Corowa family business to close its doors as owner retires

It’s the end of an era for Milthorpe Transport, which after close to 40 years in business has hit the road for one last time, as owner Greg Milthorpe, 74, steps into retirement.

A family business through and through, Milthorpe Transport was started in Corowa, NSW, by Greg and his brother Ray Milthorpe, who have both spent a lifetime around trucks, having started in the industry when they were only teens.

Brothers Ray and Greg Milthorpe. Image: Milthorpe Transport

Though Ray, now 82, retired a few years ago, Greg and his wife Merylyn continued in the family business, with his three sons by his side – Christopher, Rodney and Steven – who all worked as company drivers before moving into management roles.

It wasn’t an easy decision to “hang up the boots” but Greg knew the time was right. “It was just getting too much,” he admitted.

Back in the day, Greg started driving trucks a little earlier than he should have. “I shouldn’t tell you this, but I used to cart logs from Mount Stanley to the other side of Rutherglen when I was 16,” he said with a little hesitation. “The company I worked for thought I was 17 – and the coppers didn’t know either! It was different times back then.

“We’ve always been in the transport industry since we left school, in one way or another,” Greg continued. “As mechanics or freighting around the country. When we started putting freight on our own trucks and carting it ourselves, it just grew and grew.”

With no prior family connection to trucks, when asked what the initial attraction to transport was, Greg responded, “At the time it was a good thing to get into. The money was reasonably good, so we stuck to it.”

The company ran a fleet of 22 prime movers. Image: Milthorpe Transport

Though Greg and Ray started out behind the wheel, they switched their focus to under the bonnet when they established Corowa Truck and Trailer Repairs in 1982.

As business grew – with the service offering including engine rebuilds, gearboxes, differentials and more – they put on three more mechanics, bringing the workshop crew up to five people.

They continued in that business while at the same time launching their own transport company in 1988, carting transformers firstly to North Queensland and then eventually, all around the country – and that marked the beginning of Milthorpe Transport.

It started with two brand new Ford LTLs, which the brothers purchased brand new from Hartwig’s Trucks. A little over six months later, a few Western Stars came into the mix, followed by a T-Line International with a 350 Cummins engine.

Greg with one of the original Ford LTLs that launched the transport operation. Image: Milthorpe Transport

With the transport business going well, Greg and Ray decided to narrow their focus, selling off Corowa Truck and Trailer Repairs in 1992.

“We were doing too many hours, it just got too busy with running both businesses,” Greg added.

The move meant that they could focus on expanding and specialising in heavy haulage and general freight, to all corners of the country.

“It was all interstate work, mainly carting transformers Australia-wide – to Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, everywhere,” said Greg, who up until recently was on the road almost daily.

Greg’s sons Christopher, Rodney and Steven were all involved in the family business. Image: Milthorpe Transport

Over time, Milthorpe Transport also ran depots in Melbourne and Townsville.

When the company’s trucks were loaded up and sent on their way for the very last trips on Friday May 3, the fleet had grown to 22 prime movers (a mixture of Kenworths, Macks and Western Stars), along with five permanent sub-contractors.

Big Rigs spoke with Greg, not long after he sent his drivers out for one last time. Reflecting on the company’s success, he said, “We always offered good service, we were never late, and if we were late, we’d ring and let them know and always had good communications with our customers. We knew all the customers well and all the places we were going to. We’ve worked with some of our customers for over 25 years.

“I’ve been there every single day up until this day. I probably will miss it once it’s gone, until I get used to retirement.

“Many of our customers were sad to see we were closing and some of them sent some very nice letters to say they’d miss working with us.

“But I’m just too bloody old to keep going.”

As Greg looks forward to a change of pace, he’s planning to hit the road once more, but for a very different reason. “My wife Merylyn and I are going to put the caravan on the back of our wagon and go around Australia again. And I’m planning on doing a bit of fishing too!”

Milthorpe Transport’s extensive assets including tools, trucks, and more will undergo auction proceedings facilitated by Pickles next week.

The auction will be held from 9am Monday May 27 to Thursday May 30, with the main truck and trailer auction finishing at 3pm followed by the workshop and forklift auction closing at 7pm. The online auction listing is available here.

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