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Prime Mover Magazine

A fruitful partnership

A fruitful partnership

In order to keep up its quality standards cold carrier specialist Damorange Refrigerated Transport relies on Kenworth trucks and financing from PACCAR Financial with whom it has a long-lasting relationship.

It was a one-truck operation in the early days. The first decade yielded more work than it did reward. But according to Shane Splatt, Director, Damorange Refrigerated Transport (DRT), the humble beginnings of his company, founded as it was in 1974, as he recalls it, by a naïve young man who started out with the ambition of parking his own “one-kicker” in the yard, finally found its feet 10 years later. By the mid-‘80s it was flourishing.

Family owned and operated, Damorange Refrigerated Transport, began as the brainchild of Shane and his wife, Margaret, who retired last year from day-to-day duties. Today their son Scott Splatt heads up operations with Shane focused mainly on acquisitions and financial, providing the support. “I’m what you might call the bank,” he says. “All proposals for purchases go through me.”

Based out of Werribee South, half an hour west of Melbourne, Damorange Refrigerated Transport saw its first demonstrable growth as a business when it moved to its current home, with its sandy clay loams, the domain of many small fruit farmers and the Costa Group, who remains a major client to this day.

“Moving out to where there were a few growers and the Costa Group worked for us. At the time there was a bunch of 30 acre farmers who have since grown their operations to 200 acres,” Shane says. “They’ve grown as have we.”
It’s these kinds of synergies it shares with its key partners that reflect Damorange at its core – and it’s partly the reason for why it regards its ongoing partnership with PACCAR dealer Kenworth DAF Melbourne, who supplies and helps finance its trucks, so significant.

Shane estimates Damorange Refrigerated Transport currently runs 100 prime movers, 130 van combinations, in addition to rigid trucks, in its growing fleet. He estimates up to 74 trucks are currently working interstate routes, carting refrigerated fruit and vegetables, as a service to key clients like the New South Wales-based Pure Natural Group, alone. The company employs in excess of 200 staff.

“We have a lot of vehicles on the road,” he says. “Our customers have a lot of faith in us to deliver on what we say we will. That’s part of our success. We do the right thing by them and they’ve accepted us and kept us on. For 30 years in some  cases.”

The Damorange Refrigerated Transport relationship with Kenworth began in 1993. After purchasing a pair of Kenworth prime movers, Shane, not unlike Noah, of the Ark, prefers to acquire in pairs, claims his company hasn’t looked back since that purchasing decision was made.

“Company policy had been, up until just 18 months ago, to have a second provider when it was decided that Damorange would use Kenworth exclusively,” he says. “Financially and foundationally it was the only way.”
Although he classifies PACCAR Financial as a second-tier lender, unlike a bank, Shane says they tailor finance in accordance to the nuances and special requirements of his busy operations. It’s the special finance structures with exclusive extras offered by PACCAR Financial that make it worth it, he says, to pay a bit extra.

“They’re very open and they’re not greedy,” he says. “They don’t want your underwear as security. I have dealt with Regional Financial Manager, Rick Duske, for close to 20 years. He’s the main reason why I’m still with PACCAR Financial,” he says. “It’s a no-brainer. You’ve got to go with PACCAR.”
In terms of considerations, serviceability, to this day for Shane, remains foremost a priority when evaluating which resources he needs to invest in for his business. It’s crucial that he can access, should a driver encounter an issue on line-haul assignment, service points, no matter how desolate the location. PACCAR populates, with service centres, most of the routes the DRT fleet frequents.

“In the interior, going straight up the centre on the inland route through Dubbo, wherever, it doesn’t matter. They are everywhere you need to be,” Shane says. “Because they’ve got a great product with Cummins there’s tremendous  advantages.”

As Kenworth is aligned with Cummins Engines, Shane says he can get a Cummins repair done at any PACCAR dealership point. That’s a crucial point-of-difference many of the competitors are not able to meet vis-à-vis his ongoing operational requirements. Running fruit and vegetables is contingent on seasonal cycles. Victoria has just come out of its busy period, as Queensland enters its own. American imports, midyear, also start to land for the fresh fruit supply chain, helping to pick up any slack. Should there be any shortage, DRT has storage facilities in the Goulburn Valley, Shepparton, Barwon, Brisbane and Gayndah, 400 kilometres northwest of Brisbane, in the mandarin belt, where it has established its most recent cool  store.

“Eight months of the year we’re run off our feet, the other four months we manage quite easy,” Shane says. “There’s seasonality but it’s only, from our perspective, alleviating the mad rush. We never stop.”

To help with the freight task, Shane has ordered four Maxi-CUBE quad-quad 30 metre long B-doubles from MaxiTRANS. The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is set to approve each for operation, as the trailers have only come off-line. They will be hauled by four new prime movers, including his most recent purchase, a pair of K200 Big Cabs, acquired with this purpose in mind and two Legend 900s.

“If they bring out a tribute model we always buy two,” Shane says. “It’s just the way we are. We always buy two.”

The financial understanding between DRT and Kenworth DAF Melbourne works on a structured timeline. It allows both parties to follow an achievable schedule in which orders are always fulfilled on time.

“Given they support us with trucks we give them plenty of advanced notice and that allows Kenworth to hit the mark with delivery,” he says. “In under 20 years we have already been supplied with our 100th Kenworth.”

The prime mover, a Legend 950, was presented to Shane and Scott Splatt, in December of 2017.

Back in1993, Damorange Refrigerated Transport received its first Kenworth truck for delivery, a brand new T900. Shane says it still occupies pride of place at headquarters, having worked with Kenworth DAF Melbourne to refurbish it as a show item, for which to help venerate the long-standing financial partnership.

Most of DRT heavy vehicles for on-highway application, according to Shane, come replete with add-ons. The majority of the line-haul fleet contain freezers, fridges, heaters, air-conditioners and sweepbacks.

“The only reason a driver would need to go to a motel is because I don’t have any showers in the cabin,” he says. “I have put big beds in them. We go overboard. It’s not often DRT has to advertise for drivers. People notice our trucks.”

Like any veteran of the industry, Shane respects the fluctuations of business and the value of key partnerships. He recalls being hit hardest by the recession in 1988, at a time his business had started to grow. It was a period in which DRT was doing all it could to survive. Just trying to get paid, he says, was an ordeal.

“The recession was hard on everyone. Interest rates hit 17 per cent at one stage. You try paying that out. It wasn’t a time you could grow. So you had to consolidate and make do with what you had,” he says. “Like anyone in the transport game just trying to exist was a mountain of a job. There was no confidence out there. But when it finished, we turned the corner and went flat stick.”

That memory has stuck with him. Getting ahead and staying there remains the goal, then, now and in the future. As a customer of PACCAR Financial, Damorange Refrigerated Transport understands it must keep its edge if it is to keep pushing towards the horizon.

DRT has an internal management board that meets every two months. All buying decisions go through it. Investments and proposed finances are held accountable, so that no one, not even Shane, can overstep their area of expertise.

“From a financial aspect we’re very well managed. “We’ve never had to defer a payment,” he says. “If I want trucks I’ve got to show why we need those trucks.”

While companies like Damorange Refrigerated Transport has sought an edge with superior professionalism, Shane says it’s a personal approach, that Kenworth DAF Melbourne provides, that elevates the continued business of acquiring high priced vehicles.

“If I want something they have never once refused me,” he says. “I reckon they’ve got the whole package. Anyone who doesn’t use them are crazy as far as I’m concerned.”

Fast Fact
DTS operates the latest Thermo King Refrigeration units. Each vehicle is tracked with GPS and can provide an ongoing temperature readout for the journey. Intelligence Access Program Systems are supplied and monitored by MTData.

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