Testing Stations

Making Driving Safer – Murray Coombes

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Murray has worked in the industry for over 20 years; VINZ Hamilton is the best inspection site he’s seen.

Murray Coombes, Site Services Manager

VINZ Hamilton has been open for just 20 months. It’s one of the jewels in VINZ’ crown, and no one is prouder or more enthusiastic about the facility than Site Services Manager, Murray Coombes. Murray has worked in the industry for over 20 years: VINZ Hamilton is the best inspection site he’s seen.

“We’ve made a big, big investment here, he says. “Huge,” he adds, in case you’d missed the point. “It’s been a massive improvement for the company, our staff and our customers. It’s just wonderful. And we have an even bigger, better site in Palmerston Site. That’s two in twelve months that’s a tremendous achievement.”

The most visible evidence of the investment is in the technologies and systems for testing truck brakes. “You have to test brakes with the axles loaded to 60 percent of the rated capacity, Murray explains. “We used to apply strapping to the truck axles and pull down it to simulate the required load. Now we have rollers that lift the truck to apply the appropriate pressure. That’s safer, more reliable and far more efficient.”

VINZ Hamilton sits at the heart of the transport industry in the North Island. “A large proportion of our work is CoF B (truck) inspections They keep is really busy. Hamilton is an industrial hub. It’s part of the golden triangle. All the major workshops in town use us and there are two brand new truck workshops just around the corner.

The value VINZ provides isn’t just in delivering inspections. It’s in understanding how fleets operate and delivering advice and information to help them be safer and more efficient. “We provide advice and feedback,” he explains. “We might say, “We recommend you replace your tyres soon. And there’s some rust here, you want to keep an eye on that.’ In other words, we give them a vehicle safety maintenance plan. That’s particularly important for truck owners. They know they have some work to do, so the schedule it for when they have some down time. That helps the business: the trucking industry is a busy industry. Vehicles need to be on the road as much of the time as possible, because if the wheels aren’t going around you’re not making any money.”

Murray’s priority is not the inspections themselves, it’s looking after the people who carry them out. “Excellent service all starts with the staff,” he says. “If staff enjoy being here and want to come to work each day, their attitude flows through to the customer. Happy staff means happy customers. Happy customers come back. It’s a virtuous cycle. That’s our philosophy.”

So how does he keep staff happy? “Keeping staff happy is all about treating people well,” he says. “It’s not necessarily all about how much you pay them. That matters, but primarily it’s about culture. We have a very good culture here.

“What we offer, what we’re very strong on here is a work-home lifestyle balance. It’s about trying to get everybody home at a reasonable hour – we all leave at the same time –– working only half a day on Saturdays and having every second weekend off. We have twelve trained staff so, if someone wants a holiday, they can get their holiday.”

Then there are the little extras that let people, know they’re valued: “We shout breakfast on Saturday. We put on a lunch once a month to thank everybody. We treat people like people, not like numbers.”

The other part in making people happy is keeping them interested and motivated. “We have a variety of jobs — warrants, crash inspections, rental cars, taxis, shuttles and other passenger service vehicles, pre-purchase, forklifts. We have offsites — compliance shops where the site strips the car and we have people carrying out inspections there, after the vehicles have been stripped. It takes some juggling to get people with the right authorities to carry out a constantly changing schedule of inspections,’ says Murray, “but variety at work is a good thing. It keeps people interested and on their toes. That’s another way of keeping them happy. It gives them something to look forward to. And learning new skills and new inspection regimes takes training. That keeps them motivated.

The flip side of the business is, of course, keeping customers happy. “People get WoFs once a year,” so you need to do a good job, but there aren’t many opportunities to build a relationship. But we deal with some customers all the time, and you develop good relationships with customers you see regularly. We have regular compliance customers who work for car dealers. And others with large mechanical workshops. They’re in every day with different vehicles from different fleets. We also get contractors and small truck owners. They’re only in every six months, so it’s a slightly different relationship. We have less time to get to know and understand them. That’s another reason why we need the very best inspectors.