Up to Speed

A client-oriented approach to heavy haulage provides the template for Josh and Leonnie Carter as they create opportunities for diversification.

As Josh Carter was growing up, when he wasn’t competitively racing BMX bikes, he was with his grandfather Ken learning the intricacies of heavy haulage from a man who had the reputation of being a master in that particular specialised sector of the industry.

Josh completed his mechanic’s apprenticeship at the Gilbert and Roach dealership in Newcastle, working on Kenworth and Isuzu trucks and while still a third year apprentice he gained his heavy vehicle licence and worked permanent night shift as a mechanic combined with driving a truck and dog or a float for his grandfather during the day.

Josh eventually finished his trade and went to work for his grandparents full time for most of the next ten years, gaining valuable experience driving trucks and dogs, and operating heavy haulage floats.

Ken Carter was 82 years old when he finished driving and retired.

During a holiday break in Queensland around that time Josh, with the moral and financial support of then girlfriend Leonnie, decided to purchase a Kenworth K104 rigid tipper from his grandfather which was converted to a prime mover and put to work with a hired driver and trailer, mainly carrying steel.

That same K104 is still operating in the Carter fleet today, a strong testament to the Carter service and maintenance regimes.

“I didn’t know anything about trucks when I first met Josh,” says Leonnie. “I came home from Queensland and said to Mum: ‘You know that new boyfriend I’ve been dating for about six months? Well, we’ve set up a business and I’ve bought a $100,000 truck.’”

The couple’s recollection is that cocktails, pizza and a Keith Urban concert were involved in what has proved to be a good decision.

Leonnie recognised Josh’s exceptional work ethic, which was demonstrated when, despite being on leave, his phone kept ringing with calls from clients.

“When you have a business the hardest thing to get is your clientele,” says Leonnie, who supported the concept of creating their own business.

Today the Carter Heavy Haulage operation runs a fleet of Kenworth trucks performing heavy haulage tasks as well as some diversification including bitumen tankers.

The truck which Josh drives is a Kenworth Legend 900 which has a GCM rating of 163.5 tonnes, and he is excited about taking delivery of a new Legend SAR around mid-year.

A Kenworth T359 8×4 tilt tray provides good grounding for newer drivers to gain experience in critical areas such as load restraint and provides the opportunities for them to learn how to drive the various machines such as profilers and excavators which have to be loaded before being transported.

Leonnie and Josh Carter.

“The drivers have to be signed off on each piece of plant they carry,” says Leonnie who has helped develop a comprehensive, yet workable, instruction manual.

At Carter Heavy Haulage safety and compliance are key factors in the company’s overall service offering with Donna Hunter filling the role of compliance manager, drawing upon her experience in road and rail transport along with her formal qualifications including a Diploma in Workplace Health and Safety, plus she has Chain of Responsibility and Fatigue Management certification. Josh takes a cerebral approach when assisting drivers new to heavy haulage.

“I ask them to think about where they’re going to park the truck in order to load a machine,” he says. “If they can get off the main road and go down a side street it’s much safer but they then need to be able to get back out. I encourage that forward-thinking mentality.”

Three of the current team of drivers are also former Kenworth mechanics who obtained their qualifications at Gilbert and Roach.

“All the guys when they work here it means something to them, they’re part of the family and fit in with the culture here and share the passion to do this type of work,” says Josh. “What we do is not for everyone and not everyone can do it. It’s hard work, long hours, and can be hard on families.”

Much of the work performed by Carter Heavy Haulage involves the transportation of mining and road-making machinery such as bitumen pavers and road profilers, frequently in challenging situations such as moving 45 tonne excavators into and out of the Newcastle Foreshore precinct during construction associated with the establishment of the racetrack for the city’s annual Supercars race.

The extensive roadworks required for the upgrade of the Pacific Highway involved Carter Heavy Haulage relocating on-site washeries and crushing plants to locations where mountains were literally being moved.

To strengthen the overall viability of the company by embarking on the process to diversify the client base, Josh and Leonnie looked further afield and realised there were opportunities as far away as Western Australia so they obtained the accreditations required for the Over Size and Over Mass permits in that state, as well as NHVAS mass accreditation in their home state of NSW.

Some of the Western Australian work involves 25-metre lengths of rail track on extendable trailers from Sydney to the mines in the Pilbara region plus general freight items transported on Carter roadtrains.

The work in the west has become consistent with at least one roadtrain per month, sometimes two.

A trip to Karratha is usually a 12- or 13-day turnaround and upon their return the drivers usually get two days off straight away to spend time with family.

“I don’t like them working through the early hours of the morning especially doing long distance work, and the rule is, if you’re going west it’s sun up to sun down,” says Josh. “I don’t want them working until midnight going across the Nullarbor.”

It’s not simply a fatigue issue as wildlife and stray stock can pose additional hazards in the darkness and a damaged truck can be expensive to have repaired or towed in such remote areas.

“We can’t do this on our own and we understand that,” says Leonnie. “Josh is certainly driven but it’s the team that we have built that has helped get us to where we are today.”

A novel area of diversification, which Leonnie initiated a couple of years ago during periods of lockdown-related home schooling, is the Carter Heavy Haulage-branded range of merchandise.

Kenworth K200.

Its mostly promoted and sold online, with purchasers in countries such as the USA and Canada.

When asked about his devotion to the Kenworth brand, Josh’s reply is instant: “Because it’s the best you can buy.”

He has a similar affinity for the Drake floats.

“They’re Australian made and are a very good company to deal with. Kenworths are built for what we do,” Josh explains. “They don’t fall apart, and they’re easy to fix.

With the Kenworth dealer network, you can usually get a truck fixed anywhere when our guys can’t fix it themselves.”

The availability of spare parts in remote areas is a vital part of the support which Josh appreciates.

In the heavy haulage sector fuel efficiency is generally a long way down the wish list of essentials, yet Josh is happy with the rates of fuel burn achieved by the Cummins engines when hauling some exceptionally heavy loads.

“Any issues are sorted with one phone call. The new Cummins engines are as good as you can get and any of our major engine work apart from servicing is carried out by Cummins in Newcastle where I know many of the guys from when I was a mechanic myself,” he says.

“They provide us awesome service and usually get a truck back to us within a day.”

In addition to the tilt tray and Josh’s Legend 900, other Kenworth’s in Carter’s colours include a T409SAR, big and small cab K200s, a T609, T659 and the original K104.

Trailing equipment includes Tieman B-double bitumen tankers and a variety of Drake floats including the latest addition of a Drake 5×8 swing wing unit and 8×8 platform unit capable of leads weighing up to 125 tonnes.

Josh’s own abilities as a driver have been recognised by him being declared the Professional Driver of the Year by Road Freight New South Wales in both 2018 and 2019.

Josh remains typically humble about the awards and Leonnie adds her own special support in validation of Josh’s achievements.

“With the amount of passion he has for the industry, to get recognised with something like that is a huge achievement and I think it fits him,” she says.