Jon Kelly makes no apology for the fact he has changed the face of trucking in heavy haulage. His fleet of prime movers and trailing equipment, specifically designed for the biggest loads, takes road transport equipment presentation and industry professionalism to the highest level, realising a dream he has aspired to achieve from a young age – and it is paying dividends.
His company Heavy Haulage Australia has grown from a one truck fledgling business to become one of the most instantly recognised and highly respected in that facet of the trucking business. The trucks are always immaculate, carry a list of accessories longer than your arm and are operated by some of the most highly experienced people in the field.
“It is vitally important to offer customers the very best in all facets of what we do and this is another thing we strive to do at all times.”
Heavy haulage in Australia has become increasingly competitive across the years, particularly as this country has seen the establishment of new mines in the resource sector and various governments have addressed the need for new infrastructure, resulting in sizable projects requiring specialised carrying and Jon Kelly has played an integral part in many.
Embedded in the roots
Jon has always been a keen truck enthusiast. Exposure to heavy haulage through operations conducted by his grandfather playing a big role in his life, so much so that he went to work with truck dealers selling used equipment, a career move that saw him eventually buy a used 1988 Mack Super-Liner and a four row of four Lusty Allison low-loaders and dolly giving a 50 tonne capacity, going into the business on his own account.
“I used to look up to those people who ran the best equipment, those with flash trucks and trailers, and always aspired to have equipment like that of my own. One thing my grandfather used to tell me was to offer a high level of service, use good people and concentrate on being the best and this has stuck with me and become a driver behind the business,” Jon tells.
“It is vitally important to offer customers the very best in all facets of what we do and this is another thing we strive to do at all times. A sign on our gate reads ‘Complacency ruins perfection’ – and this is hammered home to everybody here without reservation.”
These values have aided both the company and customers and been acted on from day one 10 years ago, contributing to growth, customer respect and long lasting relationships that sees Heavy Haulage Australia become a preferred transport provider for some tough and amazing speciality hauls. It was not long after Jon commenced operations that he bought a second unit, a used Mack Ultra-Liner from the Road Trains of Australia fleet, and a three row of eight low-loader to meet customer demand, and looking across the yard of his new multi-million dollar headquarter in Brisbane, he comments, “the rest is history”.
Jon has continually concentrated on providing equipment to suit the job, in fact he was one of the first private operators to put a multi-axle modular platform trailer into service in Queensland, a high investment in both HHA and customer businesses. The company offers both on-site and on-highway services with its platform trailers, a range of low-loaders, extendables, B-doubles, road train combinations and single trailers to encompass pickup and delivery of everything from a five tonne crate to indivisible loads of 500 tonnes.
The diverse fleet allows HHA to offer an ever-broadening range of special project services covering both transport and installation. Some of the hauls have been more than impressive including the cartage of 430 concrete segments for the huge Gateway bridge project. These segments ranged in weight between 72 and 228 tonnes and included the largest man-made precast section to be transported by road in the southern hemisphere.
“Here at HHA we think outside the box and look at every avenue possible.”
Another huge project was the transport and installation of key equipment for the Darling Downs Power Station under construction in Western Queensland. The company carried over 6500 tonnes of equipment from all over the country to the site including the stator and generator units for the project. Road transport of the 250 tonne stator was coupled with installation of the unit to its place 15 metres above ground, a task completed successfully through meticulous planning.
“One particular task was to transport 190 tonne pieces of equipment from Wacol to Goodna. While it is only a short distance, this equipment sat there for two years as nobody knew how to do the job, but we solved the problem by building a road through a nature strip and bypassing 15 bridges to affect delivery. It was a massive task, but here at HHA we think outside the box and look at every avenue possible,” Jon reveals.
All vehicles in the HHA fleet are monitored by GPS tracking and on the wall in Jon’s office a huge plasma screen allows him to see at a glace where each truck is located and oversee movements and arrival times. In the larger trucks, satellite phones are installed to allow constant communication – not that you will find him in the office for most of the time. Jon is very much a hands-on person and drives a block truck, a Kenworth C501, on the major load shifts, allowing him to keep very much in touch with all aspects of the task. The truck is only two years old and has covered little more than 30,000 kilometres leading him to say this is a vehicle he will probably never sell.
He is justifiably proud of the expertise of his drivers and the role they play in whatever task they undertake. Each driver is designated their own truck and considering equipment and luxury levels installed, they also take pride in the equipment they operate.
“Having one driver to one truck has considerable advantages, firstly they are expected to keep the interiors sterile clean and they are responsible for them 100 percent and if they put a scratch on it I know immediately who to blame,” Jon grins. “We have a full-time truck detailer who handles the exterior appearance and while drivers do give him a hand, it is his job to ensure every truck and trailer goes out to do a job with the best possible presentation. We would not have it any other way.
“I encourage them to take part in truck shows as I feel it is essential to present our industry in the best light possible. Road transport is always under a cloud resulting from poor and inaccurate media reports and if my people can go to a show, talk to the public and point out that we are not knuckle dragging heathens, then hopefully we achieve something. One thing we do notice is that on hauls many non-truck people come to look at the trucks because of their appearance and it is our intention to get the message across about the industry’s importance and the fact there are career opportunities available,” he says.
HHA also carries out its own escort duties with three employees designated the task using vehicles expertly fitted out to meet all compliance obligations and safety issues associated with every haul no matter what part of the country they are operating in or to.
Keeping up with growth
In mid-December the company opened the doors of a purpose built facility with a full workshop and office block to keep pace with growth. The 8000 square metre site includes a wash bay representing a $300,000 investment and boasts full access for the largest vehicle combinations including the 18 axle platform trailer. Adjacent to the facility is a storage yard offering an additional 7500 square metres of space.
HHA recently unveiled a website to promote services and part of that initiative is a survey panel asking visitors to indicate their highest transport priority from price, speed, safety, communication, guarantees, timing or other and Jon says safety is usually at the top of the list.
“Surprisingly safety accounts for more than 80 percent of the responses I am happy to say. Those who completed the survey are high profile people and it shows they are concerned about how road transporters approach this issue. We are extremely concerned about safety here, you cannot be any other way, and we take every possible step to ensure everything we do is carried out in the safest possible manner. We are TruckSafe accredited and the fleet is not only in the very best condition, every truck is fitted out with safety equipment,” explains Jon.
“We take considerable pride in everything about our operations and like to think we deliver the best for customers. We are certainly not the cheapest in the business, far from it, but we give top service in a road transport sector that is a very specialised area.”
While Heavy Haulage Australia is setting high standards in Australian operation, Jon Kelly is to commence offshore activities and while understandably keeping his cards close to his chest, reveals some big equipment is to undertake challenging roles across the water.
“We constantly seek new opportunities and we have bought some Kenworth Big Foot prime movers to be completely refurbished to work on some big projects offshore. We have ordered a 32 axle trailer due to arrive in July or August that will handle some big loads including the movement of a piece of equipment weighing 876 tonnes,” Jon says.
“Naturally presentation and the professional expertise we deliver will be applied to this new business sector and I look forward to expanding our activities across the new projects.”
Heavy Haulage Australia is moving from strength to strength in the business and while some may scoff at Jon’s expensive wont to dress trucks and trailers to a premium presentation level, he points out it is paying dividends.
“Our company is highly professional and the equipment operated reflects this,” he says. “We take considerable pride in everything about our operations and like to think we deliver the best for customers. We are certainly not the cheapest in the business, far from it, but we give top service in a road transport sector that is a very specialised area.”
HHA is a company exuding class from the time a unit enters a loading site, backed by a team of experts in all facets of the business.