Sullivan Logistics heading east
Tim Sullivan’s willingness to cart everything from Weston’s Wagon Wheels to live emus across Western Australia for the last 30 years has meant steep growth for Sullivan Logistics.
Sullivan Logistics boasts a fleet of over 35 trucks, 45 trailers and 36 employees, working more than 25,000 squares of yard and warehouse space across Perth and Kalgoorlie. The Perth-based company delivers all over Western Australia from Port Hedland in the north to Esperance in the south, and out to Kalgoorlie in the East. It’s an impressive growth story from humble origins thirty years ago.
Owner Tim Sullivan says he got his start at age 19 by taking his share from the family farm – a three-tonne truck worth $7,000. He then left the wheat-belt at Quairading to head 170km due west into Perth.
“When I was on the farm I used to sit each night, and do figures to work out how I was going to get my start. There was something burning inside me to run my own show and I just knew that I wanted to do something more than work for my uncle and get my own farm," he said.
He won the Australia Post contract to deliver mail in some remote regions, and over the next decade he also ran deliveries of biscuits and mail, slowly building up a loyal following of general freight customers. In those early days, he really was up for anything.
"I even set the 22-foot pan up with fans and gates to transport emu. You had to be really fit because you used to have to catch them, and they were really touchy animals so you had to be careful,” he laughs.
The company expanded on the back of the mail run, and the loss of the Australia Post tender was a devastating blow for Tim. He now says it was a blessing in disguise, because it gave him the opportunity and the free space to approach his clients for more cartage.
Within three months business was booming and Tim was in the general freight business for real.
These days, Tim says that the company is “bursting at the seams,” and they recently had to acquire a bigger yard and storage space at Welshpool in preparation for their tilt at national expansion.
The Mack mDRIVE – making driving easy
As part of the fleet, Sullivan Logistics has five Mack Super-Liners. Tim says that he was initially sceptical of automatic transmissions, he was quickly converted by the mDRIVE.
“I didn't like the idea of an automatic. I was of the old school and thought they were rubbish. And then I did 500 km in demo Super-Liner. I couldn't believe the comfort level and the way it drove and how it could drive itself,” he says.
“Just the little things like the performance button and the computer working with the cruise control. I train all my drivers to let the truck drive itself,” Tim explains.
In 2014, he bought three Super-Liners before adding more to his fleet in 2016, 2018 and 2019.
Reliability is key
Tim says he runs the Super-Liners to a punishing schedule so he cannot afford downtime, and so far he’s been impressed with their reliability.
“Since 2014, we've had a turbo blow on one truck and it sat on the side of the road overnight. But that’s machinery. This is the only time we have been on the side of the road with a truck issue,” Tim says. “Mack came out overnight and we were back on the road by lunchtime.”
"The reliability of the Macks has been terrific. I put that down firstly to the product and secondly to the service deal through Truck Centre WA. And although we have our own in-house mechanic, when they've come out of warranty, we buy the genuine part and we might change it ourselves. Otherwise, they go back to Truck Centre for everything.”
“We've joined the product and service program and it seems to be working,” he says, “The guarantees Mack gave around the driveline were second-to-none.”
Given Tim’s commitment to expand on the back of his willingness to take on any job, the Macks are put to a wide range of jobs.
"Our fleet is not just overnight parcels. We’ll do oversized machinery, we’ll pull B-triple overnight general freight to Kalgoorlie. The trailers go throughout the Great Southern region,” he says.
“I still get in the truck every once in a while for triple road train carting livestock because of my farming background,” he says. “You can’t just get any driver to cart live animals.”
“We also have had them out doing tipper work at harvest doing bulk grain. We have drop decks with ramps for machinery work or shifting plant and equipment."
Tim predicts the trucks do up to 250,000km each per year and he plans on trading in each truck at around the 800,000km mark.
“We’re getting a real variety of work, and I’m trying to set it up so we can do virtually anything as far as shifting freight goes,” he adds.
Expansion in 2019
In 2019, Sullivan Logistics will become more of a household name for AFL fans. The company has secured the ball naming rights for the Fremantle Dockers home games, and Tim hopes the national profile will help with his plans to bring Sullivan Logistics to the east coast - in a Mack truck.