient specialised transport equipment, from intermodal containers to linehaul/distribution trailers.

Up until now most of its finished products have been leased to ‘big players’ such as Toll, QR National, P&O Transport and the Scott Group – but that’s about to change, as Macfield is now expanding into the wider logistics market.

“We have put together a business plan which will make many truck owners take a good hard look,” says 33-year-old Ben, son of co-founder, Bruce McDonald AM. “We’ve put a lot of thought into how we can best deliver what customers need. In a nutshell, we’re an excellent one-stop-shop when it comes to sourcing top-of-the-range trailers, for linehaul and distribution work.

“Not only can we supply a great product – a reefer, a skel or dry van, new or pre-used – we can provide a range of attractive, low-risk finance options as well.”

But, according to Ben, the key to success is reliable craftsmanship. “Macfield is not a traditional trailer manufacturer. Our engineers design trailers to handle Australia’s tough conditions and regulations and then do the final assembly at our 8,000m2 facility in Kilburn in suburban Adelaide,” he explains.

“It means we can source the best components from around the world and put together cost-effective, long-life trailers which can be rolled straight out of the workshop and into service.”

For example, Macfield has recently signed an exclusive agreement with Wabash National in the US to import its acclaimed ArcticLite® reefer – and more top of the range products will follow. “Wabash is undeniably a world class trailer manufacturer, producing on average 4,500 ArcticLite reefers a year for the past decade”, says Allan Nuttall, Head of Macfield’s Trailer division. “There’s been a very high level of design and product support.

“We import the freezer bodies straight from the Wabash production line in Indiana where it’s been modified to meet our stringent design requirements, ensuring it’s fully ADR compliant,” Allan adds.

Macfield’s experienced staff at Kilburn then work to make it road ready. The most obvious steps are the inclusion of a subframe with tri-axle suspension and the landing legs. Of course, the system is flexible enough so customers have plenty of options when it comes to axles, suspension, brakes and the refrigeration unit itself.

At peak times, Macfield can have 40 trailers undercover, being assembled or repaired. “We can complete the final assembly of a reefer in around 100 hours, which is clearly more cost effective than building one from scratch,” Allan explains. “The customer benefits in lower rates.”

The Australian-version of the Macfield Wabash ArcticLite is set to be officially launched at this year’s International Truck, Trailer and Equipment Show in Melbourne in March, but several are already on the road and are garnering loud praise.

“When people realise there’s a very tough reefer available with excellent thermal properties which is up to two tonnes lighter than the competition, it does generate good feedback,” says Allan. “We’ve calculated that having a tare weight from 7200kg including the fridge plant, the ArcticLite can put up to $18,000 onto an operator’s bottom line every year thanks to bigger payloads. And, it’s also the greenest reefer around.”

In addition, Macfield has built something just as unique regarding rental and leasing packages. The company has been involved in the leasing of transport equipment since the late 1980s. In fact, at its peak the company had more than 4500 intermodal road/rail containers on lease around the country.

That side of the business has changed considerably since then, but the knowledge remains and now trailer customers are the beneficiaries. “It’s fair to say that most banks don’t understand transport properly,” Ben says. “They treat a loan for a trailer like a loan for a car, regardless of the fact that a trailer can generate profits for 15 years or more and can have good residual value as well. 

“We’ve developed partnerships with a number of companies which know transport and that’s reflected in the way we can structure leasing financing packages up to eight years with locked in fixed rates,” he adds. “Like our rent-to-own offer; it’s over five years, it has reducing payments, it’s 100 per cent tax deductible and it’s flexible.”

After driving the business for 40 years, Ben’s dad Bruce is now taking more of a back seat but he’s still the Chairman and has played a key role in Macfield’s latest move. “It’s been an interesting challenge putting the pieces into place – securing the Wabash agreement, sourcing the best components from around the world, configuring our engineering base and developing the finance,” Bruce concludes. “There’s no doubt in my mind that this will work, particularly for smaller operators and owner/drivers.”

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