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Year: 2015

Garry O'Connell is a charismatic and respected businessman in Perth and the Kalgoorlie/Goldfields region. He has a hands-on approach to business. Over his long career he has won many accolades for his innovative achievements.

Garry commenced his business career in 1972, owning his own earthmoving business. From 1984 to 1998, Garry was the owner and Managing Director of Kalgoorlie Fuel Company (Kalfuel), which he built into one of BP Australia's largest independent fuel distributors. At its peak it was the biggest inland depot in Australia, supplying 26% of WA's diesel fuel. Kalfuel delivered more diesel fuel than was used in the states of Victoria and Tasmania combined.

Starting with an eight ton Acco rigid tanker and a Kenworth prime mover and a few tankers, Kalfuel's fleet grew to over 20 prime movers and 40 tankers. In keeping with the high standards demanded by Garry, Kalfuel operated a fully equipped commercial workshop to maintain the fleet in tip top operating condition. The fleet was constantly upgraded with the latest available models.

Garry achieved a notable first in WA when the Main Roads department approved Kalfuel's prime mover and tanker over-length configurations of 52.5 metres. Kalfuel was the first to upgrade the livery of its fleet from the old to the new BP livery. Kalfuel purchased the first Kenworth Tri-axle drive truck in Australia and introduced the Tri Drive Double B-double configurations.

Kalfuel was the first to introduce tri-axle dollies in Western Australia. In 1984, when Garry took control of the Kalfuel, its sales volumes, storage capacity and facilities were very limited. In keeping with Garry's approach to business, within his first two years of operations, he had personally re-designed and re-built a substantial part of its out-dated facilities. Under his management, Kalfuel grew from a small insignificant distributorship to one of major significance for BP Australia Ltd.

Kalfuel operated from its main depot in Kalgoorlie, with two smaller sub-depots located in Laverton and Leonora. Kalfuel supplied many of the largest mining and industrial companies in the region. Fuel, lubricants and related products were delivered to clients up to 500 kilometres from any depot. This could only be achieved with a superbly maintained fleet of vehicles and equipment.

Garry also designed bulk fuel storage and dispensing systems for Kalfuel's customers and together with BP was responsible for installing fuel storage and dispensing equipment at customer sites.

Another milestone was that BP's United Kingdom Head Office flew their personnel from London to Kalgoorlie to interview Garry personally. They wanted to observe his business first hand and were keen to gain an understanding of how he had achieved such success for BP. Their interview and article about Garry Connell was published in BP's international magazine, The BP Shield.

In Kalgoorlie, Garry co-ordinated a group of rebel road builders. After years of frustration by the inaction of government departments to build a ring road around Kalgoorlie, Garry decided that the time to act had come. Over a long weekend he assembled a group of supporters and cleared seven kilometres of bush to create the ring road which he envisioned. The ring road was subsequently officially named as Anzac Drive, and it allows heavily laden fuel tankers to by-pass the city centre. This was a huge improvement in fuel delivery efficiency as there was no longer the need for loaded fuel tankers to be hooked up outside of town. They could now be fully loaded at the fuel depot and by pass the city centre and head straight to their customers. Garry's foresight and efforts were later honoured at a civic function.

Kalfuel was also a pioneer in the sale of fuel by electronic means (i.e. plastic fuel cards). Kalfuel was totally committed to the concept of selling fuel through unmanned fuel bowsers. Kalfuel invested a huge amount of time and capital in this concept and developed some outstanding in-house systems to electronically manage and control the entire operation. BP acknowledged Garry as a true pioneer and visionary in the field of unmanned fuel sales.

In 1992, Kalfuel was named Business of the Year by the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Chamber of Commerce.

In 1998 Garry sold Kalfuel back to BP.

Among many other endeavours, Garry established and continues to own a mining subcontracting business which owns a large fleet of vehicles and equipment. It's fair to say that Garry has been a leader in the trucking and heavy equipment industries for all his working life.

Garry and his wife Devryn live in Kalgoorlie, as do his children and grandchildren.

He is a big man with an even bigger vision.

For his services to the road transport industry he would be a most worthy inductee into the National Road Transport Hall of Fame.

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