Michael Schmidt, One Stop Truck Doctor Q&A
Michael Schmidt is the owner of One Stop Truck Doctor – a workshop in Beenleigh, south of Brisbane, that caters principally to heavy vehicle customers, offering the full range of mechanical and maintenance services. At just 25 years of age, Michael leads a business that was established before he was born and has an impeccable reputation for service and quality - a reputation he is securing and building upon as he guides the evolution of the business as technological advances and innovation impact the industry.
What products and services does One Stop Truck Doctor provide?
MS: We provide everything from basic servicing all the way up to engine and driveline rebuilds. We do a lot of brakes, clutches, suspension repairs, fabrication and chassis repairs and also do modifications to heavy vehicles as well - we can engineer and certify tow bars, bodies, driveline alterations and things like that. We get a wide variety of vehicles through here including trucks, motorhomes, cars, tractors, even plant and machinery.
Being a one-stop shop is the name of the game, ensuring that when a customer drops off their vehicle to us, they don’t need to worry about anything else. And we will go that extra mile to get the job done - many trucks are run by owner-drivers, the truck is their livelihood, and when their truck is off the road then they are losing money, so turnaround time is important.
We do quite a lot of work on motorhomes and, as with trucks, there is a bit of pressure there. While trucks often need to be turned around quite quickly, motorhomes don’t but, as with trucks, the motorhomes are very expensive and often the owners have sold everything to be able to own one. For the period the truck or motorhome is with us, we are responsible for them.
Do you still get on the tools or has owning the business meant you now work mainly form your office?
MS: The majority of my day is spent on the tools! I do spend a couple of hours each day answering calls and doing paperwork but the rest of the time I am in the workshop. And that is good because not only do I enjoy it but it means I am always improving and keeping up to date with things.
I do, of course, much prefer to work on the tools!
When was the business established?
MS: The business has been trading under the same name for about 25 years. When I was asked to take over I knew I had to take care of the customer base because Wayne, the previous owner, built the business up from nothing – we can’t push them away, so it was good I was able to take on from that, bring the workshop up to the modern day and keep talking to those customers and let them know that nothing has changed, you just won’t see the older bloke anymore.
It used to be at a location further down the street but for the past 20 years it has been here.
It’s a well-known shop in the area and has been here while the town grew – this area used to be a farming area and now we are smack in the middle of a highly sought after industrial area. It’s a great spot to be.
We have invested pretty heavily in diagnostic equipment – Snap-on Modus scan tools. Where in the past we might have contracted out work – like a specialist auto electrician for example - we now do far more in house. It one less out-going and means making things cheaper for the company. And having that equipment means we can keep up to date and show the customer exactly what we are doing.
The technology in trucks is often mirrored in cars. Trucks are usually a couple of years behind but now we are finding that they are very much up-to-date with everything that may be going on in your car – the heavy vehicle industry is right behind and with emission controls and efficiency and so on.
The automotive industry is evolving fast thanks to new technology – every major manufacturer is, for example, on their way to producing electric cars. This year Tesla even revealed its own all-electric truck. What is your take on new technology in the heavy vehicle sector?
MS: I don’t think we are too far from having those electric vehicles. There’s a lot of surface area on top of a vehicle and I’m sure that you’ll see solar panels there, designed to assist the electric vehicle to function. That technology is on its way.
The main thing we have seen is in the past decade is the advancement of common-rail diesel technology. The next may be in diesel particulate filter tech or diesel exhaust fluids. There has also been rapid change from Euro 2, 3, 4 and 5 standards and now we’re up to Euro 6.
Making sure we are across these developments is important and there is a lot of pressure to keep up to date. But I have a lot of years left in the industry and it will be good to evolve and grow with the industry and the technology. We shouldn’t be scared of change. It won’t be the end of the industry – this country will never get rid of trucks – and we have to embrace it and use it to our advantage.
So, we keep up with all the manufacturers bulletins, technical updates and service procedures, and companies like Bosch and Delphi also send out technical bulletins and hold seminars. It is good to go to those information nights – they really are a benefit to your business.
What’s you background in the industry?
MS: When I was growing up I was always pulling things apart and putting them back together again - I had to know how things worked.
As a kid I used to get electronic gifts or gifts that were remote controlled, and they’d only last a few days before they were my desk and I was working on them with my tools! My parents probably weren’t too happy that the toys were not being used as intended but, as I say, I had to know how things worked. I think that desire to know is what made me go me into this industry.
When I was 16, I did some work experience here. I was here once a week for six weeks and that is when I decided to leave school. I was doing okay at school but there was nothing really interested me. So, when, at the end of the work experience period, the owner here asked me if I’d be interested in a full-time apprenticeship my immediate answer was ‘yes!’. Then I realised I better check with my parents!
I started my Heavy Vehicle apprenticeship in 2009. Though I liked cars and they are interesting I always saw them as a bit small and fiddly. To me it is more interesting to work in a ‘life-size’ environment. Everything is big. For example, when pulling wheels off a truck we need to use machinery because even small ones can weigh 60kg, and I enjoy going under a truck and removing a gearbox that weighs 400kg.
Anyway, this business was a family-owned enterprise when I started work here. Everyone was close – we are a tight-knit group - and the owner, Wayne, became like a second father to me. I found out about a year before I finished my apprenticeship that he was thinking about selling the business and it was about two years later when he and I had a chat and he told me he was looking at retiring. He then told me that he was hanging on because he felt I was going somewhere in the industry and he put an offer on the table to me.
He had received interest over the years but felt that those people were going to turn his business, that he had grown from nothing, into some sort of generic workshop. He didn’t want that to happen and approached me about taking over. He had brought me up to work the right way and knew that I would do the right thing - that the customers would be treated well. I knew I had to do it and to do him proud.
That was about three years ago, and it was a no-brainer decision. This is what I wanted to do, this is where I wanted to stay, and I wanted to take the business on and grow it.
You do a fair amount of work with motorhomes and recreational vehicles. How did that come about?
MS: Wayne had a lot of friends and family who bought motorhomes and they would come to him for advice. It really grew from there and motorhomes have been a big part of the business for as long as I can remember.
Wayne has played a big part in the Campervan Club of Australia and so we offer a discount for members of the CMCA (Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia). And it is good for us because of word-of-mouth advertising. Our name in known in that community because when they meet up they talk to each other and talk about us and the service we provide. And we often get calls from motorhome owners, who might not even be in Queensland, saying they’ll be travelling through at some future date and asking if we can accommodate them at that time.
To what do you attribute your success?
MS: Customer service is critical to our success - without customers you’ve got nothing. We keep them updated throughout the process and let them know what is happening and why we are doing certain things. We will go that extra mile.
I like to say that they can leave their worries with us. Once they’ve dropped the keys off, all they need to worry about is whether they want to pick up their vehicle, or whether they want us to drop it off.
It’s about good, old-fashioned service. People talk about that a lot, but you don’t see it too often.
What does the future hold for One Stop Truck Doctor?
MS: An aim is to grow a bit, although I like the size of the workshop and the number of employees we have. It allows us to keep a close relationship with our customers and I’d rather keep things on a smaller scale and be more service focused and customer oriented.
So, there are no plans for rapid expansion or to go to a massive workshop, but we will upgrade when we need to and make sure we are keeping up with the technology and the changes in the industry.
I know it’s going to be an interesting future.
What do you do with your spare time, if you have any?
MS: I don’t get too much. We work all week, Saturday’s by appointment, and the phone has been known to ring a few times on a Sunday too! But in my time off I spend time with the family.
We enjoy a life outside and like camping, fishing, dirt track riding – activities that allow me to switch off from work and enjoy being a husband and a father.