When Gary Byford was a shy 16 year old starting his apprenticeship at Tieman Tankers 50 years ago, he couldn’t have guessed how the commercial road transport industry would look in 2017 – or that he would play a role in its development.
After finishing his apprenticeship, Gary spent seven years as section foreman, then headed out on his own, repairing tankers for local milk companies in Strathmerton, Victoria. In 1975, he officially started
Byford Equipment with a goal to find smarter ways to transport milk and develop new products. “I have been able to understand the right fit of truck and freight task, and work on efficiencies, longevity and ongoing ease of use for the operators and drivers,” he says.
Gary says the biggest change to the transport industry in his half-century career has undoubtedly been the introduction of the Performance-Based Standards (PBS) scheme. “Now with PBS gaining acceptance, it adds a new dimension of excitement to the industry where manufacturers can strive to gain the best efficiencies through new innovations,” he says. “It has taken drive, determination and patience to reach this point of acceptance and understanding in the industry which is being reflected in the productivity benefits.”
Passionate about developing new products to suit his customers’ needs, Gary points to the Byford PBS-approved 26m tanker design as a career highlight. “Our current 26m tanker design has by far been the most productive and exciting product we have ever produced,” Gary says. “By re-arranging the axles into tandem groups, has allowed the increase of weight per axle group. The design uses the same number of axles as a 25m B-double, but they are spread differently, which gives a six-tonne productivity gain overall.”
The innovative design didn’t come easily though, taking three years to gain industry and regulatory acceptance. During that time, Gary says that Byford arranged road shows around Australia to explain – using video and drone footage – the operation, safety and economic advantages of these new vehicles to councils, shires, states and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).
The hard work was worth it, though, as Gary says it is part of his nature to strive to please his customers first and foremost. That’s why he points out that though he is proud of his tanker designs, his greatest highlight is the relationships he has built along the way. “Starting as a shy teenager, the main highlight has been to look back on the many friends and acquaintances I have made over 50 years in the industry, in many cases working with them to develop their ideas into products and bringing their ideas to fruition.”
Made possible by Smedley’s Engineers, Industry Icons is a series dedicated to honouring the unsung heroes of commercial road transport.