Move on Up

A small Queensland business started by two acquaintances has gone on to become an essential service on the eastern seaboard in which Isuzu commercial vehicles account for a majority of its growing fleet.

Interwoven through the short history of Mobile Truck Rental, a Brisbane based transport company that specialises in one-way rentals, is an understanding that its approach to service should be reciprocated by its commercial partners.

To that degree there is an ongoing expectation that they receive what they themselves work hard to offer customers: reliability, flexibility and safety.

Directors Travis Werry and Simon Schekoske started out with a single-minded plan for a business they have continued to build despite the obvious challenges involved in running a company whose model, at least in part, requires that they have access to state borders, regularly.

While the decisions of some state governments have engendered criticism for lack of foresight with regards to border movements this year, Mobile Truck Rental not unlike many businesses, has had to refocus its energy to those parts of the business it can control.

Expanding into other areas, at least temporarily, is on pause as it commits to improving the service and customer experience in those regions it has in recent years developed a presence.

With its national fleet now surpassing 100 light duty trucks, Mobile Truck Rental runs all three major Japanese brands, however, a growing commitment to Isuzu over the last 18 months constitutes over 75 per cent of the mobile assets including four newly acquired NPR 45-150 pantechs — its preferred vehicle of choice.

The customer portfolio encompasses people who run events businesses, stage display homes, set up pop up stalls at supermarkets and even exotic animals, should you need to transport a sealion to Sea World, as was the nature of a more recent enquiry.

Furniture removals, however, involving customers moving home do comprise the bulk of the demand the company receives.

Although the business caters for long term rentals and truck leases, their niche and specialty is offering the one size of truck aimed at car licence customers.

The NPR 45-150 offers, among its chief selling points, ease of function, an important consideration when you entrust customers with your mobile assets and they in turn count on you for their safety.

Mobile Truck Rental Director, Simon Schekoske.

In addition to ease of use and safety, the vehicles must be at once reliable and durable given they will be driven all over the country. Long trips such as Atherton to Maryborough in central Queensland are not unusual.

The vehicles are spread between branches in Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Ipswich, Townsville and Cairns. The aim of Mobile Truck Rental is to provide a variation on the truck rental model. With that in mind the business delivers the truck to the customer as part of its service.

“It’s a little different to the norm,” says Travis. “We will drop off the truck as a one-way rental pretty much down the entire east coast of Australia. We’ve found the one size truck helps us in terms of servicing and parts while it fits with our target market of mums and dads moving house.”

The company offers a one-way service to almost anywhere on the eastern seaboard. Interstate movements such as Port Douglas to Geelong or from Albury to Bundaberg going in the other direction, border restrictions permitting, are not out of the question.

Indeed border lockdowns have been a challenge for many businesses including theirs.

In light of an enormous revision of population growth in Victoria, the state worst-hit by the globally recognised pandemic, it will have 400,000 fewer people by next year. Federal Treasury has since the budget was handed down downgraded the state’s migration estimates from a forecast 16,800 increase to negative 1200 this year.

That will no doubt spill into home removals. But for now the possibility of leaving has been discouraged by having to quarantine for weeks once entering another state, a burden many families leaving economic ruin cannot afford. It’s understandable that these conditions have decreased one-way rentals for Mobile Truck Rental although they have managed to offset it by concentrating on intrastate movements.

“It was to be expected that we would be impacted by much less activity with interstate travel. But people still need to move house and that’s happening for us in Queensland. It hasn’t been the busiest year in the Melbourne area. Other areas have bounced back relatively well,” says Travis. “I feel the border closures have affected what we do to a certain extent regarding one-way rentals. But we haven’t put all our eggs in one basket. We do what we can. We try to give the best advice as possible to our clients. We try and help them mitigate issues to the best of our knowledge.”

Recalibrating operations to focus more on local markets has been a successful strategy in helping to increase business that balances out any likely losses of revenue in other areas.

All trucks come with a tailgate lift and can be driven on a car licence.

With the arrival of four new Isuzu NPR 45-150 pantechs, Mobile Truck Rental will continue on its trajectory of phasing out the remaining Japanese brands on its books. Two years ago the company changed to non diesel particulate filters (DPF) to avoid associated issues.

“Getting away from DPF was a major selling point for this truck,” says Travis. “Also, increasing the term of the warranty to five years as part of our purchasing has helped to no end.”

Where possible the business looks to turnover its vehicles every 250,000 kilometres. That averages out to around four to five years in the service life.

Truck road side assist needs to improve over all three brands to the point it is comparable to the roadside assist associated with passenger cars according to Travis. It was another reason to credit Isuzu with a superior offering.

“To judge from all the major brands we have used Isuzu has the best road side assist program and aftersales service,” he says. “We’re running a service business. If we encounter an issue with any of the vehicles we just want it sorted. Generally speaking there needs to be less loopholes and more accountability. In our previous experience, too many people want to offshoot responsibility.”

Having initially tried a more committed approach to all three light duty brands, Isuzu came out ahead.

It helps that the directors at Mobile Truck Rental think they are the most aesthetically pleasing to look at along with meeting other key performance criteria. Brand awareness in the marketplace, another area Isuzu is a leader, is also a significant factor as it makes a better case for resale.

They originally started with the Isuzu NNR Series and have graduated to the newer NPR Series which, given it is tailored to a host of different vocational activities, broadens their customer base.

“We get a lot of people including cabinet makers, couriers and businesses that need to ferry goods,” says Travis. “If there are sales on at the likes of Good Guys or Harvey Norman these retailers will use our services. Their market fluctuates depending on the time of year. If they decide that they need to move more product then we’re a good fit because their drivers are mostly car licenced drivers and they need a tailgate lift which all our trucks come with. The trucks are designed for common usage. They might not suit everyone but they will tick the boxes for the biggest percentage of clients out there when they need something to move things at short notice.”

Company Director Travis Werry (left).

The benefits of keeping the fleet modern are myriad according to Simon Schekoske. He acknowledges the trucks can easily handle another 250,000 kilometres at what he has confidence would amount to being a 90 per cent standard of reliability. But that isn’t the objective of the business.

“Our goal is to ensure the equipment is at the highest benchmark and we’ve got to keep in mind the customer as well,” says Simon. “If someone is jumping in a truck in Port Douglas and looking to go as far as Geelong or even Adelaide you don’t want to be embarking on a 3,000 kilometre journey in a truck that has already clocked 300,000 plus kilometres on it. You want something modern. We want to give the customer something as new as possible.”

In addition to the benefits of keeping a modern fleet regarding maintenance, warranty and reliability, it’s crucial the business provides a new vehicle to the rental customer who may not be used to driving a small truck.

“Because of the delivery aspect of the business we want our service to be top notch. In this market space we want it to be as high as possible,” says Travis. “So, within reason, we want to keep the fleet as modern as possible. We want to be a five star truck rental business if there is such a thing.”

As directors in their mid-30s, both Simon and Travis are still relatively young. Company growth has been swift, predicated on smart investments and customer satisfaction. The fleet expanded to 20 odd light commercial vehicles inside the first year of business with a plan to grow it to 30 units after 15 months. This goal was achieved along with opening up in new areas.

They’re hoping to expand into Mackay, Newcastle and Canberra next year. For the moment those plans are on hold. Much is pending government restrictions as to workable and adult economic policies regarding approaches to COVID-19 next year.

“Ideally we’d like to get two of those proposed sites opened,” says Travis. “Shutting borders is hurting more than just tourism which the media likes to harp on about. But there’s many other businesses suffering as well across key industry. We’re one country. We should be opening up.”

For that brief period Queensland eased border restrictions earlier in the year Mobile Truck Rental saw a tangible spike in activity. It was yet another reminder the business is on the right track.

“It was hell for leather there for a time,” says Travis. “People have responded well. They like the service and have really taken to the model we are exploring.”

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