Chris Watkins, director of Chris Watkins Transport is a man on the move. Being a professional interstate removalist, he can be on the road for ten days at a time. He’s also a third-gen relocation specialist, and as you can imagine, he’s learned a thing or two about transporting goods. Chris shares his story about his expanding business, including a new DAF CF85 purchase, and how he rarely has time to pause.
As dawn creeps in, Chris Watkins gets ready for another day of relocating private homes, antiques, new furniture, classic cars, motorbikes and more. He’s normally on the road for ten days at a time on the east coast run up to Queensland, which begins from his Launceston home in Tasmania.
In order to achieve growth and other business efficiencies, Chris realised early on ‘in the world of relocations’ he needed to set sail across the high seas of Bass Strait and deliver a personalised service for both mainland and island customers.
To achieve this, Chris holds himself and his team of experienced drivers accountable to a strong set of values, such as ‘the way something leaves, is the way it arrives.’
“I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve grown… I was taught to treat everything as your own, if not better,” explains Chris.
This ‘attention-to-detail’ attitude has been passed down through multiple generations in the Watkins family.
It started back in the early 1940s with Chris’s pop, Claude, who was a general carrier in Tasmania, carting timber and gravel. His well-established business eventually got the attention of his son Max who joined his father to create an inseparable partnership. In later years Max fell in love with his soon-to-be wife Jenny and after their marriage they built the business, with furniture relocation becoming a constant amongst their fleet of 22 trucks.
From one generation to the next, Chris grew up working with his family for fifteen years.
“I started going to work with dad when I was on school holidays,” Chris recalls. “I was fourteen at the time and after quite a few interstate trips, which taught me the ropes, it inspired me to get my rigid licence when I was eighteen, and then my semi licence at nineteen.”
After a fifteen-year stint working fulltime with his parents, Chris finally went solo and bought a truck to become a sub-contractor. He still contracted his services out to his mother and father until a year later when they sold their business and retired.
In 2004, Chris founded his own relocation transport company in Launceston where he has carefully crafted an unfaltering reputation for personal service.
He was happy with owning just one truck but with this type of work entrenched so deeply in the family DNA, Chris understood if he was going to do things properly, he would have to expand from a one man, one truck operation.
Every step of the way Chris has built his business based on hard work, but just recently things got a little easier for him with the purchase of a DAF FT CF85 single drive prime mover.
“The 4×2 configuration is nice and short and compact and easy to manoeuvre. It’s the first automatic truck I’ve owned and for all the city driving it does, it’s ideal,” Chris confirms.
The CF85 uses 340Kw output of the 460Hp, 13-litre MX340 engine, which arrives via the ZF 12-speed AS2330 auto transmission. This performance balance provides the optimum driving economy for Chris, and has already resulted in cost savings for his business.
“For what you get from the ‘next class of vehicle,’ in terms of value for money, it’s second to none – you get the whole luxury package, plus great fuel economy. It’s a much better fuel saver than our previous truck that did the same run in Melbourne.”
Fuel consumption and Bass Strait crossing transfer fees are two of the biggest yearly running costs on the company books for Chris. But thanks to the new 4×2 prime mover configuration, he also saves $400 (compared with his older rigid tray truck) every time the DAF is loaded on the ship to do the crossing.
The new cab-over is Chris’s first DAF purchase and with his fleet now expanded to five trucks, he’s of the opinion that the latest acquisition, which pulls a semi trailer, strengthens his ability to provide a more responsible and integral door-to-door service.
“Reliability is a key thing when you’ve got someone’s furniture on board,” he says.
“There are a lot of great little things about the DAF: the comfort, the ride. I can’t fault it. It’s a beautiful truck. I’m very impressed with the electronic controlled suspension – it’s a great application. When you get on slopes and different levels you can adjust the truck to how you want it to sit. It makes everything ‘safe as houses’.”
The intelligent suspension set-up is remote controlled so the driver can leave the cab and lift or lower the vehicle, which results in more efficient cargo handling, and reduces wear and tear and other operational costs. The system is also fitted with Axle Load Monitoring which Chris purchased as an optional function to assist him with automatic warning in case of any overload scenario.
Chris is meticulous when it comes to vehicle appearance and how his truck should be set-up for optimum comfort. Keeping customers happy with personal requests remains a challenge for most organisations yet the DAF team has a shared pride in customer retention, with a near century-long history of welcoming new customers into their family.
DAF sales representative Dean Blair from the Kenworth/DAF Melbourne dealership delivered the prime mover within four weeks of the purchase order.
“I was very impressed with how the truck was finished, right down to dealing with Dean,” Chris says. “Interior wise, the detail was looked after… they had the fridge added, seat covers, the driving position – everything was at my fingertips and set-up properly. It was just a matter of ‘turn the key and go to work!’”
With so much time spent away from the office doing long-distance driving, Chris employs his trusted mother and his sister, as well as a fulltime operations manager; together the team organises the comprehensive freight transportation services such as custom-built packaging and preparation, through to customised storage solutions.
“I try to keep it real,” Chris states. “Because my business life is so busy, I don’t have a problem with delegation. I love to delegate.”
Combining the brand new DAF truck with his vast experience of moving thousands of customers interstate, Chris’s popular Tasmanian business can hopefully enjoy a smoother, safer and even more carefully coordinated schedule, given that he’s never stuck for advice from his father Max.
“Dad’s always on hand, so there’s still plenty of conversations about the way to run things and which direction on the road I should take,” Chris chuckled. “If dad doesn’t know, it’s probably not worth knowing.”
DAF Trucks Australia, a division of PACCAR Australia, manufactures and distributes a range of medium and heavy-duty trucks across the country. PACCAR Inc, a Six Sigma company, is a global technology leader in the design, manufacture and customer support of high-quality light, medium and heavy-duty trucks under the Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF brands. PACCAR also designs and manufactures advanced diesel engines, provides financial services and information technology, truck leasing and rental services and distributes truck parts related to its principal business.