An iconic business in the Canberra area, Ablett’s Transport has operated in the local region since 1962.
The founding of the company is perhaps less well known. It was actually started in Victoria by Arthur Ablett in the Gippsland town of Drouin back in 1954.
Having taken over a division of Mayne-Nickless during the 1980s, the company commenced a long running involvement moving eight to nine loads of sawn timber a day from a mill in the Canberra suburb of Hume.
Road transport businesses in the Canberra region have long been confronted with a challenge. The imbalance between the levels of freight coming in, versus the amount of freight heading out of the area.
Consignments of items such as timber can be loaded from Tumut in the Snowy Mountains and Bombala in the Monaro region and it is no surprise that Canberra generates plenty of wastepaper for Ablett’s to transport to recycling centres.
A local client in Queanbeyan has a niche manufacturing operation which exports ladders to the Netherlands in 20-foot containers which Ablett’s transfer to the ports.
In addition to its Queanbeyan/Canberra facility, Ablett’s maintains depots in Melbourne and Sydney and also regularly has its trucks in Brisbane.
Since 1995 Ablett’s has been a part-owner of Combined Distribution Management, better known as CDM Logistics, which, as its name implies, provides single contact logistics management for clients across several local transport operators. Clients include the local branches for a number of well-known national retail chains.
Other freight transported by Ablett’s includes building materials such as tiles, bricks and nylon sprinkler pipe. An all-terrain forklift enables direct deliveries to locations such as construction sites.
Construction of the Snowy 2.0 hydro-electric scheme is also expected to present some opportunities for the company over the next five years.
With almost 70 years of history, Ablett’s have operated many brands of trucks from Arthur Ablett’s original Leyland Comet to the latest Kenworth, DAF and Mack models with several V8 Scania’s joining the fleet in recent times.
“Scania made it easy for us with the test trucks,” says Duncan Ablett.
“It’s important we win the drivers over. We gain acceptance by putting drivers in the trucks and letting them see for themselves what they can do. You’re not going to win everyone over, but we have people keen to try something new. Canberra is known for its high cost of living and high cost of real estate and services can be expensive here and Canberra is not what you call a ‘truck town’ but there are always people who want to be a truck driver and we’re fortunate to have some long term drivers.”
One such driver is Steve Johnson, who operates a Scania B-double on the Canberra-Melbourne route and enthusiastically praises the Scanias’ overall performance and ability to maintain a higher average speed which reduces trip times.
“The full air suspension with on-board weight scales make it the most comfortable option with reduced noise, vibration and roughness all adding to reduced fatigue and the benefit is a healthier, happier driver,” says Steve.
Drivers do need advice, according to Duncan, on how to get the best out of the new trucks given the changes and prevalence of technology.
“Truck salesman need to do more now than they used to and can’t just drop a new truck off,” he says. “Most drivers may just want to get from A to B, yet some guys are really conscious of fuel savings.”
That has resulted in a noticeable reduction in fuel usage per trip of up to 17 per cent. Steve is saving the best part of an hour on each tip, too.
Ablett’s is both NHVAS and TruckSafe accredited and operates a well-equipped and staffed in-house service division. The Scania’s have five years/500,000 maintenance included in the package with the added convenience of the Scania service agent being just up the road.
“That’s all really easy for us,” says Duncan. “Just one phone call. The trucks are home every second day so anything that needs doing can be done straight away.”
Consistency of work and trying to flatten the curve across the peaks and troughs of demand is an almost universal challenge for transport operators across Australia, and one that the entire Ablett team works to address.
“It’s about not having too many vehicles in the quiet times and making sure there are enough when we’re busy,” says Duncan.
During the ‘oil shock’ of the 1970s, the fleet was cut back to just three or four trucks and today has grown to around 35 semis and B-doubles plus another 21 rigids.
As a family owned and operated company, Ablett’s Transport continues to take pride in looking out for its customers and staff at a personal level.