It’s 1969 and Gavin O’Sullivan, just 20, is at the wheel of a single-drive International – a petrol-powered AA180 to be exact – hooked to a single-axle trailer. The opportunity to haul four-legged freight seems like a good way to make a quid for a young bloke brought up on the family farm.
Today, at the age of 66, Gavin O’Sullivan reflects with pride on a business that has grown from humble beginnings to an operation that moves thousands of sheep and cattle a week with a fleet of 60 prime movers and 120 trailers.
Times and trucks have, of course, changed beyond all measure. As Gavin talks about the business he established with his brother Peter – O’Sullivan’s Transport – a new Cummins ISXe5-powered Western Star idles into the yard, providing a dramatic contrast between the old and what the company is operating today.
O’Sullivan’s, based in Elmore, Victoria, is one of the biggest livestock carriers in Australia. In fact, a 2013 survey by online news service ‘Beef Central’ ranked O’Sullivan’s the fourth largest for upload capacity behind Roadtrains of Australia, Martins Stock Haulage and Frasers Livestock Transport.
It’s an adamant – and proud – Gavin O’Sullivan who says, “You don’t build a business like this without the right people. We have people who have been here close to 40 years.”
He just as easily admits to the livestock business being a true passion. “We’re passionate about livestock transport. There’s a lot of pride in what we do here. We enjoy giving good service.”
Business growth through the years has been organic as well as through acquisitions which quickly built O’Sullivan’s prominence in livestock haulage.
“We’ve bought quite a few smaller livestock businesses over the years and amalgamated them into the one operation,” he says. Thoughtful for a moment, he calculates that at least 15 companies have been acquired.
O’Sullivan’s fleet operates mainly in Victoria, NSW and South Australia, using primarily B-doubles to haul stock from saleyards to abattoirs. The company also has a major holding facility at Elmore which it uses to help clients coordinate the delivery of livestock to suit their needs.
Kenworth and Western Star are the preferred prime mover brands at O’Sullivan’s while Cummins dominates in the power department.
They are brands that best cater for driver preferences while meeting the productivity and efficiency focus within the business, says O’Sullivan’s fleet manager Mark Oliver who has been with the company since the mid-80s.
He rates the ISXe5 SCR engine highly based on O’Sullivan’s experience to date with 10 units rated at 550 hp which are installed in T909 Kenworths and 4900 Western Stars.
“The ISXe5 is a new phase for us and we’re seeing significant benefits in terms of reliability, cooler running temperatures and driver acceptance,” he says.
The preference for Cummins is the result of a long standing relationship between the two companies that was initially forged through the Cummins Campbellfield branch in Melbourne.
“The Cummins people came and talked to us, we didn’t have to chase them,” says Mark Oliver.
Due to operational needs, O’Sullivan’s key point of contact today is Cummins Swan Hill, an operation headed up by Tyson Coffey.
“It’s not uncommon for Tyson to know of a problem, and have his team working to fix it, before we hear about it. That takes a lot of pressure off us.
“Cummins has a great support network, through its branches and dealers,” Mark Oliver adds. “The Cummins Support Centre is another big plus.”
Latest Western Star in O’Sullivan’s fleet has Cummins ISXe5 power.
Gavin O’Sullivan…reflects with pride on a business that has grown from humble beginnings.