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Call of Duty for Mercedes-Benz Trucks

Freight deliveries, whether pallets or parcels, don’t just happen.

It takes an investment in equipment, infrastructure, technology and, most importantly, people to be able to reliably and efficiently provide an end-to-end parcel service which extends across both city and country landscapes.

Victorian Freight Specialists (VFS) is an organisation which pays attention to all of those vital factors, as well as having an overarching commitment to service and integrity.

VFS was established in 1998 by John Rowe and Roland Neef, both of whom had previously held senior roles with well-known national road transport organisations.

A major component of the VFS operation is the fleet of 40 courier vans performing same day door-to-door parcel pickups and deliveries across the Melbourne metropolitan area. Each van is equipped with smartphone scanning technology and real time tracking is available via the VFS website.

VFS is also a major provider of overnight freight and parcel delivery to regional Victoria, Southern NSW and Mt Gambier in South Australia involving an extensive network of 26 long-established agents. VFS has its head office and main depot located in Dandenong, supported by another a depot in Truganina servicing the northwest area of Melbourne.

VFS also operates its own depots in the growth areas of Wodonga and Gippsland and a regular service is now being provided into Canberra.

Currently around 170 company employees plus more than 200 sub-contractors look after the customers’ freight requirements.

VFS is a conscientious organisation and compliance and safety are always core values. A recent move was the appointment of a very experienced specialist manager dedicated to focus on those critical areas.

The amount of freight out of Melbourne and into the country regions has experienced significant growth in recent years and VFS management has made a point of choosing vehicles which best suit their specific applications rather than sticking with one brand.

“The fleet was one dimensional at the start and that was my doing,” says VFS Operations Director Chris Collins.

“I liked the products we had but I had to venture out of that a little bit with certain applications. We’d bought four Fusos and they’re a good reliable truck and that purchase opened the door for Daimler to put a Mercedes-Benz Actros in here. We did some testing and, although I liked the product we were running at the time, there were some things the Actros did very well. It’s got all the safety devices and it’s important we give our drivers the best equipment.”

The Mercedes-Benz prime movers have continued to impress Chris in the fuel economy results and there are now ten Actros prime movers in the VFS fleet. The fuel economy of the Actros models continues to impress Chris.

“We haven’t looked back. The Actros has been an absolute weapon for our business. The fuel is just second to none,” he says. “We ran a lot of tests in the early days and there was just nothing that could really compete with it.”

While on a Daimler sponsored study trip to Europe, Chris was able to spend a day and a half with the factory driver trainers in Germany.

“It was a worthwhile trip and I came back and reset my mind on a few things with a different mentality about how they drive their trucks and fuel efficiencies,” he recalls. “I came back knowing we could do better. It’s all about the little details.”

Drivers new to VFS receive comprehensive coaching to assist in them maximising the performance and efficiency of the trucks. Every VFS and sub-contract vehicle is equipped with the additional information screens for the MTData compliance system which includes approved Electronic Work Diaries and GPS tracking as well as speed monitoring and nonconformance reports. In addition to the compliance aspect, Chris sees the MTData system as a way to further improve fuel efficiencies.

“It’s a good driver tool to use,” he says. “We don’t buy just one of any model of truck. We run ten Actros’s now, and we’ve got 15 or 20 of the same Isuzu rigid model so we actually get to see driver patterns.”

Chris Collins’ father and grandfather were in road transport and he’s glad he decided to make a career for himself in the same industry and has been at VFS since 1998.

“I didn’t really have a clear path when I left school and I was given the opportunity by John Rowe, who went back a long way with my family, and basically I took on a full apprenticeship under John himself,” he says.

The most recent Mercedes-Benz Actros 2263 to begin working in the VFS fleet has been liveried to pay subtle homage to John Rowe.

“The Actros was something from me and my other business partners to recognise what John Rowe had done in the transport industry. It’s the flagship of VFS, and it’s appropriate it carries his name,” says Chris.

The handover of the Actros and its new Vawdrey trailer set was celebrated with a number of suppliers and VFS’s key people.

Although the overall operation has achieved significant growth, VFS retains the culture of a family business. Staff turnover is minimal.

“There are people who have been here since day one and they know the standards and the way John went about meeting them and what he required as a business,” Chris says.

“It wasn’t just one thing to be good at, it was the multiple of little things put together and all the small details that made a good transport operation. We continue to do that with all the young guys coming through now. John still comes to the board meetings every week and keeps us all in line. We all work hard and that’s a pivotal part of what John did right up until the day he stepped back. He had confidence in a few of us younger guys he had trained and we’ve taken it on from there.”

Adopting the latest in transport technologies aids VFS in achieving the efficiencies necessary to maintain a viable operation without taking focus away from the people involved in moving the freight and their desire to provide a superior level of service to the clients.

The custom developed ‘Good Track’ IT system provides services such as online ordering and quoting, real time tracking and electronic invoicing.

VFS has its own full customer service team which answers calls and acts immediately if something needs to be escalated. VFS doesn’t have sales people doing things like cold calls, instead it has account managers who continually work closely with clients.

“We’ve got a really good reputation in the industry. We’ve got some good brands that we carry for who speak of us highly. And those brands are expanding as well, so we’ve got a level of organic growth.”

VFS remains committed to providing good, old fashioned service with honesty, integrity, and a smile.

Considerable effort has been put into VFS being able to rightly claim Victoria’s best country parcel freight network with the strength of the association with longstanding country depot operators.

“We’ve got some great country people and they’re a part of VFS, they’re not a third party or merely an on-forwarder,” Chris says.