There‘s a (not so) new player in the fire truck business, and it’s based in Western Australia. Offroad Trucks Australia (OTA) was born 20 years ago when long-time truck specialist Larry Gill had a close look at Czech-built Tatra off-road trucks and realized the quality and ruggedness were second to none. Importantly, the unique chassis and driveline drove Tatras and their usually full loads through terrain that would bring any other truck to a halt.
And that’s one of the key reasons Tatra’s latest fire truck development has gained the attention and approval of DFES, along with Woodside, South 32 and Goldfields, to name just a few.
Tatra has a curious pedigree, being one of the most popular military support chassis in Europe. The reputation of the brand is such that the trucks are frequently used by opposing sides!
Here in Australia, the exclusive swing-axle, tubular chassis core design is perfect for getting a full GVM to any site or emergency, and that means a Tatra fire vehicle will always go further.
OTA is just as unique as the engineering on its product. The company is a family-owned business, and although Larry Gill remains involved, the company is run by his daughter and now managing director Amber Gaden, a 36-year-old commerce graduate with nearly two decades of hands-on experience in all aspects of the business, especially service and sales.
‘We love to remind our customers that there’s a part for every Tatra we’ve ever sold right here in Australia,’ she told us. Given its exclusive specification, the Tatra fleet is only around 650 units across the country. However, many operators are recognizing that off-road capability is really the prime factor in key applications, none more so than Fire and Emergency.
‘More than 75% of pre-ordered stock is already sold for the next 6 months,’ she said.
Key to Tatra’s success in the most severe conditions is the emphasis on tractability. Most medium and heavy-duty trucks are engineered to drill down tare weight, expanding revenue-producing payload. Adapting their on-road chassis to an all-wheel-drive configuration means compromises with suspension travel and axle movement limits that aren’t optimized for true off-road conditions.
The Tatra driveline powers every wheel and maintains surface contact long after other trucks have raised a wheel in the air.
Amber’s focus is now on growing the Tatra presence in its markets, especially the Fire and Emergency arena. ‘We put a lot of effort over several years getting the brand recognized by the people on the ground, as well as engineers and operations managers,’ she said. ‘Now our work is bearing fruit, as Tatra is seen as the best solution when the critical need to get equipment and people on scene will save lives and property.’
Previously Amber was the general manager of OTA and pushed Tatra into several market areas that have performed well for the brand. Big miners such as BHP and Roy Hill, along with a major section of the drill rig market have all recognized Tatra’s off-road muscle. Many others are placing orders now, and Amber assured us that there are no production shortages at the factory. ‘Australia is Tatra’s biggest export market outside Europe,’ she said. ‘The factory gives us whatever we order, and custom builds are our specialty rather than a problem.’
Another key advantage for customers is that Tatra’s Czech-based fire-equipment suppliers are recognized for quality and reliability around the world, and a Tatra fire truck delivered here in Australia is supported with parts and warranty service from the chassis up, through the driveline, cabin and all the equipment on board.
Seventy per cent of Australian Tatra sales are to existing customers. Feedback says fit for purpose, parts and service, and quality and innovation are the three most valued attributes of Tatra ownership. That includes OTA’s training programme for on-site maintenance technicians, keeping the trucks on the go at maximum useability, critical for fire and emergency work.
Amber is managing the business to maintain its focus on solutions rather than sales. ‘The sales always follow when your product solves a customer’s most pressing need.’
For more information, go to www.offroadtrucks.com.au