2 April 2024

Proud family business heads into its 50th year with third generation in the driver's seat

| Michele Tydd
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Man standing in front of large truck.

Alan Ross, owner and CEO of Ross Transport is handing over the company to his daughter True. Photos: Supplied.

When it comes to business dynasties, Ross Transport is an Illawarra favourite earned through hard work and astounding resilience.

From a meagre one-truck hauling service, it has grown into a thriving business, which marks its 50th anniversary next year with its third generational leadership change.

Owner and CEO Alan Ross is stepping aside to allow his daughter, True Ross-Sawrey, to take the reins.

What makes this milestone even sweeter is that it was made possible by a gritty comeback after a painful upheaval in the early years.

READ ALSO The ultimate learning experience to help young people become safe, responsible drivers

Started on a meagre budget by Reg and Fran Ross in 1975, their split nine years later meant son Alan, with his mother’s help, pitched in to save the business.

“At 28 I took over. Mum looked after the office work and pays, while I managed the trucks and did the mechanical work on them,” he says matter-of-factly.

By then, one truck had grown to 14, and the fleet now comprises 70 trucks, from B-doubles to tippers and dogs specialising in grain, timber and steel interstate haulage.

In 1994, the headquarters moved from a small plot at Oak Flats to nearly three hectares at Port Kembla, and now has a workforce of 80 people.

Throughout his leadership, Alan has focused on changing the public perception of the “cowboy truckie”, as well as improving the lot of a workforce which often does it tough with long hours and sometimes unrealistic customer delivery expectations.

Four people in a yard of trucks.

Four generations of the Ross Transport family – Fran, Alan, True and her twins.

“The industry has come a long way in the past 15 years because we are monitored more than anybody else on the road with cameras set up throughout Australia,” he says.

“Drivers these days can’t step out of line because if we drive a couple of minutes too fast, we get a ‘please explain’ letter in the mail.”

He applauds those improvements but not what he calls the overregulation that occurs, for example, when a truckie is automatically fined $400 for what is clearly a mistake in their logbook, which he says are often done in the dark after a long day on the road.

To counter the issue of public perception, Alan installed forward cameras in all his fleet in 2017.

“It was one of the best things I’ve ever done because ‘at fault’ disputes between cars, motorbikes and trucks dropped in our favour from 80 to 30 per cent because we finally had evidence to defend ourselves,” he says.

Alan is proud to be a member of Australia’s regional trucking industry, which over the years has generously given back to its communities.

Old picture of a truck.

Ross Transport’s first truck in 1975.

Ross Transport has supported the i98FM Convoy run for kids with cancer since it began in 2005.

“With the help of our sponsors and customers we’ve raised more than $1 million for the cause,” he says with immense pride.

Behind the scenes, Ross Transport has also provided one of its sheds to the Illawarra Cancer Carers to restore wheelchairs and motorised scooters for cancer patients.

READ ALSO Dedicated volunteers give cancer patients a lift with restored mobility aids for $1

Illawarra Cancer Carers transport service co-ordinator Keith Wilson says it was typical of Alan’s generosity.

Keith recalls the competition among trucking companies to lead the first Convoy when Alan put in a bid of $10,000, but he was outbid by another company by $2000.

“Alan showed great generosity by donating his bid which started a tradition that remains today,” he says.

Alan is now in what he calls “cruise control” and is happy for his daughter to step up as CEO.

“True’s fantastic, she already runs the place and she’s got a wonderful role model in her grandmother, Fran, who at 82 still drops in three or four times a week to keep an eye on things.”

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