2016 cover stories: Red Star Transport

By: Ruza Zivkusic-Aftasi


Leading linehaul specialist Redstar Transport has made some key investments, planning to double the size of company within five years

2016 cover stories: Red Star Transport
Redstar Transport directors John Dixon and Sean Williams.

 

It’s over three years since Redstar Transport was formed by John Dixon and Sean Williams following a management buyout of a long-established linehaul business, with the company now proving to be a growing success.

The key to this success has been a focus on safety and compliance, cultural change, excellent customer service and staff engagement.

"Being a safe and compliant national operator is paramount," Williams says. "We recognise that we need to continually lift the bar to ensure we constantly challenge ourselves and our people to improve in this aspect of the business."

While the business has seen a marked improvement in its safety and compliance key performance indicators over the few years, it owners are not satisfied.  

"There is no room for complacency," Dixon says. "As owners, we have been very demanding regarding the safety and compliance standards that need to apply within the business."

With eyes set on driving further improvement in its safety and compliance performance, Redstar Transport recently hired Shane Falkiner as national safety and compliance manager.

"Shane brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise from working across the industry and has been a welcome addition to Redstar Transport’s leadership team," Dixon says.

Given the ambitious growth plans in place, Redstar’s owners have recognised the need to invest further in systems, customer alignment processes and its people to support this agenda.

"The importance of delivering high quality service outcomes on a consistent basis across the entire customer base, day-in and day-out, cannot be overstated," Dixon explains.  

"We are servicing express freight customers with time sensitive freight requirements, so DIFOT [delivered in full, on time] is a key success factor for the business."

 

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Sean Williams believes safety and compliance is paramount.

 

Redstar’s investment plans have included the recent recruitment of Mark Robinson as head of operations.  Featuring an extensive background in strategy, business improvement, acquisition integration and project and change management during his 23 year-long career, Robinson plans to be a key contributor to take Redstar to the "next level" by involving staff in company’s future plans. 

Both Robinson and Falkiner report to general manager Chris Pearce. To meet the growth deadline, one needs to involve the staff, show them the vision and instil some discipline, Robinson explains.

"It’s about spelling out what the vision and discipline is, making sure from the end to end our people are following the process and engaging our employees and drivers," Robinson says.

As part of its focus on improving equipment availability to customers and working to planned outcomes, Redstar Transport has recently centralised its resource planning and allocation processes.  

While previously each depot had responsibility for allocating trucks, trailers and drivers to a customer order, this process is now managed through one centralised team.

"Our recent investment in a bespoke transport management system has provided us with the platform for this change," Williams says. 

"We used to struggle to properly match our available drivers and equipment with our customers’ requirements on a day-to-day basis, because each depot was making largely independent decisions regarding the allocation of resources.  

"Now, we have the ability to take a strategic view through creating a network plan covering the customer base nationally."

Introduced on August 1, it took the team eight months before this to establish the internal model.

"The centralised allocation team frees up managers and the people at depots who don’t have to concentrate on the screen allocating a truck or trailer and ringing a driver trying to put them against a load," Pearce says.

"We don’t have to do that in the depots anymore; we can spend more time talking to the drivers to make sure they’re fully aware of what they need to do."

 

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 John Dixon sees huge value in high-level consistency.

 

Consistent discipline

With a fleet of more than 750 prime movers and trailers, including flatbeds and Vawdrey curtain-siders, there are many trucks across Australia on the road every night.

The Redstar team, therefore, needs to act swiftly with whatever happens overnight before the next shift begins. That action comes down to discipline, which again, Robinson explains, is crucial to a successful business.

"It’s a lot of equipment on the road at any one time, so we understand that the transport industry has delays and it encounters things outside our control such as road works, breakdowns and other third parties, but because we operate 24/7, we have people available to guide and assist our business so we can meet those high expectations of customer service," Robinson says.

"We have a reasonably high success rate at achieving customer service – 98.8 per cent – which still leaves 1.2 per cent of delays which we have to communicate and that never ends.

"Because we’re such a specialised company that runs line haul only, whatever happens in the last 12 to 24 hours is dealt with very quickly because tonight we have to send another large group of drivers out so it’s important that disciplines are followed.

"The way I do that is to step through things that are required to happen and then, if something has gone wrong, it can be systematically addressed, we’re a very hands-on business."

 

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 Shane Falkiner with Chris Pearce and Mark Robinson.

 

Better drivers

Redstar has many drivers, and two long-serving members have been recognised for their efforts. Bob Henderson and Barney Rainbow have been with the company for 63 years between them and now have a driver of the year award established in their names.

The award was set up recently as nearly 70 per cent of drivers who participated in a driver survey said they wanted to see improved communication between drivers and management. They also want drivers to be recognised for their efforts.

Henderson has been driving for Redstar and its acquired business for 38 years and has recently retired, with Rainbow still on the road 25 years on. Pearce describes them as "a special breed", saying there are not many drivers like them around.

That’s why Redstar Transport has entered into a strategic alliance with a staffing specialist service called Intermodal Staffing, which helps the road transport sector recruit drivers with appropriate skills. The alliance came out of sheer frustration as the business was constantly presented with unskilled drivers by various transport agencies.

 "We had other agencies that weren’t providing the level of drivers that we wanted and we weren’t confident that that driver had been in-cab assessed and trained in processes properly," Pearce says.

Such measures reduce the risk of accidents, Intermodal Staffing managing director Greg Scott adds.

"Whilst there’s no guarantee that there’s never going to be an incident, the process we take people through with in-cab assessment minimises the chance of it happening.

"You get lots of people with experience, but you can get even younger people coming in who have got the licence – but do they have the experience? – and that’s always a challenge.

"It’s also about doing traineeships where we can either take people through a two-year traineeship so they can come out with a qualification in driver operations, but you can also get guys who have been around for a very long time who may need some training."

Before its alliance with Intermodal Staffing, 85 per cent of Redstar incidents recorded on the road in the previous six years have involved agency drivers, Pearce says.

"I believe we’re filling in a niche in the market that was there but no one else had the ability to fill it, and that is to add value to a company," Scott says. "There are plenty of labour hire companies but nobody does what we do because they don’t have access to trucks – Intermodal has full access to the fleet of Redstar trucks."

 

 

 

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