Comprehensive Logistics Services

L Arthur Transport Services

The company has since grown to become a leading integrated logistics service provider. Around two years ago, we touched base with Managing Director Vincent Arthur, but a lot has happened since.

L Arthur Transport Services started in 1898, focused on the Yarra River, significantly upstream from where most of the port activities occur today. At that time, transport consisted of horse and cart and everything was loaded by hand. Between the 1930s and 1950s, as the port developed, mechanised cargo handling evolved with it. The company moved its business location to an inner city suburb called Richmond, which was a strong industrial area through the first half of the twentieth century.

“A lot of the work then was still very manual and involved people picking up things and putting them down,” Vincent laughs. “Then, a very significant change in shipping happened all around the world, which was the advent of containerisation in the 1960s.”

L Arthur was the first transport company in Melbourne that possessed the equipment able to handle shipping containers. That started the revolution in shipping and transport which meant that there was no longer a need for labour intensive manual cargo handling. It was a matter of taking containers from a ship onto a truck and then unloading it at the importer’s or exporter’s premises. From there, the containerisation of the Port of Melbourne developed and spread to Swanson Dock, which is its current main location.

L Arthur has seen significant growth throughout its history, although there have been a few setbacks. A large fire in the 1930s destroyed its stables and other business infrastructure. The recession of the 1990s created some challenges, but not many businesses were exempt from this. The company was booming through the first seven to eight years of the new millennium until the Global Financial Crisis hit. The business has rebounded strongly from all of this.

The Port of Melbourne is hugely important as a logistics hub in Australia and it is the biggest port in the country. The port is central to the city, and Melbourne has grown up around it. As Australia is an island, most things coming in or going out are on a ship. Over two million containers a year pass through the port and it accounts for close to forty per cent of all of Australia’s containerised imports and exports.

L Arthur Transport Services has seen four generations of family management beginning with Louis Dennis Arthur (Vincent’s great grandfather) in 1898. When asked about what family means to the success of his business, Vincent says, “People like to deal with the principal of the business. Being family owned, our name is on the door of the trucks and our website. That way, people know they are dealing with the person who is running the business. We have some significant multinational clients; they get a large degree of comfort knowing that the head of the business will come and visit them and any issues will be dealt with appropriately.”

L Arthur operates in two different markets: heavy haulage and wharf cartage. The company’s strength is derived from years of networking and a very strong reputation for handling specialised cargo safely and reliably. This may be cargo for a specific project or anything that is unusually bulky, heavy or of a large volume. There are very few companies that are able to get the necessary permits and meet all the regulatory requirements necessary to do this.

The area of heavy haulage, project cargo moving and machinery removal or installation is a market where clients are particularly concerned about a quality operator to ensure that nothing is damaged. It is imperative to have a company that is going to do the job safely because the goods are high value and are often critical to production lines or other important processes. The company dominates this market in Melbourne and Victoria.
The company’s other area of specialisation is what is known as wharf cartage, which is moving import or export shipping containers in and out of the port. With project cargos and heavy machinery, the company is a dominant player within the industry and competition is limited to a smaller number of specialised operators. In wharf cartage, however, competition is fierce within a large market with a host of different operators.

“That’s a much more price sensitive market because you’re talking about a container,” Vincent explains. “It’s just a box that is much easier to handle. We don’t need the same amount of expertise or specialised equipment.”

He emphasises that, “In order to be successful you need to be reliable and have very strong IT systems. You also need to be very cost competitive. We are able to be cost competitive because we have a prime location within the wharf precinct.”

Indeed, there is less competition in the heavy haulage market due to the high barriers for entry. One does need a great deal of specialised equipment, expertise and a strategic location – all of which the company certainly has.

Since we last spoke with the company, it has continued to expand in its core business areas and has also continued further expansion of land holdings. “We have a prime location in the port precinct in Melbourne which really gives us a strong competitive advantage and we have been able to expand and consolidate our land holdings out of the area that we occupy within that port precinct.”

Aside from heavy haulage and wharf cartage, L Arthur offers a large range of quarantine services. Any goods being imported to Australia are subject to quarantine restrictions which may require certain treatments to be undertaken on the goods.

“We offer probably the largest quarantine approved facility in Australia. Some of the treatments we would undertake are in the area of fumigation and we have the inspection of goods by Australian quarantine inspectors. We have a number of them on site,” says Vincent. “There is also steam cleaning equipment, so any second hand machinery equipment that is imported to Australia is usually cleaned and a lot of that work would take place on our premises.”

The company has been involved in quarantine services for over twenty years. In the past, it has had to alert quarantine authorities to infestations of Giant African snails which have the potential to cause significant damage to the agricultural community and carry disease. The company has also been at the forefront of foot-and-mouth disease protection. For a time, all containers were being treated for any dirt on the outside which may carry the disease. “We are regulated to clean and certify containers to be free of any foot-and-mouth risk. This is a strong and well known risk in Australia and most countries in the world.”

When we last spoke, L Arthur had achieved a local external safety accreditation known as SafetyMAP. Over the last twelve months, it has put a lot of work into upgrading that, striving for an internationally recognised occupational health and safety management systems standard known as OHSAS 18001 (shortly to be recognised as ISO 45001). The final audit has now been received and it was successful in obtaining the accreditation. “It is a very significant milestone to the company. I don’t believe that there would be many, if any, transport companies of our size that would have such an accreditation in Melbourne.”

In order to attain OHSAS 18001, extensive and rigorous systems have to be in place. A company must demonstrate that it has the processes to maintain those systems. It covers everything from risk assessment and other work processes to ensuring that maintenance is undertaken in a satisfactory way and proper driver training. The company has a significant safety and compliance department with three staff members.

Part of any successful business is the staff. “We value our employees very highly, and a number of them have been with us for several generations – up to three for some. As a family company, we have been able to retain very strong relationships with our employees, which is demonstrated by how long they like to stay with us. They have a vested interest in that tradition of service.”

Keeping strong family relationships is obviously just one of the ways that L Arthur Transport has been able to dominate its industry. After all, how can anyone argue with 116 years of history?

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 16, 2018, 3:51 PM AEDT