In common with many regional cities in Australia, Maryborough on the central Queensland coast has been saddled with the double whammy of a growing unemployment rate and an aging population – circumstances which lead to many people having restricted means to afford the basic necessities of life.
As a Christian church with a mission heart for helping those in need, LifeChurch at Maryborough in 2008 established the FoodBasket – a low-cost food club that supports families and individuals on low incomes by providing everyday food items and household staples at well below retail prices.
Those with either a valid Health Care or Pension card can avail of the service which aims to consistently supply a wide range of ever-changing food items to this sector of the community.
Given the unemployment rate in Maryborough is reported to be one of highest among Australian cities, the extremely high demand for the services of FoodBasket is hardly surprising.
As much of the food is sourced from Brisbane, about 270km south of Maryborough, the logistics of transporting the goods – which includes ambient, chilled and frozen products – is a critical aspect of the not-for-profit organisation.
The man in charge of this is Mick Wait, who started as a casual truck driver four years ago and two years later rose to the position of Manager.
Being a former long-distance truck driver, Mick possesses the necessary skills to deliver the goods, as well as a caring heart for helping those in need within his local community.
As such, it’s obvious he gains a great deal of satisfaction from doing his job well.
“We’re a ministry of LifeChurch Maryborough and we operate a small retail not-for-profit grocery store,” Mick explains.
“Anyone with a Health Care or Pension card is welcome to become a member, which entitles them to shop here. We have lots of either free or really low-cost items available.”
The food items come from a variety of sources, some free and others purchased at low prices, which enables all the operating costs to be covered.
“We are largely funded by the minimal prices we charge for our grocery products, along with some small grants we receive from the government,” Mick says.
“While the grants are greatly appreciated, the majority of the running costs are covered by our customers.
“Our three main sources for food are Foodbank, SecondBite and a number of food wholesalers that are able to give us significant discounts for buying in bulk. We source all the food as cheaply as we can so that we don’t need to charge much to cover our costs.”
All of the food is transported to the FoodBasket’s Maryborough premise from various locations around Brisbane in a Hino 500 Series Standard Cab truck fitted with a 10-pallet refrigerated body.
The unit was supplied by Brisbane-based Scully Refrigerated Special Vehicles (Scully RSV) and replaced an older Japanese truck with a six-pallet body.
According to Mick, the new Hino has made a phenomenal difference to the operation due to a number of improvements over the old truck, not least that it can carry nearly twice the cargo while at the same time using precious little more fuel.
Another big plus is that the Carrier refrigeration unit can be plugged into mains power when stationary, enabling the FoodBasket to use the truck as an overflow cold storage facility when it’s not on the road.
“Our previous truck had a six-pallet body with the refrigeration compressor running off the truck’s engine which wasn’t ideal,” Mick explained.
“It worked okay while the vehicle was moving but when it was stationary with the engine idling it really didn’t have the capacity to maintain the required temperature, particularly in the middle of summer.
“The new unit has no problems pulling the temperature down, regardless of the freight or the time of year,” he asserts, adding that the difference between the new and previous truck is like chalk and cheese.
“Moving to the new truck brought us many benefits most importantly it’s a lot bigger. We’ve gone from a 3.9 tonne payload to 7.0 tonnes with the new Hino.”
He adds, “It’s also significantly more comfortable and much nicer to drive – thanks to all the safety features.”
Mick says he particularly likes the adaptive cruise control which he puts to good use on the Bruce Highway running between Brisbane and Maryborough.
“It really is a handy bit of kit,” he enthuses, adding that it takes some stress away from the driving task by enabling the truck to cruise with the traffic flow without the driver needing to intervene if the vehicles ahead slow down.
On the topic of fuel consumption, Mick says the old truck used almost as much fuel as the new Hino, while carrying little more than half the weight.
“On a standard run where I go down empty and bring back a full load from Foodbank the new truck uses seven litres more diesel than the old one but brings back nearly twice as much freight. That’s a pretty impressive boost to the bottom line,” he says.
The actual fuel savings are, in fact, a lot higher considering Mick now does two trips to Brisbane a week where with the old truck three to four trips a week were done to transport the same amount of tucker.
He also mentions a couple of other ways the new truck is saving the company precious money.
“The new truck is significantly cheaper to insure than the old one, perhaps due to the added safety features, and because it has a 20,000km service interval compared to the 10,000km interval of the old truck, we’re saving around $150 each service,” he says.
Mick’s prior driving experience was with prime movers including Kenworth, Scania and Western Star, so driving a ‘little’ truck was new in many ways for him.
“I was a bit hesitant going with a Hino because I’d never driven one before, but now that I’ve driven it for nearly a year I’m very happy we chose to buy a Hino.”
Interestingly, the truck was bought outright from revenue saved up over the last ten years, in addition to a government grant, and Mick says he is also grateful for the extra care and assistance offered by Scully RSV in supplying the vehicle.
“Scully gave us a generous discount on the purchase price and also provided the signwriting for the truck at no cost to us which was very decent of them,” Mick explains. “We also received a grant of $17,000 from the Federal Government which was a great help too.”
There’s something consoling about the FoodBasket store, existing as it does, non-profit, solely for the benefit of those in need.
Because LifeChurch has invested in the latest trucking technology in the form of a Hino 500 Series Standard Cab and Scully RSV body with Carrier fridge plant, the combined increased cost efficiencies enable more people who live in Maryborough to receive much-needed help from this organisation. In these times of economic hardship for many, there’s also real value in that.