In 2013, well-established industry executives John and Sean seized an opportunity to team up and run their own company their own way. The two bought Bunker Freight Lines (BFL) from parent company Silk Logistics Group and put a new face on the old business by rebranding as Redstar Transport.
The new company was able to benefit from the knowledge the duo accumulated during their time in the transportation industry. Before they bought BFL, the team knew the company inside and out from their history working at Silk Logistics Group, with John’s three and a half years as Managing Director and Sean hired as Chief Financial Officer in 2008.
John and Sean used their understanding of BFL’s inner workings to great effect when choosing which aspects of the company to keep for Redstar and what aspects to change so the company could flourish in a highly specialised market – moving full trailer loads of express line haul freight on a sub-contract basis.
One element that was retained was the company’s client base, made up of a select group of six or seven customers including StarTrack and TNT. “An attractive aspect of the BFL heritage is that we have long-standing key customers who we know personally, so we have good customer relationships to build on,” says John. “We now work for other transport companies and we strive to improve the services they require.”
When it came to making improvements, John and Sean initially re-configured just a few areas of Redstar in a quiet way, deliberately refraining from making any big moves during their first six months of operation. Instead, they first concentrated on safety, one of their three core values. “The focus on safety and accountability is real and 24/7,” says Sean.
“We knew that we could meet or exceed market expectations in terms of rates required to gain business, but at that stage we didn’t know if we could exceed our safety expectations even if we wanted to,” John recalls. “The platform that we wanted wasn’t so much about a cheap rate, it was about having the safest service possible.”
John adds, “It was about being really in tune with what we knew the customers wanted and actually delivering it rather than talking about it. And the only way to deliver it was to perform and measure what we had done.”
Listening to customer demand clarified three ways for Redstar to maximise safety. This included a comprehensive induction process for new drivers and operations staff, the improvement of vehicle safety reports in the company’s three workshops and the development of a system to measure how Redstar’s service and safety performance had improved – the results of which were open and shared with all of Redstar’s customers.
“Any issues are quickly addressed due to our transparency,” says John. “We tell our customers the truth – if we slip up, we’re proactive about fixing it. If we fail for a breakdown reason or whatever, keeping the customer informed as it happens is crucial – especially for our time sensitive customers.”
Redstar has ensured that it is always prepared for urgent deliveries by keeping its fleet of over 500 prime movers and trailers – including flatbeds and Vawdrey curtain-siders – to TruckSafe and NHVAS standards. The size of the fleet gives the company the ability to provide compliant single, B-double, B-triple, double road train and triple road train combinations on customer request.
“Our customers have the assurance of knowing that we are compliant and they are at less risk under the Chain of Responsibility,” says John. “It cost us a lot of money to achieve that. We invested several million, not just several hundred thousand, to put the regime in place both from a technical perspective, but also from a cultural point of view in terms of the way people think and act and behave.”
John adds, “It was also important to us to get the right people within the business. It was about discipline, it was about selection and it was about skill set and cultural matching.”
John and Sean knew that keeping the right people in the right place is just as important as finding them, so the company increased its investment in its drivers, starting with an upgrade to the drivers’ facilities, both on the road and in the depots around the country. To provide better sleeping amenities, the bunkhouse model was replaced with individual rooms for the drivers on rest breaks. The company also provided transparency in driver pay rates, all leading to a more stable staff of drivers who were happy to stick around.
Due to the large number of Redstar drivers on the road at any one time, the operations staff has been provided with the technology to identify alternatives and prioritise changeovers should a breakdown occur. The MT Data based software uses satellite tracking, which allows management to know exactly where each vehicle is and lets them check its speed, log book and all fatigue management requirements in relation to the driver’s current activities in real time.
The technology can detect if a driver has broken the speed limit by even three or four kilometres, which the drivers understand results in dismissal that if that level of breach occurs more than three times. Exceeding posted speed limits by a larger amount, such as ten kilometres per hour, results in termination.
The satellite technology also means that route planning, including rest breaks, can be accurate to a very high degree. Drivers are provided with a trip sheet that says where and when they are to take rest breaks. If they don’t follow the trip sheet as set out, an instant warning flashes up on the operations centre screen, and the driver is contacted and ordered to pull over. These safety features are a factor that was important to John and Sean in order to safely deliver on promised arrival times, a necessity for time-sensitive clients.
“We need the technology to handle things just once, not four or five times,” says John. “If goods can go by road we’re pretty sure that we can be competitive. Not many people in Australia can really run effective and safe line haul transport. It’s really tricky. It’s a juggling act with customers, people and heavy machinery.”
Sean and John have managed to perfect the juggling act, having carefully chosen all of Redstar’s clients, processes and technology in order to develop a successful, safety-conscious company.