Fresh approach for Gibbins Refrigerated Transport

By: Peter and Di Schlenk


What started out as a method of hauling his own produce has led Chris Gibbins to running a small fleet operation

Fresh approach for Gibbins Refrigerated Transport
The new kid on the block: Gibbins Refrigerated Transport's new FH Volvo

 

The vivid graphics adorning the trucks and trailers on the Gibbins Refrigerated Transport fleet would whet the appetite of anyone looking to wrap their choppers into a ripe banana, pineapple or any piece of fruit for that matter.

"I don’t want to be over the top but we do handle fruit and veggies," company owner Chris Gibbins laughs.

Gibbins Refrigerated Transport runs from Coffs Harbour to Sydney and Brisbane. The fleet is made up of two Kenworth T409 SARs, a Kenworth T408 and an FH Volvo. There are also five Isuzu rigids, one Hino and a Fuso running out of Coffs’ cold stores and distribution centre.

Gibbins explains that he had no desire to be a fleet operator, although he had a background in transport, spending nine years for the Bonaccord Ingram family in Bairnsdale, Victoria. In 2009, he started with a rigid, carting fruit from Stanthorpe to the Brisbane markets for his wholesale fruit and vegetable business, Tutti Frutti Wholesale. 

"We decided to get into trucks so we could control our freight and have trucks available whenever we needed them," he says.

Chris Gibbins with his two sons Lachlan (left) and Brendon (right)

Demand soon had Gibbins looking for a semi, as well as chasing freight to fill the trucks both ways. "Soon we were getting produce from the local growers here in Coffs, carrying back in to the Brisbane market," he explains. "We then started a Sydney service. Basically, we provide a daily service to both Brisbane and Sydney now."

The freight is generally fresh produce, but Gibbins does haul some frozen freight and eggs.

He also has a 250-acre farm west of Coffs Harbour at Dorrigo, which is used for growing potatoes and fattening beef cattle.

"My boys also grow a few beans," he continues. "My eldest, Brendon, is a boilermaker/welder at Brown and Hurley while Lachlan is starting a diesel mechanic apprenticeship at the local Hino/Iveco dealer.

"I also have two daughters, Olivia and Isabella. My wife Christine works in the office and runs both businesses: Tutti Frutti and GRT."

Gibbins’ brother Paul also has a wholesale business in Coffs Harbour and a share in the trucks as well. Tutti Frutti Wholesale distributes to stores along with the hospitality industry between Grafton and Port Macquarie.

Gibbins also has a depot in nearby Woolgoolga, or "Woopi", as he calls it. "The growth of blueberries and Lebanese cucumbers in the area led us to establishing a depot there where growers can bring in their produce."

One of the two Kenworth T409 SARs in the Gibbons' fleet

Volvo convert

Of the prime movers, the 540hp FH Volvo is the newest of the Gibbins fleet. Its regular driver, Paul Seccombe, is a Coffs local; his family previously owned a sawmill in the area.

"We had the mill for four generations and it just got too hard," Seccombe says. "It’s a shame but the timber industry is controlled by the greenies and the Forestry Commission now.

"With the mill, you had to pay for the logs upfront and, by the time you processed, sold them and settled your accounts, there wasn’t a lot left. It was a very difficult business."

Trucks have always been a part of Seccombe’s life. His family operated Volvos before moving on to Scanias and Kenworths.

"My family and I ran 20 Kenworths," Seccombe continues. "Our company was G&P Interstate Transport and we did a lot of timber, bricks and roof tiles. Early on we had a lot of Scania 112s and 113s. We always kept a Scania in the fleet."

Seccombe has been behind the wheel of the Gibbins’ Volvo for more than nine months. However, he admits to having spent more of his previous working life in North American trucks.

"I was a bit hesitant about the Volvo but, after driving it, I was very surprised," Seccombe smiles. "The comfort and stability is just so good.

"It is a very comfortable truck and it’s a truck you can drive for long hours and not feel tired; there’s no rocking and rolling. The old ones did that but not this one."

The Volvo's regular driver Paul Seccombe, pictured here with daughter Brooke

The only gripe he has is the Volvo’s small bed. And he’s not a fan of the bright red grille. No problem with the 540hp engine, though, which Seccombe says is ideal for pulling a single trailer.

"There’s no point in overdoing it," he states. Seccombe also says he had some doubts about driving an auto as he’d always driven manuals. But he reckons the Volvo I-shift is "just beautiful".

"It changes very smoothly; I’m falling in love with it more every day," he smiles. "I think I am getting lazy."

The Volvo regularly pulls an FTE van, which he believes are the best fridge vans around.

"I had every trailer that has been built, except for FTE. Now they would be the first trailer I would buy," he enthuses. "Their boxes are just a bit heavier than everyone else; it handles the rough roads and tows like it’s not even there."

Not that he has too many rough roads to travel on nowadays. The Pacific Highway upgrades are making life much easier, although there are some frustrations with the constant roadworks.

"It’s great driving to Sydney and it’s getting better. The upgrades have cut hours off the times we used to do," Seccombe says. "A lot of people get the shits over all the roadworks but it is a little bit of pain for a big gain.

"Governments are spending money on the roads, which is good. I’ve worked on roadworks myself and it takes time to shift the dirt. When it’s finished, it will be a beautiful road and nothing will catch me then," he laughs

 

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