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Prime Mover Magazine


Higher ground

Higher ground

Wholesale gravel supplier JOPA Queensland works on a model unique to the construction industry. Where other businesses might invest heavily in marketing it relies solely on word of mouth running Hino Trucks to maintain its customer service, which is second-to-none.

The Logan Motorway cuts directly through Meadowbrook, a suburb in Southeast Queensland, and fast tracks entry to the Gold Coast, with nearby plugins to the Sunshine Coast and the fast-growing Ipswich corridor.

It’s a prime position for wholesale construction supplier JOPA Queensland who services building sites through its growing fleet of Hino trucks, which cart gravel and sand in tippers. Paul Curtis is the company Managing Director. The current premises sits on about 6,500 square metres of property according to Paul – such has been their ascendant rise as a business.

“We are meeting the customer demands here but eventually I expect we’ll outgrow this place like we did the previous place in Munruben,” he says.

JOPA, an amalgam of Paul and his wife Jody’s first names, runs 11 tippers built-for-purpose from Mini Body’s in Acacia Ridge for whom it has a longstanding relationship. Paul, as he looks to turn the fleet over, says he doesn’t carry a truck older than three years.

The latest addition is a Hino FM 500 series wide cab, which joins nine tandem axles and two single axle vehicles in moving 1000 cubic metres of building materials around Brisbane most days. Paul plans on replacing the three remaining non-Hino trucks in the fleet once they reach 200,000 kilometres.

“I’m not beating my chest nor did I dream about being the biggest transport company. We’re growing by just meeting customer demands. We have tried to fly under the radar,” he says. “Our motto is ‘you ring, we bring’. People deal direct with us. There’s no call centre.”

One of the unique features of JOPA Queensland is that it uses divider tailgates on half of its tippers. This enables separation in a 10-metre bin so that it can carry five cubic metres of two different products. It provides, among other advantages, his business with the flexibility to move the same product in split bins and deliver into two different locations.

“Because we can deliver two separate products to the same customer it saves time for them and saves time for us,” Paul says.

“That allows us to move on to the next job. With your emission controls it’s better for the environment and it’s more cost-effective. We’re not having to move back and forward twice.”

A customer might also request a mix of materials. The locking tailgate can secure, for instance, five metres of 10-mm drainage gravel and a couple of additional metres of sand to suit their application.

“We don’t have to take that out in two trucks,” he says. “We can put it on one truck in one delivery. For the customer they get it all at one time. It’s more environmentally friendly. For us we save on tolls.”

JOPA Queensland according to Paul can only cater to handling split materials out of its own yard. As a result the buckets are uniquely designed to fit into the tipper compartments. Recent investments have also seen the business take delivery of a Hercules loader bucket.

It also operates two smaller Kubota loaders. To Paul’s knowledge, no other company is running a similar operation in Brisbane.

Cost reductions in maintenance and upkeep have determined Paul’s conviction that Hino is the right fit for his business.

In a recent financial study he conducted spanning August 2017 to June this year Paul realised there was about a $50,000 difference in repairs and maintenance between the next best competitor and Hino.

“For me it was a no-brainer to go with Hino Trucks. The aftersales service for us is important. I can buy a truck today but it’s what I get when I drive it out of the yard and from the perspective of working with Hino it beats the others hands down,” he says.

“They’re little workhorses and we work them.”

The night servicing Sci Fleet Hino Coopers Plains offers Monday to Friday also suits the demands of Paul’s business, which begins every day at 5.30am and involves the trucks clocking close to 1900 kilometres per week.

It includes use of an overnight courtesy car. The following morning the truck is always ready according to Paul.

“The driver of the truck we are getting serviced will take the car home and when he returns at 6am someone is, without fail, always already there at Hino, opening the door to let us in.”

Sci Fleet Hino Coopers Plains books the trucks in advance for a service every 20,000 kilometres. They won’t make a booking unless there is a courtesy car available.

“Hino look after us virtually from start to finish from the time we have that first conversation,” he says.

“They work through to midnight as a service which is a big plus for us. They understand how important it is for us to keep these trucks working.”

JOPA Queensland was spawned from a load of crusher dust that required delivery and Paul, who was on a sabbatical from working within the parcel freight sector, a job he says became arduous after 15 years, bought a small truck to help his wife deliver the goods. It was November 2005.

After spending $11,500 on a 2.5 metre light truck, Paul started picking up what he calls swing jobs for hire. Six months later he upgraded to a Hino FC Dump tipper.

“I made that choice thinking my work was going to half. It didn’t. In fact it almost doubled,” he recalls.

Before he knew it there was a small fleet of five Hinos.

Today the operation has 14 full time staff 11 of which are drivers and a relief driver who assists with allocations. His son Matthew Curtis, Operations Co-ordinator, organises all the loading and his stepson Mark Williams is part of the driving team.

“We run a tight ship,” Paul says.

The northern end of the Gold Coast is rapidly expanding especially the areas of Ormeau, Pimpama and Coomera, which is now regarded as the fastest growing suburb in Australia.

To the southwest of Brisbane, Springfield and Springfield Lakes are also developing at an extraordinary pace says Paul whose business travels to these locations first delivering concrete, then the drainer gravel and finally the bricklayer.

JOPA Queensland will make up to four visits to a site over the course of the construction of a house.

“As we supply materials for retainer walls on new estates we already have the expectation that’s where the growth is going to be,” Paul says.

“Because we’re supplying for the guys who do the step down little house blocks. We know where it’s happening and we know within three to six months we’re going to be in there. It’s just constant.”

Alloy bins allow for superior payload gains for the task of supplying gravel and brick. Even so, JOPA Queensland continues to make use of a few steel bins. Although open and incapable of utilising the tailgate, according to Paul, the steel bins are well-matched options on hire jobs for the removal of abrasive materials from work sites. Subcontracting, however, represents only about five per cent of the business.

“We know that all of our trucks need to carry at least 12.5 tonne for us to achieve 10 cubic metres of recycled material. Some of the trucks go from 12.8 tonne carrying capacity up to 13.4 tonne,” he says. “So we’re well prepared to supply the customer with exactly what they want.”

The current fleet of trucks includes a Hino FE1426 Medium Auto and Hino FM2628 Medium and Medium Auto. Paul says they have only recently switched to the auto transmissions, with the staff conveying positive feedback on the Hino 500 series.

“The ride is superior in contrast to the older shape cab,” he says. “It’s more user-friendly for our drivers, who have all agreed that it makes the job easier. Given we’re customer focused and we pride ourselves on delivering in time that’s important.”

Paul says they are looking to change the cowboy image associated with many construction wholesaler businesses.

They don’t advertise. All of the business they generate is, against the trend, from word-of-mouth. To date they service an active customer base of 200 clients.

“If we failed a customer we’re likely to lose them and another five like them,” Paul says.

“So it’s vital we keep those trucks on the road. That for us is maintaining them. If a driver comes to me and says the truck has a rattle it’s straight in for a service. We don’t do any of the servicing ourselves. We’re not mechanics. We let the mechanics at Hino do the mechanical stuff. Our responsibility is customer service.”

Paul says he is humbled by the growth of the business and the ongoing support and service he receives from Hino.

“It was never meant to be like this. Where does it end? There’s no finish line to something like this.”

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