Transport operator forced to make the most difficult call
Patrick Jeffery started Jeffery Transport 28 years ago, and the decision to downsize was a tough one.
After struggling to find employees for the past few years, the recent fuel price hike was the final straw that forced a seasoned transport operator to make one of the toughest decisions of his life. .
Patrick Jeffery, 53, started Jeffery Transport in 1994 in his home town of Moruya on the south coast of NSW, around 300 kilometers south of Sydney. Over the past 28 years, his business has grown and diversified.
“I grew up on a farm and trucks have always been a part of it. My dad had a truck on the farm, my grandfathers both had trucks, so I did a bit of farming for a while and then I got my own truck,” he said. declared.
Until recently, he ran a fleet of 12 late model main engines and operated out of three depots. But now the business as he knew it will be no more, as he downsizes his workforce to just two trucks and gives up the leases at two of his depots.
He explained that there were three main factors behind this decision: an aging workforce, difficulty in attracting young people to the industry, and rising operating costs. Unfortunately, he’s not alone, with many transport operators feeling the effects of these pressing issues, which don’t seem to be going away any time soon.
“It’s a shame because I lived for the trucks and the transport industry. I’ve lived and breathed it every weekday for the past 28 years. I’ll still have a few trucks running, but it’s hard to give away the rest because half the time it’s not viable and the other half of the time I can’t find anyone to do the job,” Jeffery said. .
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It almost tore my guts out after all these years of putting it all in there and saying that’s it, it can all go. is really tough. I have customers that I have had for as long as we have had the trucks; and I had to lay off about ten employees.
Jeffery says that in December/January the fleet used the same amount of fuel as in February/March – but the latter period cost him an additional $45,000. “And we got nothing in return from major customers. They finally agreed to raise the rates, but by the time it took to come up with it, it was too late. With the interstate stuff, it’s the rates and how long it takes to negotiate rate increases, especially in the last few months with fuel prices.
“There is no point in running the trucks. We do not organize B-doubles, only singles. Right now, long haul trucks are costing us 95 cents per kilometer for fuel, 70 cents per kilometer for the truck (i.e. finance, repairs, maintenance, maintenance, insurance, tires, etc.), the employee costs 70 cents per kilometer, to which are added administrative costs which represent approximately 5% of our turnover. Then there are the deposits and the cost of the trailers too. It costs us about $2.95 a mile to run the truck and we just don’t get the money back,” he explained.
The other big issue the company has faced is staff. “We just can’t attract people. We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of long-term employees, so it wasn’t a major concern until recently when many of them started to reach retirement age. We’ve had a few young drivers come in, but they’ve decided to leave the industry all together because if they make a small mistake in a logbook, they can be fined $600. With the roof trusses we transport, for example, we need someone with all the relevant tickets and they need to be really on, so finding those employees is very difficult.
“You have all these people who have been in this industry for 20, 30 or even 40 years and now they are coming through. This means that we lose a whole pool of experience and knowledge – everything will be gone and there will be no one to teach people.
“It’s a really sad reflection on the transport industry when in the past six months alone we’ve had at least six regional carriers in NSW close.”
Jeffery has already sold some of the trucks, with the rest to be auctioned off. “I’ve already narrowed down the work to what we’re going to do in the future. With the trucks, people lined up to buy them because we have a lot of late model trucks – but it’s not the best thing to have to give away all your toys.
The company was able to retain two of its drivers, as well as its mechanic. “We still have things to settle and we will open the workshop to other people as well, which will help him keep his job. I also have an earthmoving business so I just want to keep the transportation as it is, keep our shop running and continue our earthworks so we can continue to earn a living,” Jeffery added.
“I don’t know what is the best way forward for our industry, but I really think the government needs to recognize what is happening because without this industry Australia is screwed. We need to encourage young people to enter the industry, but instead the media has portrayed the industry as a bunch of dope cowboys coming down the highway and it’s not. The vast majority of us are just normal people trying to do our job. »