It’s tempting to think of Tasmania as an isolated, far-away island somewhere off the coast of Australia, but the reality – as so often – is much more complex. With a population of just over half a million, the apple isle is an important contributor to the Australian economy and has developed a sizable road transport industry.
While the freight task itself is not unlike the one faced by transport businesses on the mainland, those handling it have had to develop some unique characteristics to cope with the effects of being isolated from the rest of the country. For instance, all interstate freight involves ships or aircraft instead of trucks, and while there are no longer any passenger rail services, intrastate rail still plays an important role in moving cargo around Tasmania. The result is a different competitive dynamic between stakeholders in what is a tightly knit local trucking community.
What’s more, the weather can be extremely challenging, with snow blocking the highway network during the cold season and strong winds engulfing it in spring.
From a regulatory perspective, however, Tasmania is following the lead from the mainland – it is a signatory to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and as such, the rules and regulations for transport businesses are in line with most of the country.
“Reliability is our key value proposition in this volatile market. We are here for the long-term, and we make sure our customers know that,” explains Chris Rayner, Managing Director of Rayner Transport.
“We are putting the money into the trucks to give them confidence that we’re not just another country transporter that’s here today and gone tomorrow. It’s no good me going to a customer and saying I can do this, this and this, and then not being able to deliver.”
Rayner Transport is based in Tasmania’s second largest city of Launceston, some 200km north of Hobart. The company traces its history back to 1 January 2000, when Chris started running a daily shuttle between the north coast towns of Burnie and Devonport, driving an ageing Isuzu with 800,000km on the clock.
These days, many of the ten Rayner-branded trucks are equipped with refrigerated and curtain-sided bodies that provide the flexibility to move products such as fruit juice and confectionary along with general freight. A seven-day per week fruit and vegetable service heads south to Hobart, for example, and similar chilled fresh products are carried to the Tasmanian north coast on a five-day week basis.
By understanding the unique characteristics of the apple isle, Rayner Transport has achieved some enviable growth over the past decade and a half, and realistic plans are in place to continue that trend into the future. “We won’t ever be the biggest,” says Chris. “But we are well placed to keep smaller operators that undercut rates without thinking ahead at bay. They do a great job but can give us a great headache as well. By choosing who we work with – both on the customer side and from a supplier perspective – our fate remains firmly in our own hands.”