John Hallinan is a crusty veteran of the trucking industry, a man with a sharp eye and quick wit whose verbal jousts include numerous anecdotes of the mechanical maladies that have beset his equipment over the years in a tough working environment.
Once past the rough exterior though, you get to see a man who displays genuine pride in the business he has built up since the late 1960s.
“Cummins? Exceptional service,” he says in a moment of serious reflection. “The relationship thing is very important and we have that relationship with Cummins and Western Star.”
The Hallinan family is based at Tara, a small rural town of 1200 people 300 km west of Brisbane.
Hallinan & Co had its origins in 1968 when John bought his first truck and today the operation incorporates Meanderra Transport, owned by his sons Cameron and Matthew.
At the front line of the fleet are 10 Western Stars, all with Cummins power, and they use their muscle to pull B-double and roadtrain configurations up to four trailers.
Trucking is entirely a practical undertaking for Hallinan, a business that has built-in versatility, able to react quickly to whatever the different seasons or demands throw up.
“We have stock crates, conventional tippers, side tippers, flat tops, drop decks, tilt trays, water tankers,” says John Hallinan.
Livestock is the biggest haulage component of the business today. “We operate mainly out west with our livestock trucks, up to 1,500 km from Tara,” he points out.
Grain and cotton seed are other key haulage tasks, and the company is also geared up to service the coal seam gas industry whether it be moving rigs and other gear or providing water for the drilling process.
John Hallinan has learned from sometimes painful experience that in an industry as fiercely demanding as livestock haulage, service support is critical.
”When you ring Cummins you can at least get someone out to deal with a problem.”
While truck choices have changed a couple of times over the years, there has been no deviation in engine choice. He delivers the reason in just one word: Service!
“When you ring Cummins you can at least get someone out to deal with a problem,” he comments. “Cummins owns its branch network so you know you’re dealing directly with Cummins.
“Our experience is that if you have a genuine case with warranty or whatever, you won’t get knocked back.”
He refers to the people factor as a critical contributor in the relationship with Cummins. He holds Cummins Toowoomba and its operations manager Angus Short in high regard and considers the service crew at the branch as “probably the best ever”.
Western Star provides the same high level of service, and again he refers to people as the key to this relationship.
Ask him about the journey so far and John Hallinan recalls his experiences in snippets rather than chapters.
He bought his first truck in 1968 from Western Downs Co-op for whom he’d been driving. The Co-op specialised in grocery, hardware and fuel retailing. He later bought the service station in the main street of Tara from the Co-op and acquired more trucks to cart the fuel in 44 gallon drums from Brisbane.
In the early 1970s Hallinan bought into livestock haulage for the first time, acquiring an International 2050 and two trailers from Dick Travis. He bought more Internationals, a couple of White Road Commanders and then in 1983 put his first Western Star into service, the start of a long relationship with this brand.
He recalls his first experience with a Cummins engine – a ‘triple nickel’ V555 in an International, an experience that wasn’t particularly memorable. The V903 then notched a presence in his operation followed by various evolutions of the 855 cubic inch (14-litre) range.
Since the late ’90s the 15-litre ISX/Signature has been the engine of choice, the most notable being an ISX that clocked up 20,000 hours with minimal repairs.
The latest unit is a Signature 600 EGR with diesel particulate filter, installed in the long snout of a 6900 Western Star which went into service in July this year. Working in remote areas where AdBlue is currently in limited supply, the Cummins EGR emissions solution is considered the best option.
It’s now close to 50 years since John Hallinan bought his first truck on the road to the future, although back then he wasn’t exactly sure where the road was heading. However, trucks became locked permanently into his life and with his sons now an integral part of the business, there’s a strong grip on certainty.