Noske: Power to the people

Managing a transport business in a volatile, hyper-connected age is a daunting task, especially in a marketplace as competitive as the Australian one. But, local transport company, Noske Logistics, has learned to make a virtue of necessity and used the uncertain environment to form a thriving transport business spanning the entire continent.

Established in 2005, the Melbourne-based business has established itself amongst Australia’s transport elite in less than a decade, but according to far-famed CEO, Tony Noske, the journey has only just begun.

To grasp the full story of the silver and navy blue fleet, it is vital to understand Noske’s role in the domestic transport industry. Regarded across the country, he has spent 40 years in the industry, and at the risk of hyperbole, he’s pretty much seen it all. After building, running, and eventually selling successful trucking company, Kalari, Tony Noske retired in 1995 – only to be enticed back into the business when his unrivalled expertise was needed.

The result of that post-retirement partnership is today’s Noske Logistics – a young, fast-growing logistics firm specialised in bulk haulage. Only seven years old, Noske’s fledgling truck business is turning over a good profit operating in excess of 200 heavy vehicles and associated assets.

Considering the company’s stellar performance in a time characterised by global instability, it is no surprise that Tony Noske has become an industry icon himself. He has learned by experience what it means to lead in an age of upheaval, to master personal challenges, to be in the limelight continually and to make decisions under extreme uncertainty. Yet, his hunger for success is not yet pleased.

“In the past decade, new technologies have created new industries, disrupted old ones, and spawned communication networks of astonishing speed. That continuous change has always inspired me, and I find it more of an opportunity than a challenge,” says Noske – revealing that it is not business performance alone that is driving him. Specifically, staff treatment, retention and motivation are hallmarks of Noske’s not-so-ordinary business model.

“A company that sets the bar for service as high as we do needs to integrate staff management at the most fundamental level. That’s why we’ve always had a culture of involving the people in the business, which means keeping the lines of communication open and fostering a culture of respect between managers and employees. It’s also about confidence – a more abstract quantity that’s integrated into our hiring and training practices.”

According to Tony Noske, the company’s HR strategy is based on the age-old model of apprenticeship, where an inexperienced employee is paired with an experienced counterpart. That philosophy, says Noske, receives just as much personal attention as the operational side of the business.

“Our mentoring program gives the older generation a lot of stimulation and involvement to be able to train younger people, and for the younger people it’s a rapid learning curve,” he explains. “It’s the kind of win-win situation that can only come from a character-based hiring process. Experience isn’t that important to us because we can give them experience. People just have to listen and learn and do a job well.”

As a positive side effect, Noske’s HR effort is also helping the industry improve its overall image. “It is our mission to promote the industry and improve the repute of a profession that is seeing a huge deficit of both skill and manpower,” he says. “We want trucking to be the industry of choice.”

It such dedication to the people behind the wheel that has helped him turn the eponymous company into an aspiring transport business. Beside a penchant for technology, service and safety and much talked-about networking skills, it was the solid foundation of available staff that made for the rise of the second Noske Empire in 2005.

The parallels to Noske’s first undertaking, Kalari, are striking. “In hindsight Kalari grew quickly using that same simple model: motivated employees providing innovative solutions with a high focus on service and safety,” he reflects. “Having fun, doing things properly, simply.”

Trained by US company E Stewart Mitchell – still a thriving quarrying and asphalt company to this day – Tony Noske can draw on decades of experience in one of the most volatile industries in the world. It may be for that reason that he knows better than to rest on his heels. “We’re always looking at better ways of doing things, because if you keep doing things the same way you’ll rapidly go backwards,” he says. “The transport industry is a competitive business, and you need to get out ahead.”

On that account, Noske’s second business venture has recently upgraded its fleet with the latest in high productivity technology to increase both fuel efficiency and output. Australia’s latest approach to achieve more payload – labelled HPFV (High Productivity Freight Vehicle) – basically is an upgrade of the far-famed B-Double concept. Noske’s HPFV fleet can operate at a GVM of 77.5 tonnes and is 27.5m in length compared to the standard B-double, which operates at 68.5 tonnes GVM and is 26m long. “HPFV technology has improved productivity 44 per cent over our standard B-double and 100 per cent over our single trailer operations,” says Noske.

Sporting a fresh, silver/navy blue paint scheme, the new Noske fleet has become a common sight across the Australian continent.  “We first began carting raw material for a glass plant in South Australia,” Noske recalls. “Today, one of the largest contracts we have secured is with global green energy giant Suzlon, hauling large parts for a new wind farm in specialised over-sized equipment.”

To cater to that range of work, Noske split the business into four divisions – long-haul, short-haul, oversized transport and forestry, a division which has key contacts that involve the use of unique transport equipment like Super B-doubles, yet another local specialty designed to transport up to two 40-foot containers at once.

Despite that technology edge, the man behind the burgeoning transport outfit is always keeping an eye on developments outside the actual transport sector. “We are going to have a lot more of these external crises because we are living in such a volatile world – an age where everything is leveraged and technology moves so fast,” he says – knowing that managing double-digit growth in a tight credit market is a holistic challenge demanding total dedication on every level. “You can be rocked by something that originated completely outside your area, so you need to alert around the clock.”

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