The name behind the names
Griffith Corporation has two main functions – moving freight for some of the biggest ‘names’ in the industry, and managing the logistics for a growing number of race car teams.
It was a passion for fast cars that led Mark Griffith, Director of Brisbane-based transport company, Griffith Corporation, into the transport business. Unlike many of today’s successful motor racing drivers, Mark didn’t start out as a youngster involved in go-karting. He already had his driver’s licence before he commenced rallying in a Datsun 1600. Some years later, his rallying abilities at the wheel of an all-wheel-drive Mazda 323 won him a Queensland state championship. The costs involved in transporting a rally car and its associated spares and equipment were becoming unaffordable, however, so Mark developed his own plan.
“Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we were paying up to $5,000 to have our cars transported to Perth to compete in a round of the rally championship,” says Mark. “I thought ‘stuff that’ and bought a really old furniture pan, which I painted in our front yard.”
Mark paid $24,000 for a well-used Kenworth prime mover and set out across Australia with his rally cars and those of his friends in the trailer. The trip itself was a something of an adventure.
“Driving across the Nullarbor, we hit a bump and a section of the floorboards fell out,” says Mark. “I could see the tail shaft and the white lines on the road. When we got back home, I realised I couldn’t just have the truck sitting there between races doing nothing – the registration fees were too expensive. So, I started carrying freight to Perth and back using one of Newman Trucking’s trailers. Then in the late 1990s, I had a Bridgestone tyre store in Brisbane and a truck doing general freight – the typical Sydney to Brisbane–type of stuff. An associate asked if I’d run two trucks for him and we have gone on from there.”
Mark doesn’t emblazon his trailers with his own livery unless individual units are fully contracted to a particular customer. Having the trucks and trailers remain in their factory paint colours also contributes to the flexibility required when running one way for one customer and moving freight on the return journey for another, as the equipment can be unobtrusively swapped between clients.
He has strong thoughts about enhancing his customers’ public images and insists that drivers do not wear the singlets and thongs associated with the transport industry in the past.
“We don’t want our people looking destitute, and most have a genuine pride in what they do,” says Mark. When a driver returns to the main depot for a 48-hour break, the truck and trailers are serviced ready for when they get back. This process also keeps the truck available to meet any urgent local requirements.
“Our company grew because we kept saying ‘yes’ and, for the past 10 to 15 years, we haven’t changed much of our business plan other than to expand,” he explains. “We work with a core group of major customers, such as Mainfreight, Tamex, Linfox, Bunnings, DHL and Northline.”
Griffith Corporation provides 12 rigid trucks to handle DHL local deliveries in Brisbane and the South East Queensland region, and Mark also has long-term associations with other companies through his motorsport connections.
“We pride ourselves for having late-model mezzanine-floor drop-deck trailers from Vawdrey,” says Mark. “Customers want triple mezzanine floor trailers, but that means we can’t do work for ridiculously low freight rates any more. Today, we need more staff to help run the business and – as an example – I’ve got a compliance manager and two others who check logbooks, drivers’ sheets and proofs of delivery.”
Operating transport services to North Queensland presents some particular challenges in addition to the condition of the Bruce Highway. The effects of the cyclone season can include trucks, trailers and drivers being marooned for days at a time, so a watch must be kept on the weather forecasts. The harvesting of fresh produce in Far North Queensland comes with its own problems.
“When the produce is on, you’ll find operators who’ll go up the highway for very low rates because they can charge a lot more on the way back,” says Mark. “But it’s only there for four months of the year. Then, if it rains and they get stuck there – even for a day – it’s not worthwhile.”
The Griffith trailer fleet includes five refrigerated pans, which are often seconded to be on-site food storage facilities during prolonged power outages. Several customers appreciate that even when at short notice, Mark is able to use the race car prime movers to deliver the ‘reefers’ as backups to prevent food spoilage.
Griffith Corporation’s superbly maintained Narangba facility is also the location for the workshop that performs the in-house preparation of Mark’s own racing cars, as well as for clients who prefer to concentrate on the driving aspect of the sport rather than the mechanical maintenance. The popularity of ‘arrive and drive’ motor racing is expanding, and Griffith Corporation continues to rise to meet the demand for the highly specialised skill sets required.
The motorsport arm of the business is growing and is now supported by five dedicated prime movers and several ultra-specialised custom trailers.
“We currently look after six race teams,” says Mark. “The motor racing prime movers do local work for other freight companies between racing commitments.” This echoes Mark’s philosophy back when he had his first truck and went about maximising its utilisation.
Griffith Corporation is seen by many in the motor sport industry as a genuine problem solver.
“We recently had a well-known motorsport identity contact us about transporting eight customers’ cars and their spares across Bass Straight for the Targa Tasmania rally event,” shares Mark. “We just take over and make it easy for them.”
He explains that Griffith Corporation is progressively bolstering the fleet with Mercedes-Benz Actros prime movers.
“Our plan was to take delivery of one new Actros per month for 48 months then start turning the originals in,” says Mark. “We’ve grown to 60 trucks and have around 40 Mercedes-Benz so far. After four years, they’ll have a million or so kilometres on them and, as they are on the Mercedes-Benz Agility guaranteed future-value plan, we can update knowing what our costs will be. I don’t want to be overhauling engines or diffs – it makes better sense to get new trucks.”
In addition to the Mercedes-Benz Agility guaranteed future value, or buy-back, program, Mark uses Mercedes-Benz finance and each truck is on a premium Mercedes-Benz maintenance program.
“We have achieved a good thing with Mercedes-Benz,” he says. “I get the truck, I finance it through them with a competitive deal and I get a guaranteed future value. The trucks are specified with the latest driver aids, such as lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.
“It’s the drivers’ safety,” Mark adds. “It’s not often you hear of a fatality in a European truck, and anything we can get now that helps us is taken up. Additionally, we now have trucks that meet the Euro 6–emissions standards, which pleases many of our customers as well.”
In addition to safety, Mark considers the advanced technology available in trucks today to be a contributor to their reliability, while developments such as the Mercedes-Benz PowerShift3 automated manual transmission contribute to better efficiency and reduced driver fatigue and also greatly extend the usable lifetime of components such as clutches. The fuel consumption of the Actros trucks is important as, in today’s transport environment, costs are better able to be addressed than rates. “We get around two kilometres per litre from our Actros B-doubles, which is great for our sort of work,” he adds.
Although involved in a number of motor racing activities, the form of motorsport that Mark has concentrated on in the past few years has been the Australian GT Championship, which features many exotic European brands including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Ginetta and BMW. In his category, Mark has won two national championships and a second place, among many other successes.
There are numerous parallels between successful road transport and competitive motorsport. As with the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3 that he currently races on circuits around Australia, Mark applies the same level of research, specification, preparation and maintenance to his ever-growing fleet of Mercedes-Benz prime movers.
The Mercedes-Benz Agility Finance Programme is designed to provide flexibility and peace of mind to transport operators, with its ability to guarantee the future value of a new truck. When the agreement term finishes, the customer has the option to trade, retain or return the truck. Subject to a few conditions such as fair wear and tear, the future value of the truck is guaranteed. Customers can also benefit from the ability to increase the initial deposit or trade-in value to reduce monthly repayments.