In Far North Queensland, owners of Blenners Transport, Les and Judy Blennerhassett, have serviced the banana industry for decades, switching from farming to transport and growing their business through tenacity and passion. Today, at ATA Live, they were officially inducted as Kenworth Legends.
Each year, the ATA and PACCAR Australia recognise the incredible achievements of Australia’s Kenworth Legends, an honour which recognises those in the industry who have shown great perseverance, strength and success.
Les and Judy started their business 30 years ago – almost by accident – and have grown their fleet to 142 Kenworths, doing everything from local pick-ups and deliveries, to interstate road train work.
For years, Les was a banana farmer, who only stopped growing bananas around 10 years ago. A sub-contractor asked if he wanted to buy his trailer, to which he responded, “I’m a farmer, not a trucker.” But he purchased the trailer and the rest is history.
Blenners Transport has grown into the biggest banana, mango and avocado carrier in Far North Queensland, transporting fruit Australia-wide.
Les and Judy attribute their success to a commitment to customer service, hard work and reliable equipment.
“To me, paramount to being successful is servicing your customers,” says Les. “To be as successful as we are, I think it is the service we give our customers. We, until about two years ago never had a salesman. We grew our business by word of mouth, from customers getting good service and telling their mates.”
Judy adds, “And hard work too. Les has always had a passion to work hard, we all have. We come from hard working families and I think that’s instilled in you from day one, and hopefully that’s instilled in our boys as well.
“The future of Blenners Transport I think is in good hands. I feel that with Roger and Ben (their sons) coming on board and learning more everyday,” she says. “It’s nice to know that they’ve got the passion that Les has had all these years. We’ve actually grown with the business, from one truck, but they’ve been thrown in now with the size that we are today. But I’m pretty confident that they’ll take it to bigger and better places and face challenges that are new.”
But for Les and Judy it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. For many years, their sizeable fleet carried only bananas. As they learnt the hard way, when a cyclone came along in 2010 and decimated banana supplies, they couldn’t rely solely on having all their eggs in one basket.
“We’re in North Queensland, which is cyclone country. From day one, all we’d carted was bananas, never really any other industries. We grew just on bananas. Then 2010 came along and we went from probably about 120 loads a week to four. I had a yard full of trucks and no freight. That was probably the hardest time with no sleep and worrying about the business, and just trying to survive that,” recalls Les.
Operations diversified and Blenners Transport began working with mango, avocado and citrus growers too.
Les and Judy say they are honoured to be inducted as Kenworth Legends. “Being inducted as a Legend is something that we would never have thought that we would be. We’re very honoured and proud to have that title. It’s been a long journey but we’ve faced the challenges together,” says Judy.
“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t passionate. I suppose to me, building what we’ve got today, from one truck and three growers, you’ve got to be passionate about your business. I still live and breathe it,” says Les. “We’re really honoured to be part of this today.”
PACCAR Australia’s Brad May congratulated the couple. “We call it the Kenworth Legends but it’s no really about Kenworth, it’s really about the likes of Les and Judy Blennerhassett and the operators themselves. It’s an amazing industry we work in, it provides a lot of opportunities for people. If they can work hard, take some risks, and probably above all else show real tenacity to ride the hard waves and come out the other side of that like Les and Judy have. If we can have some small part of that by them using our products, then that makes us proud and privileged to give them a forum like this to share their story,” he says.
“If you know the Blennerhassett family, you’ll know just what a strong family unit they are,” May adds. “If you know Les, you can see he’s lost none of his passion, his fire and determination. You can see that Les has the same fire today as he once had. I congratulate them both and I guess the whole industry does, not just Kenworth and Paccar. What they’ve built is a credit to them.”