Gambier Earthmovers - six decades of Mack

In May 2019, Gambier Earthmovers will turn sixty. In any family company with that kind of longevity, it’s inevitable that traditions will grow over time. Traditions like their fierce loyalty to Mack and the dealership in Adelaide, or the company’s first 1962 B-Model Mack, restored and taking pride of place at the family home. 

But perhaps no tradition speaks louder about the place of Mack in the Sutherland family business than their mother’s role in the purchase. 

“No Mack truck has ever come here without Mum driving it first,” says Managing Director of Gambier Earthmovers, Glen Sutherland. 

hat’s right. Janis Sutherland, 73 has taken the wheel of every new delivery since she joined the family business by marrying Ian, and the trucks were baptised into the family home. 

“Mum never let dad go past the Bulldog, and it’s been instilled in my sister and myself ever since," says Glen, whose sister Heather also works in the company as a director-secretary. 

"Even when we were kids,” says Glen, “Mum would have the first drive and Dad would bring the new trucks home, then and would sit in our yard for a couple of days so we could all have a look over them. Dad would decide when it would go to work." 

60 years of Mack and counting

Six decades have passed since Ian Sutherland started Gambier Earthmovers with just a truck and dozer. From these humble origins, the company has grown to a fleet of over thirty Mack Trucks—ranging from R-Models, Value-Liners, CHs, Titans, Super-Liners and everything in between—five dozers, 15 quarries and machinery. The company has 120 employees across its operations – which cover all earthmoving works in a 200km radius around Mt. Gambier. 

Glen puts the growth in the company down to the economy of Mt. Gambier, five hours out of Adelaide.  

“Dad always used to say that without farming, forestry or trucks, Mt. Gambier would stop. And we’ve been lucky in that. Farming and forestry have been good to the business," says Glen.

When Ian established a hot mix plant and started buying and leasing quarries, the company was given another shot in the arm.

Built for the job

The Macks are put to a wide range of applications in the business and Mack Adelaide’s understanding of Gambier Earthmovers works means the trucks come with a range of fit-for-purpose configurations, including floats, B-double side tippers, truck and dogs, water carts and a bitumen tanker. 

“We do a wide range of applications from driveways to bulk earthworks, and we supply ourselves to our hot-mix plant for our aggregates and sand,” Glen says. "The Macks cart road-making material, blue stone, crushed rock. We’re very lucky down this area with the quality of the limestone, so we also have a landscape yard and we cart agricultural lime.” 

Family loyalties aside, Glen has plenty of practical reasons for being drawn to Mack.  

"Macks suit our work. They’re comfortable and modern inside and they look great on the road. You can’t go past the reliability of the new auto mDRIVE gearbox, and the drivers who have them don’t feel as fatigued. We’re also pretty impressed with the power of the Titan with the 685hp MP10 engine for the float work,” he says. 

Toughness and reliability

But it’s the toughness and reliability over the long term that keeps Glen coming back to Mack. 

"We do a lot of bush work and it’s in sandy country. Back in the day with the Value-Liners, they were put through the ringer day-in day-out after Ash Wednesday. They got worked to extremes in the bush and they always seemed to stand up to everything we put to them," he says. 
"These days we construct the tracks in through the pines and the blue gums. The white sand can be challenging under the truck, but the Macks stand up to it. There are a lot of different conditions that the Macks have to perform under, so reliability is important,” Glen says.  

A working partnership

The 33-year-old, who has been with the company since he was sixteen, says that Mack was there when it came to setting up the new workshop. 

"We do our own servicing here, but Mack came down to help us set up our computer system. Our store was all set up so we've got parts on hand all the time. We can get other parts out of Adelaide or Melbourne, but if anything gets too big on the computer side of things they usually send someone down, even though we’re five hours out of Adelaide.” 

Glen says that the family is big on relationship and loyalty in business, and the company has grown with the Mack dealership in Adelaide. 

“Dad bought the first B-Model in 1963 and he’s stuck with Mack ever since. There were always good people at the dealership and there still is. Dad always got along with the guys at the Adelaide dealership and all these years later, we still do.”