When Terry Bunhu, 38, moved to WA from his native Zimbabwe in Africa, his plan was to follow in his father’s footsteps and continue in the transport game.
“I grew up in a transport business. My family started in general freight and also got into agriculture too,” he said.
Back in Zimbabwe, Bunhu had already experienced success in the industry, starting his own transport business, which he built up to a fleet of 26 trucks.
His sister had come to Australia to study in 2007 and when Bunhu came to visit her in 2014, his path started to gravitate in a new direction.
“I decided I wanted to explore a business venture in Australia and moved over here the following year. Because I didn’t have the capacity when I first arrived, I had to start from rock bottom.”
A qualified boiler maker, Bunhu also had trade experience. Initially, he secured a job as a brickie’s labourer. That only lasted about six weeks. Then he began working as a construction labourer for roughly six months, until he started his own renovation labouring business.
Though that entire time, Bunhu had his sights set on returning to the transport industry.
He progressed into earthworks and demolition as a sole trader in 2017, trading under the name All Good Demo and Earthworks.
Then in 2020, while working on a large civil job in the town of Marble Bar in the Pilbara, he was offered the opportunity to sub-contract for Campbell Transport, transporting iron ore. From that, Bunhu Mining Marine & Civil Construction was born.
And so he purchased his first truck – a far cry from the new trucks that have joined the fleet in recent times.
“I bought my first quad set two years ago. The Mack was an ex-Qube truck that I got as a wreck and I started building it up, bit by bit. I hired the side tipper trailers from a farming couple in Merredin and eventually ended up buying them. I’m grateful that Glenn and Sherrie gave me the opportunity to hire their gear, after I was turned away by the big hire companies,” Bunhu explained.
“It was a difficult one because no one in the finance industry was confident with giving me a half a million dollar loan to purchase a new prime mover.”
Nevertheless, through sheer grit and determination, he built up his fleet, purchasing numerous second-hand trucks. Then in January 2022, he proudly got the keys to his first brand new set of wheels, a customised 8×6 Mack Titan Gold Bulldog, purchased from Truck Centre WA.
Bunhu now runs a fleet of six prime movers – a mixture of Kenworths, Volvos and Macks – and over 30 trailers. There are six sets of quad side tippers used for iron ore haulage, four B-double sets used for grain cartage and a quad axle low loader for transporting machinery.
The company employs 16 drivers, and the trucks all operate 24/7. It’s six days on and then on the seventh day each truck is thoroughly serviced.
“We’ll have a driver go to the mine to pick up the iron ore and then come back, which takes about 10-11 hours. Then the next driver meets them at the bowser, fills up and sets off to the port which is about a 12 hour round trip,” said Banhu.
“We operate in the Mid-West region, the Pilbara and the southern side of Perth. In the Mid-West, we cart iron ore from the mines to Geraldton port; from the Pilbara the iron ore is transported from Nanutarra to the Utah port; and from Perth we cart grain,” Bunhu explained.
But it’s the most recent delivery, a hot pink T909 and quad set of side tippers from Jamieson Trailers that arrived in May, that has really captured the attention of many.
The inspiration behind the vibrant set-up is threefold. In addition to raising awareness for breast cancer research, Bunhu is hoping to help encourage more women into truck driving as the industry grapples with current driver shortages, and has also dedicated the truck to his mother Gogo Bunhu, who he describes as his biggest motivation.
That truck is used for the Nanuttara to Utah Port run, which is about 620 kilometres each way.
“We’re having issues getting people to join this industry, so we’re trying to help encourage more women to come into the industry to help fill that gap. At the same time, it’s also in support of breast cancer awareness. I have a cousin who passed away two years ago from breast cancer,” Banhu explained.
He has named the truck ‘Vachihera’. “In Africa, we have something called a totem, which is a tribe. My mother’s totem is Vachihera. I dedicated this truck to her because she has been my biggest motivator.”
The pink T909 quad road train set-up has a Gross Combination Mass (GCM) of 171 tonne and is capable of achieving payloads of 118 tonne.
Bunhu revealed that he has another six similar combinations on order, and they’ll all be pink too. These ones will be ultra quads, bringing the GCM up to 220 tonne and the payloads up to a whopping 150 tonne.
This time he’s gone for four Kenworth T909s and two 700hp Volvos. “I did that because of availability,” he said. They’ll all be paired with side tippers from Bruce Rock Engineering, with the first complete sets due to arrive in early December.”