Prime Mover Magazine

Prezioso: A matter of respect

Prezioso: A matter of respect

John Prezioso, Director of Prezioso Transport, built his successful transport company by not shying away from driving trucks and getting his hands dirty in the workshop. With a hands-on attitude and approachable leadership style, he has cultivated a work philosophy based on mutual respect.

It may not come as a surprise that the transport industry’s retention rates are below the national average*, as drivers often spend long hours away from home and shoulder the weighty responsibility of the cargo they carry in a highly competitive environment. But with a growing freight task, retaining quality staff is now becoming more important than ever before. 

John Prezioso is an operator who realised early on that tackling the industry-wide staff retention issue is an urgent challenge. What he found is that it’s actually easy to keep good employees happy if you treat them with the respect they deserve. “I’ve spent endless hours in the truck away from family, so I have a tremendous respect for drivers as I appreciate what they sacrifice to get the job done,” he explains. 

His own, hands-on experience of the hard work that his drivers do gives John a real understanding of what is important to his staff, and what steps he can take to show his appreciation. “For example, if one of my drivers needs the day off to help out their family in a critical situation, they know they can just come to me and I will give them the day off,” he says.

Driving a truck is a hard job, and John says he’s just doing what he can to make the career as enjoyable as possible. As a way of showing his appreciation in a tangible manner, John has decked out the Prezioso Transport depot in Morwell with amenities that make life a little bit easier for his staff. 

“We really look after our drivers,” John says. “We have full facilities at the depot with sleeping quarters, and each driver has their own truck that we’ve specced to their own individual needs and style. They get fridges, phones and any truck cab cleaning materials they might need all supplied for them.

“By treating them with respect, they treat me with respect in return. So when I ask them to do something, I don’t get any arguments, which makes my life a lot easier.”

John says that his efforts don’t go unnoticed, and his drivers show their appreciation through their loyalty to the company. “Our drivers tend to stick around. Our longest serving driver has been with us for 19 years, and there are others that have reached the 13-14 year mark. Our turnover rate is really low, we actually add more drivers than we lose. This last year, we added 11 new trucks with 13 new drivers, and I think we only lost two drivers.”

John mentions that he never has any trouble finding people to fill vacancies at Prezioso Transport, as his valued drivers highly recommend the workplace and tend to spread the word.

“We have drivers and subcontractors who want to work with us ringing in and handing in resumes every day, whether we are advertising a position or not. We currently have 40 people that work in the company and six subcontractors, one of which is my son Jason,” John says.

With help from Prezioso Transport Operation Coordinator, Robbie Harkess, the drivers and subcontractors manage the Prezioso fleet of 35 trucks, which John says is on average three years old. Made up of Kenworth, Western Star, Freightliner and Mack, John says the American truck brands were chosen for their reliability and ease of maintenance.

“Throughout the years, we’ve really only worked with American trucks because we love the American running gear. The access to replacement parts and the ease of maintenance is a real draw for us, as we try to do as much of the servicing as possible in house.”

Taking care of the trucks in the workshop are Prezioso Transport’s two mechanics: John’s middle son Jamie and the company Director himself. “I’m a real hands-on operator. I’m always down in the workshop getting my hands dirty, and my son Jamie is a third year apprentice diesel mechanic under me,” John says. “The drivers see me out and working in the workshop so they respect how hard I work. I’m not the kind of boss who just hides in an office and the drivers never see me – they know they can come to me and ask me questions, or give me ideas, and I will listen to them.”

John’s love of trucks shines through when he talks about spending time in the workshop fixing up his fleet. “My dad was involved in transport while I was growing up, so I gained a real passion for trucks that lives on to this day.” But even with his longstanding love for the game, John says that getting into the transport industry was a big risk for him. “Prezioso Transport started during the recession in the early 1990s and it wasn’t until 1995 that it started growing as Australian businesses began to boom. We grew with our customers as their companies grew.”

After spending nine years as a fitter and turner, John started out his transport career carting cement for Gippsland-based All Road Transport. The company reached the end of its contract 18 months later, so John bought a truck and started hauling cement for his own contracts. “My very first truck was a UD that I bought from All Road Transport when I started subcontracting for Geelong Cement, who were later taken over by Independent Cement,” he says. 

25 years after those early days of Prezioso Transport, the company still specialises in transporting cement, but has also added cement blended products, mineral sands and agricultural lime products to the mix. “It has been incredibly rewarding watching the business grow and expand. Now we do more than just cement and we have 35 pneumatic tankers, which, as far as I know, makes us the single largest operator of pneumatic tankers in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Prezioso Transport’s customers have the fleet travelling between Gippsland and various Victorian sites, as well as across to Adelaide, New South Wales and Queensland. John emphasises that his respectful attitude towards his staff and subcontractors also extends to his clients, and is instilled in every member of his driving staff as they represent the face of Prezioso Transport.

John explains that creating a respectful culture across all aspects of the business helps his team work harder, as they know their efforts will be appreciated. It also means that his customers trust in him and his team, and understand that their goods are in safe hands.

“We promise to be transparent and honest with our customers to earn their trust and ensure repeat business, which we action by keeping up with technology such as GPS. We have GPS units in every single truck in the fleet, so we can monitor drivers’ performance and let our customers know exactly where their goods are at any time.

“We relay all information on any problems that arise as soon as they happen, so they are kept in the loop the whole time. We have an ‘assume all is well’ type of scenario, where they only hear from us if there’s something wrong, so they can relax and know everything is going well.”

Even as a seasoned company chief, John Prezioso has his hands personally in every aspect of the business, ensuring that he works just as hard as the rest of his team, and showing his appreciation at every turn. By earning their respect, he has built a company full of people who are happy to work hard and stick around for the long haul.

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