BOB BRERETON – MILLENIUM METALS
He’s polite and quick with a smile but Bob Brereton doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to likes and dislikes in matters of the mechanical kind.
“Whatever the equipment is, it either does the job well or it doesn’t, and I’m just not interested in anything that promises one thing and delivers something less,” says the sharp-minded founder and proprietor of West Australian scrap metal and used machinery company Millennium Metals.
Industry Scrap Metal
In Business 20 years
Employees 20 people
High on the list of likes is the venerable Cat® C15 engine under the snout of a Cat CT630SC. Delivered earlier this year, the versatile SC hauls ‘pocket’ roadtrain loads of scrap metal from stockpile sites at Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, Esperance and Albany to the company’s processing facility in the industrial outskirts of Kwinana south of Perth.
As Bob Brereton emphasises, there were several significant factors that led to the purchase of his first Cat CT630SC model; the third Cat truck bought by the company in the past three years.
“The C15 is certainly the preferred engine,” he explains, “but I’ve also been very impressed with the service from WesTrac (WA Cat Trucks distributor). There’s no doubt in my mind Cat has the best service and to me, that’s probably the greatest asset.
“The Cat brand is just so strong.”
Still, he insists the scrap business is tough on equipment of all types. “Our trailers are high capacity and heavy, simply because they need to be,” Bob continues, citing tare weight of around 35 tonnes for a relatively standard ‘pocket’ roadtrain combination. Gross weights generally range from 70 to 80 tonnes.
There’s no doubt in my mind Cat has the best service and to me, that’s probably the greatest asset.
However, apart from the model’s enviable durability, the capacity of the CT630SC to be approved for gross combination weights up to 110 tonnes and a compact bumper to back-of-cab dimension to enhance the 27.5 metre overall length limit of two-trailer ‘pocket’ roadtrains are vitally important considerations for Bob Brereton.
“It’s a truck that suits what we do. It fits our business in many ways,” he confirms, adding that driver acceptance of the Cats and specifically the space in the well-appointed sleeper cab of the SC have been extremely positive. “We have some good drivers and we like to look after them.
“The driver of the SC loves the truck. The way he tells it, it just drives so well.”
Yet despite his obvious satisfaction with the CT630SC, it is an adamant Bob Brereton who attests that the scrap industry is not for the frivolous or weak, in men or machines.
As he explains though, he certainly wasn’t born to the scrap business. In fact, working life started as a diesel fitter in the UK in the late 1960s before a stint in the Merchant Navy saw an eager young Brereton step ashore at Fremantle in 1974 and quickly decide, “This’ll do me!”
With an inherent appreciation for all things mechanical, he subsequently applied his diesel fitter’s trade with various high profile equipment brands and their dealerships. “Later on I even tried sales for a while but I’d soon had enough of that,” he quips.
Finally, with a sharp eye for opportunity and a natural willingness to embrace new endeavours, he bought a small scrap metal business. “That was 1992 and seriously, I knew nothing about the scrap business.
“It was a company with three employees and one truck but I had a couple of good friends in the machinery business and I figured most equipment ends up as scrap eventually, so I decided to give it a go. I had to learn fast,” he recalls with a shrewd grin.
And learn, he did! Today, Millennium Metals employs 20 people, runs an extensive fleet of trucks and trailers, and handles around 35,000 tonnes of scrap a year, retrieved from stockpiles up to 600 km from Perth, sorted and processed before being exported primarily to South-East Asia and India.
“In many ways, the scrap business defines the state of the economy,” Bob suggests. “When equipment that’s still serviceable, whether it’s infrastructure like steel beams or different types of machinery, finds its way into the scrap business then that’s usually a sign of a downturn in industry and the economy generally.
“That’s where it’s at right now,” he comments.
Consequently, Millennium Metals is a business which has purposefully diversified.
“Today, there are basically three parts to how we operate,” Bob continues. “First and foremost, we deal in scrap metal. That’s the foundation of the business but we also buy and sell all sorts of machinery and equipment, and the third part is the transport side where we haul for ourselves and also a major scrap company, Sims Metal Management.
“We’ve worked closely with Sims for 20 years and it’s a very good working relationship.
“It all comes down to the fact that we need to be flexible in this business.”
In a mixed fleet of makes and models ranging from around-town rigids to single and tandem-drive prime movers mainly on local delivery work, and a mix of cab-overs and conventionals for heavy-duty roadtrain runs, Bob insists his first priorities in truck choice are durable performance and suitability for a given task.
“For the longer distance work, all the prime movers are roadtrain-rated but when it comes to the make and model, I’ve always been something of an opportunist and that applies to trucks whether they’re bought new or second-hand.
“You take your opportunities when they come and with Cat it has been the right new truck at the right time and of course, the right price. No one wants to pay more than they need to and everyone wants value-for-money, but you still have to end up with a truck that’ll do the job and keep doing it. In that respect, Cat is a good thing. Definitely!
“Even so, I’m a big believer in the value of relationships and that’s certainly been the case with the people at WesTrac.
“When it’s all boiled down, it’s not all about metal and machinery,” a smiling Bob Brereton concludes.