Hard work pays off

By: Warren Aitken

The philosophy and work ethic of Mitchell Bugeja gives hope to those who lament the shortage of young adults entering the road transport industry


Mitch, his fiancée Madeline and the couple’s daughter Ava. Madeline helps out with a lot of the office duties

There is an old saying that goes something like ‘Good things come to those who wait,’ but it really only seems relevant to cheese, wine and popcorn. When it comes to a saying more indicative of everyday life I much prefer the amended version – ‘good things come to those that get off their arse and earn it.’ MPB Haulage and the man behind it, Mitchell Bugeja, is a prime example of that.

At just 26 years old, Mitch is a glowing example of what hard work can achieve. The three trucks sitting in his shed, as well as the two AB-triples and the double road train sitting in his yard are a testament to what can be achieved with the right attitude and work ethic. He’s well aware how difficult it is to get young workers into our industry, much less young guys with a work ethic and a respect for those that have gone before them. So sitting down with Mitch was an inspiring pleasure.

Mitch credits his work ethic to his family and growing up on cane farms. "My dad and grandad were very hard workers" he says. "In the mornings we’d be up and shift irrigators with them, shower, catch the bus, come home from school, change clothes and work until seven or eight o’clock at night."

While that may sound a little like grandad’s "I walked eight miles to school, uphill each way" kind of story, the fact is it was true and it is the basis for Mitch’s success now.

He started an apprenticeship at age 15 and put in 12 hours days from the start. He admits his timing was fortunate as he completed his apprenticeship during the peak of Mackay’s mining boom.

"Guys were on 120 grand a year at that time," Mitch says. Unlike many of those at the time, Mitch had his eyes on the future, putting his money into a house and savings.

His apprenticeship took him to Kalari Transport where he was constantly busy, both in the workshop and then behind the wheel. He formed a lasting friendship with Peter Moohin, one of Kalari’s managers who encouraged Mitch to come in on his days off and do some driving. That saw Mitch progress all the way up to his MC licence and the driving bug was firmly established.

At the age of just 22 and with Kalari’s workload increasing, Peter proposed the idea to Mitch of buying a set of trailers and hiring them back to Kalari. As it turned out the trailers he wanted were sitting right beside another perfect set of trailers, so why not just buy two? Right?

Mitch sold his property and gathered his savings and marched into the bank. Youth is one of those things that those without it long for it and those with it long to be free. Never was that more the case than for Mitch as a 22 year old trying to convince a bank that he’s put a lot of time into his proposal. Even with his 50 percent deposit, Mitch ended up having to change banks as he wasn’t taken seriously. It worked though, he got the loan and MPB began.


Sticky freight

Over the next 12 months Mitch was often towing his own trailers while driving a Kalari truck, but then another opportunity arose. Kalari was looking to get out of the farm delivery side of molasses. Once again, with a little nudge from Peter, Mitch was talked into purchasing his first truck and taking on the work he had already become very skilled at.

Mitch picked up the 2010 Kenworth T408 SAR with the 50-inch bunk out of Townsville, drove it home and put it straight to work. That was Mitch’s baby for another 18 months.

With his reputation growing, his workload increased and in early 2017 he walked into see Kenworth salesman Simon Graham in Mackay and ordered his first ever brand new truck, a Kenworth T909, with a 36 inch flat roof bonnet.

When I say he walked straight in and ordered it, it has to be said he did have a few little issues. A 25 year old walking in off the street and saying he wants one of Kenworth’s flagship trucks is going to face a few raised eyebrows and mocking, such as, "sure son, do you mean one of the Drake models?". Again, credit to Mitch’s professionalism, the salesman soon realised he wasn’t dealing with a daydream driver but a young man with a well thought-out plan.

"I knew exactly how I wanted it set up and why," Mitch says. "I wanted it to arrive here and be set to go straight to work."

With the SAR working pretty hard in the heat regularly towing an AB-triple, Mitch wanted the big bonnet for cooling, so the T909 was the best option. At that stage Mitch was also doing a little bit of subbying work for others, so the truck needed to be versatile in length and down on weight. Hence the 36-inch sleeper and low roof.

Also with an eye to the future, Mitch has kept his trucks as plain as possible. "White trucks have better resale value," he explains.

With the T909, however, he wanted to add a few extras to set it off. "I sent it to Ryan Northcott at Bling HQ because he’s as pedantic as me," Mitch says, expressing his admiration for the "seriously good work" Ryan did.

"That truck lives on dirt roads, nothing has fallen off, everything’s still right, no tank turns or anything," Mitch says. For a man who prides himself on doing a good job it’s a compliment when he says the same of others.

Ryan wrapped the tanks, added a drop visor, grill bars, headlight stainless,7ft straight cut stacks, mirror lights, custom made steer flares and widening mudflaps, fuel tank straps wraps, deck plate chassis walk plates, guard straps and a few other options that turned the ‘plain Jane’ into a stunning success.

As with the SAR, the T909 arrived in the driveway and hooked straight up to an AB-triple and set to work. It has rarely stopped since, amassing over 200,000km in just over a year.

Mitch pilots the T909 himself and covers most of central Queensland, keeping the farmers stocked up with molasses and liquid stock feed.

Since the arrival of the T909, a T908 has also been added. This truck is piloted by Mitch’s dad, bringing the MPB fleet to three, a number that Mitch is content with. Even for a young fella with the energy I wish I still possessed, running a three-truck fleet along with fulltime driving is a flat-out task.

On the business side he gains a lot of assistance from his fiancé Madeline who takes care of much of the office work. With MPB running Mass and Excess Mass Management as well as Basic Fatigue Management, there is a lot of compliancy paperwork for Madeline to stay on top of.


Mentoring importance

The success of MPB has an awful lot to do with Mitch but what is humbling to see is Mitch recognises it’s the work of others that has led to his success. He credits his mentor Peter Moohin for the assistance he still lends to him now.

"He organises it all and I just cart the stuff," Mitch quips. That may downplay the importance of Mitch’s efforts in the business but it also reflects the hand that Peter has played.

Mitch also praises his Uncle Joe as another that has influenced his approach to business. "One of the biggest things I’ve learnt is how to talk to people" Mitch admits. "I talk to Uncle Joe a lot, I‘ll tell him what’s going on and he’ll suggest, ‘why don’t you handle it like this?’"

Another attribute to MPB’s success is Mitch’s insistence on quality. Mitch has always been willing to listen and learn from those who have gone before him, it helps him stick to his ideology of "do it right the first time".

These lessons have meant he chooses the right gear for his work. For Mitch that means Kenworth trucks. "There’s no other truck built to do the tough stuff we do," he says. When it comes to motors, he stoically states, "At the end of the day you can’t beat the Cummins engine".

It’s not just the trucks that work hard though and the setup of his trailers has been just as important for the rough roads he frequents. He says the BPW product is "very refined, simple, good for rough roads with heavy duty bearings and stuff".

A high emphasis on maintenance is of vital importance for MPB as well. "Nothing leaves this cement unless it’s in top condition," Mitch says.

As my time with Mitch draws to a close, it gets harder and harder to believe Mitch isn’t even old enough to remember a time before cell-phones, but his work ethic and respect for those in the industry ensures that MPB Haulage is definitely made of ‘the right stuff’.


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