Running a successful road transport business in Australia is a tough task, be it in the scorching heat of the Pilbara or in the humidity of North Queensland. But there is one state that is often overlooked when the tales of the road are being told – Tasmania.
Yet those who know Tasmania well know not to underestimate it. Narrow, hilly roads leave local operators at the mercy of Mother Nature – with strong winds, ice and snow making for a stark contrast to the stories shared in mainland Australia.
However, the most prominent obstacle Tasmanian transport businesses have to overcome is the legendary Bass Strait. Even with modern navigation and safety technology, the passage to the mainland is still no place for the unwary and adds a degree of unpredictability to the equation that would make it hard for many an operation to commit to time-sensitive work.
It’s the ability to factor in that volatility, to make the unpredictable predictable, which makes local transport businesses truly stand out. Arguably the most well known of them is grocery specialist SRT Logistics, which has been servicing a blue chip clientele including Woolworths, Lion Dairy & Drinks and Schweppes for years without letting the handicap of being Tasmanian-based lead it astray.
Today, these demanding clients make for a significant portion of the 5,750 or so deliveries SRT makes every week, committed to a tight schedule that leaves no room for mistakes – bad weather or not.
Locally, SRT’s drivers service every single town on the island, from Smithton in the north to Dover in the south. According to SRT Logistics’ CEO and Director, Robert Miller, the company is the only transport business in Tasmania to cover the whole state – not to mention connecting it with the mainland on a just-in-time basis. But it took a while to get to that stage.
Starting out transporting meat carcasses around Hobart, SRT Logistics has grown exponentially since 1988, when Robert’s father Jim Miller first bought it. “It took a bit of time to forge the right relationships and build the business into what it is today,” Robert says, explaining that SRT supplies almost every food outlet in Tasmania, from big supermarkets through to local tuck shops and corner stores. “We manage it all because we don’t over-promise or under-deliver. I make sure we never take on a job if I’m not 100 per cent certain that we can do it right.”
Sticking to this philosophy has earned SRT Logistics a reputation for being a reliable and trustworthy transport company; and to retain it, it trusts in long-standing shipping partners TT Line and Searoad Shipping when sending equipment across the Strait.
“It’s important to work with companies you can trust, that’s why we chose these guys. It’s part of the considerations I make when offered a job. If I can’t use people I trust, I don’t take it,” says Robert – adding that SRT began working with shipping companies to expand its reputation into the mainland as early as 2007.
Robert and his brother Brent, who is based in Melbourne, have spent years building the relationship with TT Line to create a reliable system, which Robert explains works in a similar way to container shipping, but with refrigerated trailers. “We’ve got teams of drivers with prime movers at either end of the water that collect the trailers and drive the freight where it needs to go. What happens in between is where it can get tricky.”
Robert says that keeping trailer temperatures consistent both on the road and on the water requires dual refrigeration units that run on diesel as well as electricity. “While the trucks are on the road, the refrigeration runs on diesel, but once they’re on the vessel, they need to switch to electric,” he says. “That’s why most of our fleet is fitted with Thermo King units that can do both. It’s one of the things we have to keep in mind when we buy new equipment.”
Keeping the wild weather and rough geography under control with carefully chosen partnerships and well nurtured staff, SRT Logistics is able to keep growing where many competitors dread the complexity of the task. “We’re still having good growth, and because we are a privately owned company, we can re-invest a lot back into the business. That way we can continue to expand and bring on more customers without sacrificing the quality of our service.”