One door closes, another one opens for operators

Maranoa Haulage owners Ian and Fiona French are set to embark on a new chapter as they close the doors of the business they built and step into retirement.

Like many transport operators his age, 63-year-old Ian had the transport bug pumping through his veins from a young age. 

“I come from the bush so when I was a kid, I used to drive grain trucks. I was 13 or 14 years old. My dad was in transport many years ago. He had a fuel depot and delivered fuel into the farms. He passed away a few years ago.

“I drove for other blokes in the 1980s, and then in the 1990s, I had a go at things myself,” he said. 

Originally from Queensland, Ian visited Orange in 1988 in what was supposed to be a six-week trip to work the harvest. But then he met Fiona, and the rest is history. “Here we are now with two daughters and a transport business,” he said. 

Ian’s first foray into working for himself didn’t go quite to plan. “I had my own truck in 1992, but that didn’t go too well. I eventually waded back in and officially started Maranoa in 1999 with one truck,” he explained.

At its peak, Maranoa Haulage ran a fleet of 20 beautifully presented Kenworth trucks, before Ian made the decision to downsize.

Ian came off the road as a full-time driver about 10 years ago to focus more on the company’s operations, but he would still jump in a truck for the occasional run. “Just to have a play,” he said. “I miss what it was 10-20 years ago – so much has changed in the industry. There have been a lot of positive changes, but the comradery doesn’t seem to be there as much these days, and that’s what I miss. You work hard but you’ve got to have fun too. I think it’s a very different culture now. Sitting on the side of the road cooking a barbeque was always good fun.”

Maranoa Haulage specialised in general freight, offering services Australia-wide. One truck soon grew to two, then three and so on. And by the beginning of 2021, the fleet had grown to around 20 beautifully presented Kenworth trucks, which Ian took great pride in.

“Then I felt I might cut back a bit, so I cut the fleet down to 12 trucks. By the end of last year, I thought it might be time to give it up. I sat on the idea over Christmas and New Year as I needed time to decide what I wanted to do,” Ian added.

With the decision made and the business officially closed in late January, Ian and Fiona are excited about what the future will bring. “I’ve had very good customers and staff and a very supportive wife. Fiona has worked so hard and she still does, so she deserves to be able to do something else too. Our daughters have built their own careers so we had no-one to come through. 

“It’s been an up and down ride. I’ve achieved what I needed to achieve and I’m really happy with the decision, there’s a lot of peace about it. I’ve had plans for so many years and this is the first time that there’s no plan. Fiona and I might go and have a holiday. It hasn’t been an easy decision because you put so much into building something but I think it’s run its course. Now I’m looking forward to doing not very much. I’m really happy with our decision.”

Ahead of closing their doors, Ian and Fiona wanted to make sure their customers were as well looked after as they could be and assisted them in finding transport operators that were a good fit for their needs.

The couple has enlisted Ritchie Bros. to sell their entire fleet of 12 Kenworth prime movers and 30 trailers. Maranoa is no stranger to the auction house. They’ll go under the hammer at the Australian National Unreserved Auction on February 23-24. “Ritchie Bros’ has been selling stuff for me for years as I don’t hold onto equipment for more than four or five years,” Ian said.

Ritchie Bros. territory manager Simon Ward says the company feels privileged to manage the dispersal for Maranoa Haulage. “Maranoa Haulage has bought and sold with Ritchie Bros. many times in the past and from those successful experiences, that is what has given Ian and Fiona the confidence to entrust us with their retirement plans,” he said.

“Maranoa Haulage is a well-known and respected transport company within the industry, with a fleet that is second to none. We encourage buyers to get online and check out this dispersal because it’s not every day the industry has an opportunity to purchase from a fleet of this quality.”

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