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Alpha Omega Excavations started from scratch on Queensland’s Gold Coast after a quick course in local knowledge. But the biggest decision came down to finding the right truck for the job.

Looking to retire? How about relocating to Queensland’s Gold Coast? That’s what was in the mind of Bill Flogeras after 40 years in the road transport industry after packing up and moving north from Sydney. But maybe not fully retiring, just picking up the odd job here and there.

That all changed when Bill’s sons Spiros and Carmello made the move as well. Both had experience in trucking, albeit from varied backgrounds. Although a qualified carpenter, Carmello (or Mel as he prefers) was running a transport business. On the other hand, Spiros, with his engineering background, worked for pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Prior to that he had sweet stints (pardon the pun) within the confectionary production industry as an overseas technician installing production lines for varies companies all over the world.

Shortly before the pandemic hit, Spiros and Mel were looking at starting afresh. Besides, Spiros says he’d had enough of Sydney’s "rat race". Both decided to join Bill on the holiday strip.

Rather than going into semi-retirement, 58-year-old Bill joined his two sons in starting up a small sandblasting business from scratch. Despite having no local contacts on the Gold Coast, their fastidious work ethic soon brought requests for extra work for their newly named business, Alpha Omega Excavations.

"We were doing driveways and people were asking, ‘do you do landscaping?’, ‘what about decks?’," Spiros recalls.

"So we started doing a few decks, hired a little excavator and I thought, ‘there’s a market up here’."

However, the work soon outgrew Alpha Omega’s little Fuso Canter. They needed something larger.

Bill has owned a variety of second-hand trucks during his years of running tipper haulage and excavations out of Sydney. He’d always leaned towards European brands, particularly Volvo, so that seemed the obvious choice.

"I’ve had probably about 15 Volvos in my life … maybe more," Bill says. "The oldest one I had was a G88; that was a 1970 model.

"I’ve had a couple of Americans, they’re beautiful trucks but they’re just rough, no turning circle. And they’re not cheap."

With second-hand trucks in high demand, forking out around $200,000 for a Volvo that’s already done a million kilometres did not seem an economical proposition. The Flogeras family began entertaining the option of buying something new. But, as is the case in the current climate, ordering a truck is the easy part; taking delivery is another matter.

They initially approached UD and Hino. Bill’s preference is for six-rod suspension, although he liked the disc brakes and eight air bag suspension on the UDs but baulked at the price difference. And there was the usual problem of supply delays.

Riding on air

Their next stop was Daimler Trucks Gold Coast where they met up with the branch’s south-east Queensland fleet account manager, Jon Hamilton who introduced them to a 460 Shogun.

"I wasn’t into Japanese trucks," Bill says. "But Fuso is owned by Mercedes-Benz, and their drivelines now are Detroit engines and Mercedes drivelines. I said I’d give it a run and was so impressed with it."

Jon also explained to Bill the benefits of air ride suspension.

"In the tipping game six rod is always better. They don’t get bogged, you can tip one axle in a ditch and the other one out compared to the air bag," Bill says.

"Then Jon convinced me the new air ride system that they have is pretty much like a Mercedes-Benz. And he was right.

"It’s a better ride obviously and more comfortable. And that’s why we went back because my mentality was all my tippers over the years were rod suspension."

While Jon Hamilton was educating the Flogeras clan on the merits of the Fuso Shogun, Bill offered Jon a few tips on building the right body for their line of work.

The first 460 Shogun was sent to a local body builder, but the hefty price and workmanship quality left a little to be desired. They made the decision that any future bodies would be ordered, designed and built further south, namely M&S Truck Bodies in the NSW Illawarra region and AA Diesel Truck Bodies in Dandenong, Victoria.

The 460 was followed by another 460 and a 510. A fourth Fuso arrived a couple of months ago, but not the 460 they had initially planned on. Again, with an eye on waiting time, an opportunity arrived when a 510 tipper, on display at the Brisbane Truck Show in May, became available.

"Jon removed the bull bar as we wanted to keep our image consistent with our other Fusos and the bull bar was more than we required," Spiros continues.

He also makes a point of saying that the four Shoguns are also united in cleanliness, getting a thorough wash each week.

"They’re a great advertisement," he says. "You drive them around and you’re basically advertising the company, that’s why we keep them in good nick. It’s worth it, it’s like paying for marketing and advertising."

However, cleanliness is but one part of Alpha Omega’s growing and glowing reputation.

"Listening to the customers, all of them had complaints about guys with machines and trucks would turn up late, or ring you at the last minute with, ‘sorry, we can’t come’," Bill says.

"They were cheaper than us in the hourly rates, but they didn’t get what we gave."

Clean presentation

It has been a quick learning curve for Bill, Spiros and Mel, starting a new business from scratch in a different city. In preparation, Spiros says they studied the market to look to see what they could do different to their competitors while sticking to their values.

"Turn up early, have your trucks always clean, presentation, a good work ethic, reliability, be loyal to your customers … things like that," he says.

"Since then we’ve attended for flood recovery work with various councils, we’re on the Gold Coast light rail project at the moment too, and everyone’s really happy with our work and our trucks.

"The benefit for our company is that we always keep our trucks in really good nick. You get a lot of companies just wanting our trucks to be on their site, because we’re very professional."

That professionalism extends to whoever sits in the driver’s seat. So, when it comes to hiring, it’s a case of finding the right person for the job, as Bill explains following their latest recruitment process.

"We went through about 10 different interviews," he says. "It’s really hard, they’ve all got a truck licence but a lot of them don’t know how to drive tippers."

"They have to be trainable as well," Spiros chips in. "We set it to a certain standard. This is our procedure, this is our training so we want you to act a certain way and be professional, pretty much tier one drivers.

"Everyone’s like, ‘you’re just a truck driver’, but it’s actually really hard to operate a truck on site. And there’s just so much involved which people don’t realise, like traffic control, communication, tipping in the correct spot, positioning the truck to get loaded with different machines … just things like that.

"We want to make truck driving pretty much an art form," Spiros states.

Meanwhile, Bill has temporarily shelved any plans for taking it easy, although he has his eyes on a new specced-up Mercedes-Benz Actros that is soon to enter the Daimler Trucks Gold Coast showroom. He views it as his possible "retirement truck".

Spiros, however, doesn’t share the same enthusiasm. "If he wants to retire in it, fine. You can live in it pretty much. It’s got beds and fridges and microwaves – take it camping if you like," he smiles, adding that it could find a home in their existing small fleet as a truck and dog.

"That’s a fair compromise but it would look nice. It would look like a show truck."

That would be a big jump for Alpha Omega Excavations, but due to the growth of the business, it’s not out of the question.

"Where we’ve come from, when we started in the last two years, anything is possible," Spiros says. "It’s been a journey."