Fresh Footprints

Expansion is paving the way for growing its customer base at heavy commercial vehicle rental and lease firm TR Group.

Commercial transport equipment specialist, TR Group, offers top of the line vehicles and trailing equipment along the east coast of Australia where it has more recently invested in extending its market reach.

Retaining one of the largest heavy commercial hire fleets in Australia, TR Group caters to road freight, port cartage, construction and logistics operators with branches in two states, the second of which opened last year at a new site at the Port of Brisbane.

It represents a major move in its Australian expansion outside of head office in Melbourne where it recently put the finishing touches on a 7.5 hectare warehouse and hardstand facility in Laverton North.

At present the company is also finalising its latest location at Berresfield in Newcastle.

“The journey has been quite intense. It’s been a challenge expanding the business to where we are today through the COVID era,” says Chris Perry, TR Group General Manager.

“But we have tried not to let that slow down our plans to spread the network. The main thing we’re focused on is making our equipment more accessible across the country while maintaining our focus on a great customer experience. Put simply, we’re a team made up of passionate people who are driven, innovative and truly care about making a positive difference in our industry.”

The move to Laverton North provides the company with greater product carrying capacity.

In the last 18 months the company has added a couple hundred additional trailers to the fleet. Most of these purchases have been mainly geared around the construction sector with additional flat tops, extendables, drop decks, several sideloaders and a sizeable investment in curtain gear, too.

In this COVID era, with its erratic and unpredictable impacts on the industrial landscape, some categories have outperformed others — demonstrably.

The coalescing of lockdowns and surges in ecommerce trading on the economy cannot be underestimated. Ambient vans, for instance, have seen greater demand in the hire market with a higher utilisation most apparent over the last nine months according to Chris.

“We’ve certainly seen an uptick in certain categories especially with ambient vans and refrigerated vans,” he says.

“As a business we’ve refurbished quite a bit of the dry ambient van fleet to try and reconfigure it to get it to what customers want today which is basically vans of 4.3 metre height with barn doors and roller doors. We’ve changed the fleet around a little bit and added around 200 trailers. We’ve certainly seen a slow down of construction during the peak period especially when Melbourne was on lockdown. A lot of the categories that we have that traditionally support construction and infrastructure we saw those slow. Having said that, by and large, the utilisation was higher for the last 12 months than the previous 12 months.”

TR Group has, in that equivalent time, enjoyed an increase of around 10 to 15 per cent in response to its equipment utilisation.

Prime movers, of which it offers Volvo and Mercedes-Benz brands, also were as a revenue category, beneficiaries of these increases in demand. To date, the fleet consists of 80 prime movers.

Another 90 heavy vehicles are scheduled for the next financial year through Daimler Pacific Truck & Bus and Volvo Group Australia.

TR Group also has 20 UD rigid 14-pallet curtainsiders on the books with another 20 to 30 units likely to be added inside the next six months.
Mezzanine floors on the UD rigids are auto adjustable.

Operators will not need to get under the floor which can be adjusted by a forklift from any location. User-friendly single touch curtain-locking mitigates against having to struggle with locking and unlocking curtains especially after a long day in the vehicle according to Chris.

The major trailer manufacturers complete the bulk of the servicing requirements for TR Group. For servicing and repairs, trucks are always sent to the corresponding dealer of the original equipment manufacturer.

Some of the truck OEMs will also do trailer servicing so that truck and trailer can be serviced at the same time.

Otherwise, the main trailer clients such as Vawdrey Trailers, MaxiTrans and Barker Trailers provide repairs and maintenance. All the trucks, for instance, have full safety packages in them.

If anything, TR Group over-services the equipment to ensure it is in peak condition. This serves as a reminder of the significant focus the company places on health and safety.

“We want to make sure we’ve got the right equipment that covers all the health and safety requirements for customers,” says Chris. “It’s not only for their own business but in terms of meeting chain of responsibility regulations and compliance requirements. A lot of the flat tops that we have for construction work, we’re speccing those up with full restraint and safety equipment around the trailer.

“We’re just focusing on health and safety so we can stay one step ahead of what our customers are looking for.”

Engaging directly with the customer is helping TR Group make provisions to acclimatise to shifts in the market.

One of the major challenges of COVID has been ensuring they have vehicles and trailers on hand to adequately handle the supply of product so that they can operate their businesses when the demand comes.

“We continually try and evolve the business and our service offering around what their needs are,” Chris says. “So now we offer contactless pick up and drop off of the trucks and trailers. We go through a pretty intensive cleaning programme for the trucks to make sure they are safe and clean for the customers to use.”

The acquisition of Semi Skel Hire, completed in June of 2019, has worked out extremely well to date.

Part of the inherent synergy in the arrangement is that both businesses are committed, as they strive to reach their full potential, to providing a consummate customer experience.

“David and Kim, who ran the business with their father Geoff Kelly, have been outstanding since they came across,” says Chris. “They’ve stuck with us and have been a big part of the business and growth.”

Future growth, at least to the extent of preliminary discussions, is incumbent on new regions they are looking to target.

There are tentative plans to open new TR Group locations in South Australia, Western Australia, North Queensland and possibly Tasmania at some point.

There is no time frame however, currently in place says Chris, who wants to keep building on what has been working successfully.

“We’d rather do that well before we grow too quickly,” he says. “Right now it’s about making the equipment more accessible for our customers. Again, all we’re trying to do is make sure we’ve got the right equipment in the best possible condition to do the job but we’re also ensuring the equipment we’re putting on the road is what our customers want and to meet whatever future demands they have.”