2015 Cover Stories: Porthaul

By: Paul Howell

Victoria-based transporter is now operating 30m high productivity vehicles


In November 1990, Brian Williamson launched a small transport business – just a front-end loader and a grainer – in his home town of Portland on the western Victorian coast.

Now close to Porthaul’s 25th anniversary, he says the company has grown every year since, both in size and in terms of the diversified collection of materials and routes serviced.

Porthaul also remains a local Portland business, despite a work schedule that now takes its trucks throughout the Green Triangle of western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia, and between Melbourne and Adelaide.

It remains a family company, with Brian’s two sons, James and Edward, having also joined the management team. James is now being groomed for the executive leadership to follow the founder’s fast-approaching retirement.

From humble beginnings, Porthaul now boasts a fleet of 60 vehicles that haul a diverse range of products ranging from forestry, seafood, grains, machinery, containers and more.

Prides of the Porthaul fleet at the moment are the six super B-doubles, dubbed 'Quad Quad Super B Woodchip' vehicles, that began operating late last year.

These 30m-long high productivity vehicles can cart up to 55-tonne of woodchips each, representing an 18 percent increase in productivity against the standard B-doubles that Porthaul uses alongside them.

"This is an important gain for us – it means we can sustain growth in the business with fewer vehicles on the road," James says.

Brian Williamson expects competitors in the forestry space to soon follow suit with bigger, longer vehicles of their own.

He says they will have an easier time with the regulators now that Porthaul has pioneered the way, but will still have to develop their own vehicles with specific terrain and routes in mind.

"Within a few years, they’ll be everywhere," he says.

Porthaul had to go through complex approvals process to get the super B-doubles on the road, with signoff and plenty of documentation required from the Victorian and South Australian road authorities, as well as each relevant shire and council.

The forestry market is one of the most competitive that Porthaul operates within, but Brian says the company has built an enviable reputation over the years. 

That has meant a greater amount of stability for Porthaul’s business, with satisfied customers prepared to invest in long term relationships with their preferred transporter.

"Every piece of wood that we cart is under contract," he says.

"There are not too many others that can say they have seven-year contracts in the forestry business."

Having those relationships cemented in place gives Porthaul the chance to add services and get more out of each vehicle.

James says the large number of markets Porthaul operates in goes hand-in-hand with the company’s aim to get the most out of every truck and resource on its books.

"That’s the ultimate aim," he says.

"We’re only making money when the trucks are moving, so we work to keep them doing that as much as possible."


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