‘Gut-wrenching’ decision to close the doors of family owned business

KWR Logistics/Kitco Transport has closed the doors to their transport operation that was started back in 1958, citing staffing issues and driver shortages as the main reasons behind this difficult decision.

Family owned and operated, Ron Townley started Kitco Transport in the Koo Wee Rup and Bayles area of Victoria, supplying feed to dairy farms in the area. Before long, he ventured into produce and purchased a number of trucks to support his operation. By the 1960s, the fleet was carrying produce interstate.

Through an alliance with BHP Hastings, the business expanded into steel transport in the 1970s, carting steel across Australia.

When Ron retired in 1995, his son John Townley took over the family business as director and continued to build on its success, with depots in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Koo Wee Rup.

But sadly, the business will be no more. In an open letter to customers, as sighted by Big Rigs, John explained, “It is with deep regret that I am informing you that we will be closing our business effective 28th October 2022.”

He said the decision was made following trouble with finding truck drivers, forklift drivers and operations staff; and the resignation of several key people which the business was unable to replace.

“It has indeed been a battle through Covid and everything surrounding that which has been thrown at us, lockdowns, masks, distancing, sanitisation, employees ringing in saying they had been exposed, then not seeing them for another week, drivers doing pick-ups having to line up outside gates, waiting till everything was clear before entering, it has clearly had an impact on our management and employees,” wrote John.

“There has also been a general change in society as a result of the lockdowns, with people working from home, everything has become a lot more about life balance and people don’t want to work long hours. This in particular is affecting our industry, and our business directly. We have long hours and we have lost a number of people in integral positions recently. As with everyone I speak to, no matter what industry they are in, we can’t get people. It has just made it too hard for us to continue. We are spreading ourselves too thin and there is no future for us.

“This is a gut-wrenching decision after the time and work we have put in building this business over so many years.”

Sadly, this story echoes that of various other transport businesses which have had to shut shop in recent times. Among those is Hilder Transport, which closed on September 30.

Managing director Bernie Hilder, had to make the tough decision to close the depot his father George established in 1972.

He too struggled to find staff following Covid. “It wasn’t as much of a problem before Covid. We had a good crew then, but the skills were still diminishing. Younger people don’t want to come in and do it,” Hilder said.

“I love what I do but couldn’t see it being sustainable. I had a profitable business but the reason we’re folding up is that the skills are just not out there to do what we need to do. There’s a big gap that we can’t fill. We had these beautiful Kenworths but couldn’t get people to fill the seats. You might go through and trial five drivers before you find one that’s any good.”

Big Rigs has reached out to KWR Logistics/Kitco Transport for comment.

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