A wonderful pic popped-up on our Facebook page recently – a dramatic image instantly capturing the essence of Australia’s road transport industry.
A black Kenworth prime mover replete with massive bullbar, twin snorkels, tall exhaust stacks and long-range tanks. Behind it three long, black trailers and all around it the rich, red dirt and dust of the Australian outback.
‘TRIPLE THREAT: Robert Stein transports nitrate into the Marandoo Mine in WA in this impressive looking rig.’, the caption read and we knew there and then we had to know more about the story behind this truck.
It took a little bit of tracking but we eventually discovered the big, black Kenny belongs to Bunbury, Western Australia-based, T&M Road Haulage, a division of T&M Heavy Mechanical and Site Services, a business with a dynamic and interesting history.
The ‘T&M’ in the company name refers to husband and wife team Tim and Melissa Bowman who started the business a little over a decade ago.
Tim grew-up in Tasmania and, with his extended family either owners or drivers of trucks and other heavy machinery, slipped easily into the heavy vehicle industry and his pathway into adulthood sorted from day one.
He trained as a heavy diesel mechanic after high school and when that was finished, he upped stumps and moved to Western Australia at the tender age of 19, some interesting ideas running around inside his head.
Tim landed in Bunbury, a couple of hours south of Perth, and set-up shop but it did not take him long to look beyond fixing broken truck engines.
He and Melissa started diversifying their business interests, staying within the transport and heavy vehicle fields but taking a broader, more encompassing approach.
“You could call it a unique business”, Tim told Truckline’s inhouse publication last year. “You wouldn’t find a more diverse business over here.”
Diversification, in Tim’s terms, means maintaining and repairing heavy plant, highway equipment and machinery used by the mining and construction sectors, servicing and repairing engines, transmissions and air-conditioning units as well as offering auto electrical services.
“There’s not too many around like that and then there’s the variety of things we can haul based on the diversity of our fleet (with) walk-in floor trailers, tippers, bulk tippers and interlock trailers,” he said.
Looking northward, Tim and Melissa expanded into Port Hedland while maintaining their Bunbury headquarters. The move put them within striking distance of the vast Pilbara mining region and split the business equally between its mechanical and road transport disciplines.
T&M started out specialising in heavy vehicle mechanical repairs but has, over time, become involved in the road haulage sector, operating a fleet of 24 prime movers and more than 50 trailer combinations that give the business scope to carry logs, wood chips, grain, lime and fertilisers.
That has also meant a gradual but steady increase in employee numbers and what started-out a little over 12 years ago as a two-person operation with Tim on the tools and Melissa managing the bookwork is now a thriving business with 35 employees, 16 of them drivers.
Mechanical repair clients are drawn from both the road transport and mining sectors. Mobile technicians also service the state’s lower Southwest, the Goldfields and the WA wheat belt and T&M also supply contract mechanics to several mines in the Pilbara.
And the black Kenworth that appeared on the Big Rigs Facebook page? Still running nitrate into Rio Tinto’s Marandoo mine, some 375 kilometres south of Port Hedland, and still looking impressive.