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Past PNG grunt makes for good business

Geoff with the Mack R600.
Geoff with the Mack R600.

SINCE 1975 Transport Field Service has serviced southeast Queensland and northern NSW as a specialist in repairs, spares and accessories for the transport industry.

Like many other small-town dealerships, the Warwick-based Volvo, Mack and UD dealership is adorned with the expected neat palm, company flag and perhaps a brand logo or two.

However one unusual feature stands guard at TFS, as a hint at some of the interesting happenings inside.

That looming feature is none other than a 1983 Mack R600, adorned in retro military khaki.

TFS managing director Geoff Lang, who has run the business for close to a decade, explains the beast is part of the all-service dealership's business model.

"Our key franchise is Volvo Mack and UD. So we are obviously dealers for that," Mr Lang said.

"We have 15 staff and do 15-18 new trucks a year, along with running our servicing and breakdown vehicle.

"A large part of my business is also export. About a third of our business is based on procurement and export for a number of key clients in PNG."

This includes ex-Australian military vehicles that are serviced and readied for export in the TFS workshop.

"My customer will give me a want list and a budget and that's what I go to," Mr Lang said.

"We put them through our workshop to make sure they are up to scratch.

"These are for civil use and face different conditions to what they would here.

"Things also don't have to look pretty to head up there, hence the ex-army stuff.

"But I've done a lot of nice trucks for customers up there as well, it really just depends on the needs."

 

After servicing and a full check, the vehicles are driven from Warwick to the port of Brisbane for export.

"We need to make sure they are as clean as a whistle for customs so it is a rigorous task when preparing each vehicle," Mr Lang said.

Big Rigs asked if there was ever a scuffle between the workshop boys over who gets the honour of delivering the Mack Monster.

"No, no, just me - I get to do that," Mr Lang laughed.

His relationship with our wild northern neighbours hasn't sprung from nowhere.

Mr Lang previously lived on the lush island of Papua New Guinea, working as general manager for automotive group Boroko Motors.

"That company up there, we had 600 staff and over five dealerships," he said.

His role's responsibilities at the time extended over to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

The Texas local decided to bring his family back to Australia for his son's schooling.

Mr Lang's experience in PNG has come in handy when navigating the unique road transport industry that exists in the developing nation.

"On the northern side of the country, which runs way up into the highlands, we have got the Highlands Highway," he said.

"It is an amazing bit of road network that, well highway is a loose term, you have potholes you can put boats in."

Landslips and landowner problems are among the issues that plague drivers.

"It's quite amazing, when I was in PNG you would hand over the keys of a $300,000 truck to a driver that doesn't even have shoes," Mr Lang said.

"That was an awesome part of it, very interesting and resilient companies up there.

"I really enjoy finding the right products for our clients, whether that be a new Volvo or an ex-army Mack. Anything ex-army is usually extremely well maintained.

"We get a very good service report from them all, it's one of those things when my customers know they are well prepared and ready to work."

The qualified mechanic and country boy at heart hopes to expand the business in the next few years.

"We are about to invest in a new breakdown truck to service our area, which can stretch anywhere from Aratula to Moree," Mr Lang said.

"It's going to be a new UD, of course."

Topics:  papua new guinea png

Big Rigs