You don’t have to spend long in his company to realise that Tony Noske isn’t shy about trying something new or different in a bid to improve his business.
“I’m sure I got it from my late father Lou,” he says when asked what fuels the constant search for new ways of doing things, always with the aim of achieving higher levels of efficiency and productivity. “He had no formal qualifications in engineering, but he did have an incredible ability to build and improve things. Cars, trucks, excavators – anything.”
In fact, it was his father’s ingenuity and the construction of a mobile asphalt plant in the late ‘70s that would eventually provide the foundation for Tony’s rise into road transport. After resources giant Boral acquired the family’s mobile asphalt business, Tony and his brother Leigh founded a small family company called Kalari in 1982.
In 1989, Tony became the sole shareholder and more determined than ever to push the envelope on productivity. “I’m pretty sure we were the first to run three or four-axle trailers in truck and dog roles,” he comments.
Given Kalari’s success, it came as a shock to many when the company was sold to the Swire Group in 1994. At the time, Kalari operated a fleet of around 80 trucks, but the way Tony Noske saw it, future growth was reliant on a sizeable injection of funds.
“We were always an entrepreneurial company, innovative in a lot of ways; and while that was good for a lot of people, financiers and banks saw further growth as too much of a risk,” he explains. “Our growth was coming from within the customer base and it’s not my nature to let those opportunities pass. So at the time, selling to the Swire Group made a lot of sense.”
Despite the self-imposed sabbatical, by late 2004 he was fielding approaches from former customers again. Mid-way through the following year, the Noske name started to reappear, only this time the prime colour was blue and the new title was simply Noske Logistics.
One truck led to another, but it was winning a contract to handle massive wind generators shipped from Denmark to Portland that quickly bolstered the new company’s business base. “That project ran for three years and there was nothing normal or particularly easy about it,” Tony says. “But it was still a great exercise with a lot of innovation to do the job safely and efficiently.”
Nowadays, Noske Logistics is based in both Geelong and Portland, each operation having its own unique demands that keep testing Tony’s inventiveness. “I’ve never really believed in accepted practice,” Tony says. “As far as I’m concerned, there’s always a better way if you look hard enough.”
There are currently 11 truck and trailer combinations dedicated to short haul work between the Geelong port and local bulk warehouses, and nine B-double sets with workloads ranging from port work to grain haulage throughout regional Victoria.
“The port work is short haul but there’s certainly nothing easy about it,” he attests. “It’s non-stop when ships are in, a 24/7 job to get them unloaded in about five and a half days.”
Operating under Higher Mass Limit (HML) guidelines, the Geelong port units run at a gross weight of 46 tonnes, which delivers a payload of 30.5 tonnes. At Noske’s Portland operation, six B-doubles are working around the clock in a precise, highly developed woodchip enterprise.
Tony developed a new and immensely accurate loading and unloading process based on belly-dump B-double combinations, which can be driven onto an unloading pad with a fold-away floor, allowing 200m3 of woodchip to be dropped in just a few minutes onto a conveyor belt below.
The new system is so time-effective that each Noske combination delivers 14 loads in every 24-hour period compared to a best figure of nine loads on the tipping ramp.
However, these are not your average B-double combinations. Noske’s ‘High Productivity Vehicle’ was given approval under Performance-Based Standards (PBS) to operate at a gross weight of 77.5 tonnes on an overall length of 27.5 metres, hauling trailers running on air-suspended SAF-Holland quad-axle assemblies with Intradisc brakes.
With each combination hauling a payload of 47.5 tonnes, an emphatic Tony Noske reports, “Last year each of the HPVs averaged 210,000 tonnes of woodchip to the port.”
But his goals don’t end there. Planning to push productivity even further, he cautiously concedes to plans for the introduction of B-triples. There’s nothing certain yet but still, he has high hopes to continue going beyond accepted practice.