In any endeavour in life, to reach a milestone of 21 years is quite an achievement, and in the case of Chris and Fiona Bourke of Complete Body Craft (CBC), who have built their business up into a highly regarded truck smash repair business over the last two decades, it is an achievement they can be well proud of.
Getting trucks repaired and back on the road and preparing new trucks for delivery has become a major focus for their operation which is based at Rutherglen in north-east Victoria, ideally located near the Hume Highway corridor and larger centres such as Albury-Wodonga, Wagga and Shepparton.
CBC was initiated in 2000 by Chris, who, as a qualified panel beater and spray painter had the dream to go out and have his own workshop, repairing firstly cars and then trucks as the workload increased.
“We were in a little shed which we had a lease on for 10 years, but we outgrew it in two, and we have grown from there,” said Fiona.
“The focus was always to be both cars and trucks, the aim was to offer a service to the community with cars and then Chris has a natural interest and passion for trucks as his father was a truck driver – the focus was always both.”
The growth of the CBC operation has been a steady one, with a relocation to a larger workshop in 2002 and the addition of the truck repair division including a spray booth in 2004.
Further upgrades to the truck repair section were undertaken in 2010 and the business is currently in the process of installing another spray booth to help manage the workload. With 17 full-time staff now on the payroll the business handles everything from towing and recovery work to smash repairs, custom painting, and new truck fit outs.
The business has over the years built up a customer base over a wide geographical area when it comes to putting new trucks on the road, with large and small fleet operators calling on the CBC operation to prepare their trucks for the highway.
“We can design paint schemes, prepare the vehicles and do their livery, organise the stainless steel and lighting, and do the signwriting in house. We have an arrangement with the owners of the trucks and the dealers as well, it’s a three-way arrangement, we do minor and major repairs – for the dealers if a truck has been traded in, we will repaint it for example,” said Fiona.
“Albury-Wodonga is not the only focus, we work with dealers in Shepparton, Melbourne, Wagga and Coffs Harbour, Gippsland – a lot of the time our work is word of mouth, the truck may come via the dealer, but the customer has asked for it to come here.”
Private customer work also contributes to the workload, with the CBC team also servicing larger transport operations, and with Rutherglen located at the southern end of the Riverina, work is also carried out for a number of farming enterprises which run trucks as part of their business.
Tow trucks are a key part of the business which work on an on-call basis, with a tilt tray based at in Rutherglen, another over the Murray River in Corowa with all the heavy lifting done by ‘Big Bluey’, a Kenworth T650 which pre-dates the CBC business by a decade.
“We do insurance and mechanical breakdown work, and the Kenworth with its Detroit engine has all the power it needs to do the job. We can go anywhere over Australia – you work in with the other towing companies because things have to be moved off the roads quickly and salvaged to get the roads open, a lot of us work in together,” Fiona explained.
Away from the workshop, balancing the workload is also a key consideration in terms of quoting planning and booking jobs in which time considerations are a factor,
“It doesn’t matter whether they are damaged or are new, they have to be out on the road working – obviously everything in the trucking industry has to be done yesterday so it can be a high-pressure work environment. We try to book things in as much as we can to make sure things run smoothly but accidents big or small happen – you have to have everything in a timeframe so things can get ticked off,” she said.
The CBC operation is also held in high regard by others in the automotive industry, having featured prominently in the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce annual awards over the last few years including winning Best Body Repairer (Passenger Vehicles Large Business) in 2017, Best Trade Towing Operator (state-wide), Best Regional Accident Towing Operator and Best Heavy Towing Operator (state-wide)in 2018, and going back to back again taking out Best Heavy Towing Operator (state-wide) also in 2019.
With the company advertising for another spray painter and further upgrading the Rutherglen facility it would seem that Chris and Fiona are well placed so steer the business into the next 21 years.
“It has its ups and down with a few struggles but you get there, you just keep soldiering on; (Its involved) a lot of long hours, especially on Chris’s behalf but the years have just flown on and on,” reflected Fiona.
“It’s weird, we were talking about it the other day – it feels like it has gone quick. The quality and the workmanship we believe is what brings the customers back and it’s a huge satisfaction, and the staff working on the trucks get that satisfaction too.”