Prime Mover Magazine

Innovator by Nature: Jim Temple

After commencing truck driving at 16, Jim Temple went on to form Temple Freights in Perth in 1959, subsequently pioneering a number of innovations that significantly improved transport efficiencies in the west.  

Raised in rural Western Australia, Temple got his first taste of transport at the tender age of 14.

He left school and started work as a plant operator with a company producing potash in the wheatbelt town of Chandler.

He soon graduated to the position of offsider to a truck driver delivering the potash and, not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before the young Jim Temple was behind the wheel of an AEC truck.

“I was a big strapping lad and we had to manually load the bags of potash, which were always red hot,” he recalled.

“We drove to a railway siding at Weira and loaded them onto rail trucks bound for storage sheds in Fremantle. The driver was a very good operator and he taught me well, so after I turned 16 I was allowed to start driving on my own.”

Operating a truck and dog trailer, which was an unusual combination at the time, Temple was charged with the task of venturing into the timber country to load and transport logs cut by mainly Italian and Slav timber cutters to fire the furnaces at the potash factory.

“That’s where my initial knowledge of truck and dogs came into being,” he said.

It would sow the seed that inevitably led him to introducing them into his own business years later.

Temple's move into truck driving later blossomed when the potash company engaged a Perth truck operator, Noel Sweeney and Co, to transport the product directly to Fremantle, rather than double handling it by rail.

“Noel bought two Leylands – a Hippo and a Beaver – to do the job and I was one of a number of blokes hired to drive them. We drove the 360km through the night and it was quite a trip, especially the narrow winding bit through the hills of Northam,” he said.

After doing this for a while the country boy decided it would be good to see a bit more of the city and took a job driving buses in Perth.

Then at the age of 19 he got married and joined the police force, working his way into the transport department and later the heavy haulage department.

But the allure of truck operating eventually saw Jim back behind the wheel, this time for Russell’s Transport hauling barley from the railhead. According to Temple this gave him vital experience that was invaluable when he started his own business.

“Russell’s Transport was contracted to the WA Barley Board and I learnt a lot about handling barley and how to sample the grain. It was my job to assess the quality of each load and the farmers were paid accordingly,” Temple explained.

“Then when the transport contract came up for renewal I put in a tender and won, so off I went to Century Motors in Perth and bought my first truck.”

It was a secondhand five-tonne International ASC 160 with 120,000 miles on the clock for which Jim paid 500 pounds, and not long after that he purchased his second truck, a five-tonne Fargo.

The trucks were put to work carting the bagged barley, bound for storage and at a later date sent to the Fremantle port. This gave Jim a good understanding of the waterfront operations which stood him in good stead two decades later when he opened his own container yard, but more about that later.

At the time he started his business the labour-intensive practice of hauling bagged grain was the norm, but Jim foresaw that bulk transport of grain and chicken feed was far superior and before long was able to put this into practice.

In the early 1960s Diamond Ice (later to become Ingham’s Chicken) built a feed mill in the northern Perth suburb of Wanneroo. Jim succeeded in winning the haulage contract, using trucks fitted with revolutionary pneumatic discharge bulk bodies which blow the chicken feed directly into the farm silos.

Jim says he was one of the first operators in WA to adopt this method of feed delivery.

“I went to International and ordered four eight-ton trucks that were sent to J.B. Engineering in Victoria to have the bodies and pneumatic equipment fitted,” he said.

“The trucks alone cost me 8,000 pounds each and I nearly fell off my chair when the bloke from J.B. told me each body would cost 8,400 pounds!”

This style of feed delivery became the mainstay of the Temples operation and continues to this day, while the vehicles have increased dramatically in size to improve efficiencies and meet the needs of ever larger farms.

The unloading is swift, taking just three minutes per tonne, he said.

This was a major improvement compared to unloading bagged grain into an auger.

Today Jim’s daughter, Karen, is the load scheduler at Temples, ensuring the deliveries are conducted in a timely and efficient manner.

“My aim has always been to foster new ideas and propose better ways to do things which improve efficiencies for our clients,” he said.

“By doing these things I was able to win and keep many contracts over the years because I could do the work more cost effectively and still make a profit.”

The method of delivery for live chickens, when Jim commenced carrying for Diamond Ice, was very different he recalled.

“We bought 16 demountable bodies called Ackerman Trays and we had four rigid trucks which delivered them to the farms,” Jim said.

“After delivering an empty the truck driver would back under a full one and this saved a lot of time.”

Another groundbreaking move came in the late 1970s when Jim opened his own container park, with a capacity of 4,000 containers, at Spearwood, about 12km from the Port of Fremantle.

He explained that this was a particularly volatile era on the WA waterfront with many strikes causing major delays in receiving and delivering containers.

“We acquired a large Clark forklift capable of lifting full containers and we installed about 60 power points,” he said.

“At the time ours was the only yard equipped to plug in refrigerated containers.”

With considerable foresight, Jim was prepared to run the terminal 24/7 when necessary and it wasn’t long before he was receiving containers from a range of operators and subsequently delivering them at the most expedient times.

“We had operators hauling containers from the southwest and other outlying areas to our yard and when the port was ready we would deliver them, which gave us additional work,” he said.

“I had a very good relationship with Seatainer Terminals, the main waterfront operator, and we would often deliver containers between midnight and 4am when things were quiet and we’d have a turnaround time of half an hour, compared with two to three hours if you went in willy-nilly.”

During his time operating the container park Jim was also appointed as a Commissioner with the Fremantle Port Authority for a period of four years.

Towards the end of the ‘80s, Jim says Temples was the first company in Australia to introduce a B-double trailer combination, pulled by a twin-steer Volvo prime mover.

He recalls stating at the time that the B-double would go on to become a major force in improving efficiencies in the transport industry.

“I needed to simultaneously carry two 20-tonne containers for a new contract I’d won,” Jim said.

“Howard Porter built the trailers and I was granted a permit to transport the containers from a Western Mining site on a specific route into the port.”

Jim Temple plans to write a book detailing the events and aspects of his life revolving around the transport industry in Western Australia.

Suffice it to say, his various enterprises have made a significant contribution to the industry as a whole – in multiple things that move and shake. 

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