Like so many others in his industry, Noel Lane started with a single truck and has grown the business to provide a transport service which reaches across Australia from its base beside the Princes Highway at Killarney in south western Victoria.
The Killarney location is a convenient one for an operation such as Lane Transport, positioned about 280 kilometres from Melbourne and 580 kilometres from Adelaide.
The Melbourne-Adelaide route is an important part of the overall operation, as are journeys to and from the capital of the ‘green triangle’, Mt Gambier, which is just 160 kilometres away.
“It suits us to be in the Western District of Victoria and we also have six or seven drivers based in South Australia,” says Noel, who established the transport company in 1992.
The location also suits having a core group of good drivers who can be based anywhere up the east coast.
As a young boy, Noel grew up on a spud farm, so when he started driving trucks his loads consisted predominantly of potatoes.
The operation expanded to carrying potatoes from the wider Western District of Victoria as well as hauling out of the potato growing centre of Hillston in NSW.
As his business grew Noel began carrying paper for Visy in 1992 and has continued to do so ever since, and now Lane trucks also transport packaging for other companies such as Orora. Glass wine bottles are also picked up at the Orora glass bottle manufacturing facility in Gawler, South Australia, and are delivered to wineries as far away as the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, as well as to wineries located around Victoria.
Other transport activities include the full loads of packages and parcels as well as sawn timber.
The company currently has 35 prime movers and associated B-double trailer sets including Tautliners, drop deck Tautliners, flat tops and specialised glass trailers.
There are no rigids as Lane Transport tends to concentrate on full load customers, many of which are long term associates. Lane Transport operates an eclectic fleet of American and European prime movers including Kenworth K200s, Volvo FH16s and Freightliner Argosys.
Noel considers he’s had a good run out of the Argosy models, of which six or seven currently remain in the fleet.
“They’ve been a good honest linehaul truck and I’ve been big on the Freightliner product for a time,” he says.
Noel has restored a 1418 Mercedes-Benz which he describes as a “good honest workhorse”.
The 180hp of the Benz is a far cry from the modern and sophisticated high horsepower trucks which make up the Lane fleet today.
The most recent additions to the line-up are two Freightliner Cascadias which stand out among the other various cabovers in the fleet.
However, these are not the first bonneted trucks Noel has had, as Freightliner Coronados have also seen service.
“We find our drivers like bonneted trucks because of their slightly better ride,” says Noel. “In every application which we can handle lengthwise with a bonneted truck, that’s what we get.”
The Cascadia 116 is powered by a 13-litre Detroit Diesel rated at 505hp and 1850lb/ft (2500Nm) of torque, while the Cascadia 126 is equipped with a DD16 16-litre Detroit engine with 600hp and 2050lb/ft (2779Nm). Both cabs are 36-inch sleeper XT models, with the 116 equipped with the electronic HDMI instrument panel on its dash.
Safety systems include Lane Departure Warning, Active Brake Assist, and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Both trucks are fitted with the DT12 automated manual transmission that Noel sees as a general trend in modern trucks and the automation, in combination with the aerodynamic styling, contributes to the Cascadia’s fuel economy.
“They’ve been really good on fuel and the economy is great,” he says. “Because of the shorter wheelbase of the Cascadias’, fuel capacity isn’t what we’d like it to be, and we’d love it to be a bit more, but saying that they’re very fuel efficient trucks. The cost of fuel is a real issue at the moment. So we are trying to get everything running as efficiently as possible.”
The Freightliner Cascadias are on a Freightliner Service Plan maintenance contract and Lane Transport operates its own workshop with three experienced technicians responsible for looking after the rest of the fleet.
“We try to do everything in-house but with trucks becoming so complicated, there are so many different things which can go wrong and we have found that maintenance contracts provide a peace of mind,” he says.
As with everyone in today’s business climate which is influenced in so many ways by global effects, keeping control of costs is vital, as is attempting to get customers to understand that the costs of imported items such as parts and tyres add to the overall cost of providing a quality road transport service.
“At some stage we’ve got to be looking at the CPI increase as well as the fuel surcharge increase,” says Noel. “Going forward, there are people getting out of the industry. Coming into COVID we didn’t know what to expect, and we survived that and now the war in Ukraine is having its effect.”
Noel has adopted the process of calculating fuel costs on a weekly rather than monthly basis.
“A lot of the companies are pretty well on board with it, but they’ve got to put the cost of fuel onto their customers too,” he says.
An area where Lane Transport devotes considerable investment is safety and compliance and the associated accreditations.
“We’re pretty well all across it because for every major customer now we get audited by an increasing number of suppliers,” Noel says. “We do work for companies such as Linfox so it’s important to be compliant. It is a big cost and it’s not just a matter of picking up freight any more. There has to be planning and action around compliance as well.”
By providing exceptional and reliable service to their customers over the past 30 years Noel and Alison Lane have developed Lane Transport to be in a good position with a strong reputation in the local and interstate freight industries.
Despite the challenges faced by all in the industry, their business has continued to flourish with new and also solid long-term customers.