Hailing from Bruce Rock in the wheatbelt of Western Australia, Mike Verhoogt, founder of Bruce Rock Engineering, has forged an enviable reputation for designing and building some of the toughest and most versatile trailers in Australia.
“I initially wanted to go farming but being young and not having any spare cash meant it was beyond me at that stage,” Mike says.
“I had worked for a few farmers, building sheds and farm equipment along with some trailer work, so in 1980, when I was 26, my wife, Gay, and I started an engineering business with two partners.”
Within a year Mike and Gay had bought out the other partners and business at Bruce Rock Engineering (BRE) was booming. Work initially comprised general repairs, manufacture of ute and truck trays, grain bins, galvanised panel sheep yards, spray booms and farm sheds.
The business was run with Mike doing the work on the floor with the help of some young apprentices and Gay keeping the books in line.
In the early to mid 1980s the company was contracted to build a string of recreation centres throughout Western Australia and in 1986 the first of what has become a signature product for BRE – the radius sided grain tipper – was built.
“It occurred to me that if we could make a tipper body that was shaped more like a cylinder, it would be much stronger and lighter than conventional designs,” Mike says.
“We built the original unit and trialled it for a few months before selling it. It is now used by the original purchaser’s son – still going strong after 35 years of hard use.”
Mike describes how long-term success for BRE came after the company diversified and started producing trailers for the broader transport industry rather than just the agricultural sector.
“Agriculture typically has large peaks and troughs and when the farmers have money they want equipment now, while in the tough times they don’t want anything,” he says.
“We started building side tippers for the mining industry in 2006 and this gave us the consistency we needed to maintain a stable workforce.”
Mike adds that the functionality and durability of these early units has led to the company being generally recognised as the trailer builder of choice in the Pilbara region today.
Nowadays, Mike and Gay’s three sons Damion, Brenton and Keenan take care of the day-to-day running of the business, with their proud parents happy to see them building on the strong foundations they laid more than four decades ago.
Made possible by Smedley’s Engineers. Industry Icon is a series dedicated to honouring the unsung heroes of the commercial road transport industry.