Starting as a cadet draftsman at a Queensland cement works in the early 1960s, Graham Weatherhog subsequently moved into truck body and trailer building. In 1979 he was one of five men who started Shephard Transport Equipment and has remained with the company to this day.
It’s increasingly rare these days to meet a person who has been employed by just three companies in their entire working life.
Just such a person is Graham Weatherhog, who finished grade 10 at high school in 1962 and the following year gained a drafting cadetship at a cement works where his father worked.
Midway through his cadetship Graham successfully applied for a job with prominent bus, coach and truck body builder Athol Hedges and proceeded to complete his cadetship and also gain a mechanical engineering certificate at QIT (Queensland Institute of Technology).
“I was mainly involved with the truck body building side of the business including tabletop, tipper and fibreglass fire appliance bodies,” Graham says of his time with Athol Hedges.
In those early years Graham also presided over the design and manufacture of aluminium bodies without ribs which saved weight, and this process was later transferred to steel body construction.
After 13 years with Athol Hedges, Graham and two of his workmates were approached by John and Val Shephard who owned a second-hand trailer sales business and were looking to diversify into truck body and trailer building.
“When we started Shephard Transport Equipment (STE) in 1979, John Shephard was doing sales, I was doing the design drawings, pricing, invoicing, purchasing and pickups and the other three guys were building the gear in the workshop,” Graham says.
Over time Graham bought the shares of the others in the business, including John and Val Shephard, and after that his son, daughter, son-in-law and spare parts manager each bought 25 per cent shares in the business, and Graham continued to work for them.
Asked about the greatest changes he’s seen over the last 40 years, Graham mentions much tighter and more prolific regulations and Performance-Based Standards (PBS).
“The over-involvement of regulations and the paperwork this creates has made the job of building trailers much more complex,” he says. “Long gone are the days when you could simply take an order from someone over the phone and then build it.”
As for who or what he admires in the industry, Graham says he’s always looked up to Haulmark Trailers as a solid privately-owned company.
“Haulmark has been around longer than us – when I worked for Athol Hedges we were buying our axles and suspension from them,” he says.
Today the tables have turned and Graham says spare parts and component sales account for 40 per cent of STE’s revenue.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved with the business since we started,” Graham adds.
“Having my children, their partners and grand-daughter all working in the business really means a lot to me,” he says.
This Industry Icon article was first published on trailermag.com.au