Growing up in New Zealand, Garry Morris spent a lot of time around his father’s trucks, cranes, piling and earthmoving equipment.
After leaving school, Garry trained to be a civil engineer but didn’t end up working in that field, instead gravitating, as it turned out, to be surrounded by trucks.
He moved to Australia in 2002 and found employment as a driver and then moved into a managerial role with a heavy haulage operation, before deciding in 2015 to strike out on his own.
“My father always said to me ‘you’ll never make any money out of driving trucks’, but he came around in the end,” Garry says. “I decided to give it a shot and started with one used Volvo and a new Drake quad float and dolly. By the end of this year, we will have seven trucks and ten trailers.”
Garry says he couldn’t have done it without the support of his wife, Melinda who juggles all the administration work along with managing their three live bottom trailers and a busy household when he’s away for most of the week.
While Garry concedes that his first truck – a second-hand Volvo FH – was a good truck, rising maintenance costs within the first year taught him the value of buying new gear.
“After the initial Volvo, I have only bought new trucks and we spend very little, if any, time broken down as a result,” Garry says. “When I started I was a one-man-band and I soon realised it was the right move to trade the old Volvo on a new one. That way I could ensure I wouldn’t be off the road due to unforeseen circumstances.”
The business has since grown organically and Garry has been compelled to expand it in order to keep up with the growth of his clients.
MHL does both day and night work with several high-profile road building companies in southeast Queensland as well as machinery dealers and contractors all over Australia who can’t afford to not have their equipment delivered on time, every time.
Garry purchased six new Volvo prime movers – including FH and FM models – and one new Mack Metro-Liner 10×4 rigid live bottom unit over the last five years, and all of the trucks are on either five- or seven-year contract maintenance plans.
“My preference is to run new gear and by the end of this year when I buy my sixth Volvo I will have six out of the seven trucks on contract maintenance with the dealer Northside Diesel at Caboolture,” he says.
Fixed monthly costs for servicing and maintenance enables Garry to accurately price his work because he knows precisely what the truck will cost to run over the five-year period of the maintenance contract.
“If you blow a gearbox in the fourth year it’s on them,” he says. “The only risk you take on is if you keep them for more than five years – then you roll the dice and hopefully make some extra money with them in the sixth and seventh years.”
In addition to the heavy haulage, Garry also has two prime movers and a 10-wheel rigid with Trout River live bottoms doing asphalt work. He says the asphalt trucks are kept for longer due to the lighter work and shorter distances travelled.
“I plan to keep the heavy haulage trucks for five to seven years while the trucks on the asphalt should last for ten years because they only do about 70,000km annually,” he says.
This model works for Garry because he has no desire to have a workshop and only has a small fleet of seven trucks.
“The bigger companies with more trucks have different depots so they can move older trucks to different roles and a workshop they have to keep employed,” he says. “With us, all the maintenance is done by the dealer, which suits me fine.”
As for specifying Volvo as prime mover of choice in his heavy haulage operation, Garry says for him the impressive ride comfort and living space in the XXL cabs, along with the silky-smooth gear changes afforded by the I-Shift automated manual transmission (AMT) are unbeatable features.
“The comfort level and the automatic gearbox are pretty much faultless,” he says. “Some heavy haulage operators swear by manual transmissions but this automatic with the crawler gears in the new Volvo is in my estimation every bit as good as a manual gearbox.”
According to Garry, if you use it right it will go anywhere with a 131-tonne Gross Combination Mass (GCM) that a manual truck will go.
“If you have to climb a steep pinch you simply put it in manual mode and pick the right gear at the bottom and it just marches on up,” he says. On long climbs such as the Toowoomba Range it comfortably holds fifth gear all the way at 95 tonnes gross weight according to Garry.
Volvo launched the I-Shift transmission with crawler gears in Australia a couple of years back and Garry specified it in his 2019 FH16 700hp, seeing it as a necessary feature for his line of work.
I-Shift with crawler gears helps boost fuel economy because the truck is fitted with a taller rear axle (final drive) ratio enabling highway cruising speed at lower revs while retaining the startability necessary with high GCM loads and steep grades.
Low-speed manoeuvring is significantly enhanced by a bottom transmission ratio of up to 32:1 (and up to 37:1 in reverse), allowing the vehicle to be moved at a snail’s pace between 0.5 and 2.0 km/h.
Importantly, the crawler gear module only adds 120mm to the length and 48kg to the weight of the I-Shift transmission.
Garry also likes the fact that Volvo trucks are built in Australia, saying that the local engineering that goes into them makes them the pick of the European trucks.
“Volvo Group Australia has significantly modified the trucks to suit our demanding conditions which is why they are the best European truck for this type of work, in my opinion,” he says.
Working on the principle of continual improvement, Garry says he has ordered two new Volvo heavy haulage prime movers that are due to be delivered later this year. They are twin-steer units enabling a higher payload capacity when pulling the quad axle Drake trailers.
He also recently purchased a new 500hp Euro 6-compliant FM prime mover to pull a Trout River tri-axle live bottom trailer for the asphalt work – replacing an FH that had done 1.2 million kilometres.
Garry says his business model, based around buying new trucks and putting them on contract maintenance, is paying dividends for him – keeping all the trucks busy and earning the respect and repeat business of several high-profile road building companies that demand top-shelf service from their haulage contractors.
This first class service is possible because the vehicles are always ready to go at a moment’s notice and virtually never have any unscheduled downtime.