Automatic for the People

Since opening its first branch in Brisbane 28 years ago, Bidfood Australia has achieved significant growth and become a major national player in the food service industry. From the beginning, the company has relied upon Hino trucks as the predominant brand in the fleet.

From the outset Bidfood has partnered with Hino as a one-stop-shop supplying fully built trucks to its branches all over Australia.

As a result, the company is able to leave most its vehicle needs in the capable hands of Hino while concentrating on maintaining the highest levels of customer service for its valued clients.

Indeed, a major determining factor in the success of any business is customer service. Get it right and the business is likely to grow; get it wrong and very soon the competition will be eating into market share, jeopardising the very viability of the company.

In the case of Bidfood, getting it right has seen the company flourish from a single branch in Brisbane 28 years ago to a national operation comprising 43 sites covering every state and territory in Australia.

Bidfood, formerly known as Bidvest Foodservice, was originally part of Bidvest Group Limited, a South African services, trading, and distribution company founded in 1988 by Brian Joffe and listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in 1990.

In 2017 the Bidcorp Group was formed focusing solely on the foodservice industry and commenced trading under the new name of Bidfood, after it was listed independently on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in 2016.

As such, Bidfood Australia has grown to become a pre-eminent out-of-home food service provider to the likes of cafes, pubs, clubs, restaurants, mine sites and hospitals. Today, the company has well in excess of 30,000 customers across the nation.

Hino 300 and 500 Series are fitted with 2-pallet to 16-pallet bodies across the fleet.

According to Grant Fairlie, who has been General Manager Procurement and Marketing of Bidfood for the past nine years, the original manager of the business started out using Hino trucks and the company has continued using the brand ever since.

“It has always been about reliability, reputation and service – and Hino delivers on all these points in spades,” Grant says – adding that the company operates a variety of different sizes from the 300 Series and 500 Series ranges, fitted with refrigerated van bodies in sizes ranging from two-pallet to 16-pallet.

In fact, according to Grant, Bidfood has over 250 Hino vehicles on the road across Australia, with the number of different roles almost matching the different sizes of vehicles employed.

“Some do longer interstate runs or to smaller regional branches which can include overnight stops, while others are running around metro areas delivering to local restaurants, pubs and clubs,” he says.

Interestingly, in addition to company drivers, Bidfood also engages a significant number of subcontractors. According to Grant, while these are free to use whatever brand they prefer, many choose to buy Hino, deeming it the ideal unit for the task and at the same time blending nicely with the company-owned trucks.

When it comes to maintenance, Grant says while some of the larger branches have workshops where servicing and minor repairs are performed, as a rule relevant Hino dealerships or authorised Hino specialists across the country are relied upon for this essential service.

Thus, keeping the machinery in tip-top condition for as long as possible, it’s not surprising that many of the Hinos in Bidfood’s fleet are between five and ten years old and still going strong, testament to the longevity of the Japanese brand when driven and maintained optimally.

That said, Grant maintains, the company purchases between 60 and 70 new Hino trucks each year, making it one of the larger Hino fleet purchasers in the country.

It was therefore fitting that Bidfood recently helped Hino celebrate a major milestone when it took delivery of the 125,000th Hino truck sold in Australia.
The sale of Hino Australia’s 125,000th vehicle came at a poignant time for the company as it is now 55 years since the first Hino vehicle was sold in Australia.

The truck, a 500 Series Standard Cab FE1426, was handed over at Bidfood’s new facility in Richlands, Brisbane.

“For Bidfood, the Hino 500 Series Standard Cabs are a logical choice as they boast class-leading safety, high levels of innovation and technology, while also meeting Euro 6 emission standards,” Grant says. “And the feedback from our drivers has been overwhelmingly positive.”

He adds that the high level of safety features on the new Hinos has prompted Bidfood to accelerate its replacement program to ensure its drivers are spending their workdays in the safest and most comfortable environment possible.

According to Bruce Lawson, Corporate Business Manager at Hino Australia, the long-term relationship between the company and Bidfood has endured due to the one-stop-shop service Hino is able to provide. All of Bidfood’s Hinos are built up in Brisbane and then delivered to the Hino dealer nearest to the depot where the truck will operate from.

“We manage the complete build of every truck Bidfood orders through us from start to finish,” Bruce says.

“We organise the fitting of all the accessories including the body, signwriting, tailgate and fridge unit and then have the completed truck transported to the dealer nearest to the Bidfood branch that ordered it. The dealer organises the predelivery inspection and registration before washing the vehicle and delivering it for us.”

Bruce says this approach is important because it provides a uniform build for Bidfood’s Hinos right across the country.

“Value adding is one of our strong points with managing national fleets in Australia – we control the entire process for the customer from factory to handover,” he says. “It gives our clients peace of mind because they effectively only have one contact point for any queries. Therefore, they can rest assured that we have everything in hand in regard to their new vehicles.”

Bruce adds that the company has a comprehensive handover process to ensure the drivers are familiar with the extensive array of safety features that comes standard with the latest 500 Series and 300 Series Hinos.

“We try to do as much driver education as possible to help get the drivers up to speed on each of the safety and technology features that they may or may not be aware of,” he explains.

“The new 500 Series Standard Cab comes standard with advanced safety features including Pre-Collision System (PCS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).

“Bidfood considers it important to have these features across the fleet as soon as possible,” he says.

Furthermore, all the Hinos Bidfood buys feature automatic transmissions – Aisin in the 300 Series and Allison in the 500 Series – which brings the two-fold benefits of lower maintenance costs and a larger driver pool from which to draw compared with manual trucks.

“Our 500 Series comes standard with an Allison fully automatic transmission which has no clutch to wear out, reducing maintenance costs with its seamless gearchanges that are always done at the correct rpm,” Bruce says. “Similarly, our 300 Series has the Aisin automatic which is similar to the Allison but on a smaller scale.”

He mentions that the automatic transmission equipped trucks have the potential for overall fuel savings over manual equivalents – where driving skills play a larger role in determining fuel use.

“Bidfood understands the benefit of having trucks that are virtually as easy to drive as cars where the drivers simply put them in Drive and away they go, with the various safety features warning them of a potential hazard ahead or if they stray from their lane,” Bruce says.

Grant Fairlie echoes the sentiments of Bruce Lawson in regard to safety features and ease of driving due to the automatic transmissions that are part and parcel of every new Hino Bidfood buys.

“We also have GPS tracking on each of the trucks so we can keep our customers informed in terms of approximately when they can expect their deliveries,” Grant says.

As for the refrigerated bodies, they are manufactured and installed by Ace Truck Bodies at Pinkenba, Brisbane, with Carrier Transicold fridge plants completing the picture.

Bidfood Richlands GM Duncan Alderson with Operations Manager Stephen Tomlinson.

The bodies feature tri-zone compartmentalisation which ensures the correct temperature is maintained with frozen, chilled and ambient temperature goods in the same load. Some of the bodies are also fitted with Anteo aluminium tailgate lifters.

Grant fully appreciates the benefits of having Hino in charge of the entire build of the trucks as it lets him concentrate on other pressing aspects of business operation.

“Hino takes care of the whole process for us which really takes a load off my mind,” he says. “They understand our business, are reliable and give us great service – there is really nothing more we could ask from a truck supplier.”

Having trucks of a safe, efficient, reliable and durable nature supplied by a company such as Hino that is willing and able to go the extra mile in ensuring optimum customer satisfaction, is pivotal to the continued success and growth of Bidfood.

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