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Mercedes-Benz lowers truck parts prices
Also launches a new range of smart engines that offer maintenance advantages
Mercedes-Benz Trucks Australia has realigned the price of over 10,000 parts for current and previous generation Actros models, with reductions of up to 30 per cent on key items.
The initiative also includes expansion of its product range of remanufactured parts to more than 3,000 items and lowering the price of remanufactured engines and transmissions by 30 per cent.
The company says the initiative will help its customers drive down operational costs.
Built to the latest specifications incorporating product upgrades and modifications and tested on the same production line that builds and tests new series production units, the company says the new remanufactured items will offer more long-term cost-effective options to users.
Mercedes-Benz says its new range of smart engines also offer maintenance advantages, with service intervals stretching up to 80,000km depending on the application.
The remanufactured part portfolio includes engine short blocks, transmissions, starter motors, alternators, turbos, water pumps, compressors, brake calipers, clutch kits and compressors.
The company has also improved stock levels of critical components across its dealership network.
The news comes as the company roll outs its new truck range, making the "business case for the new truck even better".
"Our customers are already telling us about the money they are saving on fuel with our new generation truck compared to what they have been running," Mercedes-Benz Truck and Bus director Michael May says.
"We want to make the business case for our truck even better by reducing the cost of our quality parts."
With regards to the new truck, the company says its engineers had "running costs in mind when they developed the new-generation truck, coming up with simpler designs for key parts and aiming to lengthen the life cycle of parts by 20 percent".
Richmond livestock hub plans advance
Ambitions need private support and upgrades elsewhere
Richmond is a small town in north-western Queensland with big intermodal livestock hub plans.
Those plans would see a $900,000 livestock loading upgrade and new facility, in line with state government policy, and cash has been spent on getting them up on the council side.
All it apparently needs is private investment and Townsville infrastructure development to take it forward.
"Following consultation with Richmond Shire Council, we commissioned a study for about $50,000 to consider options to improve the rail siding at Richmond to move more freight on rail," a Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) spokesperson tells ATN of the project midway between Mt Isa and Townsville.
"The study is in the final stages of review and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2017.
"It includes consultation with QR [Queensland Rail] and the Richmond Shire Council.
"Once complete, the study will be provided to Richmond Shire Council and other stakeholders for their information and consideration.
"The Queensland Government is committed to helping shift freight from roads onto rail."
Richmond Shire Council has told local news service North Queensland Register up to $400,000 from private business interests would be needed for the loading upgrade while the hub itself
"Richmond has been identified as a pre-delivery centre for live export cattle because we are located within a suitable travel time frame to Townsville’s port," it quotes Richmond Shire Council mayor John Wharton as saying, adding that road trans would work in conjunction with the rail component.
But such plans would hinge also on the bringing the rail corridor to Townsville port up to scratch.
READER'S VIEW: Weighing into a meaty subject about traffic
REGARDING the proposed connecting road for cattle trucks from the Neville Hewitt Bridge to Lakes Creek Rd.
There are other options for this.
The cattle industry is going on to road transport and larger trucks so the railing of cattle will die out.
Both meatworks have the facilities to do this.
Looks like they are looking at altering the entrance to Teys at Lakes Creek to allow access to the meatworks side.
I don't see that mentioned (in the beef loop road proposal), but if it occurs, the crossing at Lakes Creek will be altered.
Any person involved in heavy transport will know the proposed connection off the bridge will start well back.
There is an intersection at Knight St/Kershaw Gardens that is already set up with lights etc.
It will require to have upgraded work on it to turn the transport.
This will put the road into an industrial area where there is plenty of room to enlarge and realign the road.
It will need to come out on to Glenmore Rd and an intersection just before Glenmore rail crossing.
This would also involve upgrading the rail crossings for the Lakes Creek rail track and angle, due to limited rail traffic they should check on the removal of the angle crossing.
This would also allow other transport and vehicles to have access to the highway and Glenmore industrial area, Ergon etc.
The old bridge intersection/Fitzroy St will gain by allowing other access to the south.
Tourists (grey nomads) could use it and they would come out in an area where the caravan park is or build a set-up for overnight vans near the Alexandra Bridge; toilets are already there.
Tourists will pull up if promoted correctly.
For them, it would allow access to the walkways into Victoria Pde using the Alexandria Bridge and no need to touch Welch St/Glenmore Rd connections.
A better highway access for all concerned, not just the meatworks and no third river crossing for meatworks access.
These vehicles are long and heavier than what is run now.
Bridges along the route need to be upgraded and width checked for the correct standard, allowing them to cross with other vehicles.
Regarding speed: The road is for the best part 70kmh.
The rules say that any heavy vehicles in a built-up area must be driven so as to pull up safely at traffic lights. This road, in peak times, is a very heavily used and has lights along it.
So the question is, will they only be allowed at certain times?
What speed will they be restricted down to if any?
Truck driver dies after being hit by another truck in Kings Park
A TRUCK driver who was stopped by police and told to secure his load on a busy western Sydney roadway yesterday was struck and killed by another truck as he stumbled into a lane of traffic.
Shocked police watched as the driver “fell, stumbled or stepped back’’ into the path of the oncoming semi-trailer as he went about securing his load under the instructions of the highway patrol officer who pulled him over.
The struck driver, believed to be aged in his 50s, was treated by paramedics but died at the scene on Vardys Rd, Kings Park near Blacktown. The distressed driver of the semi that struck the man was taken to hospital for mandatory blood and urine testing.
The tragedy, which occurred about 10.20am, is now the subject of a police critical incident investigation.
According to police, a highway patrol officer pulled the first driver over to the side of the road to secure his load about 10 minutes before he was struck.
While still securing his load, it is believed he somehow walked or fell into a lane of oncoming traffic.
An eyewitness said the driver appeared to be agitated and upset because he was getting a ticket.
“He was waving his arms in the air … he was flicking the rope over the back of his tray, he just let go and sort of fell back and come under the back of the truck,” the witness told Channel 7.
The man’s legs were crushed by the back wheels of the passing semi-trailer and he then went into cardiac arrest and could not be revived.
Assistant Police Commissioner Denis Clifford said there was nothing to indicate the driver had been ordered to pull over by police at an inappropriate location.
“Police are out there every day pulling over vehicles, it just shows what a dangerous place a roadway is,” he said.
“We’d love to say, ‘what if this happened, what if that happened’ (but) you just can’t turn back the clock and, tragically, a man has lost his life out there.
“We have to examine every aspect of it, put it to the coroner, the coroner will make a determination about all the facts and the cause of death and so forth … it’s just a terrible tragic accident.”
Police and Roads and Maritime Services authorities spent hours inspecting the semi-trailer’s lights, wheels, tyres and brakes at the scene to determine if any mechanical fault played a part in the incident.
The victim’s own truck was removed from the scene five hours later.
Police were last night in the process of contacting the man’s family and are urging witnesses to come forward.
Russell McCormack went to the 2016 Castlemaine Truck Show with his father Alan
It had been a dream of Alan McCormack to own a B-model, so at an auction five years ago down Colac way, he bought the Mack at a clearing sale.
"Dad drove trucks in the ‘60s and ‘70s and a touch into the ‘80s and has recently got back into it, driving milk tankers around Gippsland," stated Alan's son, Russell.
"He was driving Internationals and European stuff and Mack was king of the road. He just said to himself ‘I’m having a b-model’ and now he has one."
The McCormack’s have a hobby farm down in Gippsland near Warragul and bought the Mack to move bales of hay and the occasional tractor.
"We take it out for days like today and enjoy it," Russell says.
"We try to get it out whenever we can but it’s a bit rough. There is plenty of power there and it goes well.
"We added the sleeper as it is a place to put your swags and tents and it is a bit different."
Russell had been up at Castlemaine the last two years and there seems to be more and more gear showing up each year in his opinion.
He likes the new gear but the old gear is classic and shows how the country was made.
It’s summer on one of the hottest continents on the planet, so we check out some of the main systems for keeping cool in the bunk
Perhaps surprisingly, truck manufacturers don’t supply factory-fitted bunk coolers for Australia, and there’s no peak body for after-market bunk cooling suppliers.
So we visited supplier Truck Art at Wagga Wagga in southern NSW on the crossroads between Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. Believe me, it doesn’t get much hotter in Australia than in Wagga.
Truck Art owner Terry Gibbs also has cooler installation workshops in Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth.
One of his early ventures was manufacturing sleeper cabs in the days before widespread bunk air cooling, about 15 years ago.
"It was a no-brainer for me to see the industry needed something in the sleeper cabin," says Terry, who sold his first Viesa to Paterson’s Transport at nearby Narrandera.
"I still remember the driver, he was an older bloke, coming in after it had been fitted and thanking me, and he said ‘This is the first time in my life that I’ve been able to have a proper sleep in the summer time’."
"It wasn’t long before people had to have it, and I think the main thing is it was fatigue management … and that helps overall with insurance costs because tired drivers have accidents.
"Drivers expect it today. Once it was a luxury but now they need it and not only that, I think if there was an accident due to a man not sleeping, and he didn’t have air cooling, the company could have something to answer for."
No perfect solution
Truck Art’s cheapest product is the evaporative Viesa cooler, manufactured in Argentina and a common sight on Australian roads these days.
They are priced at up to $3,600 installed, with the annual service to clean the filters and so on costing about $150.
Terry says that contrary to some opinion, the small amount of humidity can’t possibly rot the cabin; the water drains back into the tank on the back of the cab when not in use; and the unit can’t run the truck battery flat because there is a cut-off mechanism when the voltage gets too low.
He says of course there can be problems with cool air quality and quantity if Viesas aren’t cleaned for four or five years, "which we often see".
There seem to be several advantages of an evaporative system over the next one up in the pecking order – a battery operated refrigerative system, such as the "Pure Air" or "Koolkat" which Truck Art supplies.
Terry says a Viesa uses only 8 amps of power per hour, and will give the driver a sleep on a very hot day by at least blowing moist air over them.
On the other hand a battery refrigerative system draws lot more power and may not be able to overcome an extremely hot day at all. These can run for between four and seven hours depending on how hard the compressor is working, and Terry says they are best suited to night time or a few hours during the day.
They cost from about $5,000 to about $9,000 for a unit with its own batteries and which is big enough to cope with a big-cab Kenworth for half the day in the sun; and they are more expensive to maintain than evaporatives, for example with gassing.
"It’s horses for courses and some people love them," Terry says, adding the truck needs to be driven for as long as the aircon has been running, to charge the batteries, whether the unit runs off the truck or is independent.
Top of the range of course is diesel powered refrigerative air-conditioning, such as the well-known "Icepack", which now offers a 1,000 hour extended service interval.
Truck Art’s offering is the "Ecowind" with single cylinder Lombardini engine using about 700ml of fuel an hour, and costing between $10,500 and $13,000, depending on where on the truck it’s fitted.
The Australian Trucking Association’s Volvo "safety truck" runs one of these. As the ATA points out, in 2013 after its lobbying efforts the Tax Office ruled that the fuel used in truck sleeper cab air conditioners is now tax free.
As a result the ATA estimates trucking businesses could save up to $300 per truck per year.
Diesel powered units can pump out cold air indefinitely if need be, regardless of the outside heat, but of course their downside is noise for other truckies trying to sleep nearby.
The Ecowind is relatively quiet at 60 decibels but Terry acknowledges the noise issue is becoming a problem. "We are finding in certain areas now, especially up towards Queensland, there are service stations with signs saying you are not to run air-conditioning motors when you’re stopped."
The bottom line from all this on sleeper air cooling? "There’s no perfect product out there yet."
2016 cover stories: Xtreme Freight
Like a chameleon; she’s malleable and knows the effect her attitude and behaviour has in the transport industry. Xtreme Freight CEO Amanda O’Brien has pushed down a lot of doors to get ahead and she’s just getting started
Amanda O’Brien has had her fair share of challenges since taking over the privately-run business established in 1988.
Having spent the first 18 months on turning business around, the global company continues to grow, servicing the transport, logistics and warehousing sector.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for O’Brien has been breaking down unconscious biases, proving to the male-dominated industry that women can also do the job, if not better.
The company was under liquidation when O’Brien stepped in, but she had no doubt in her ability to turn it around, having worked for big corporate companies for 20 years in project management and statistical analysis.
"It was becoming non-profitable, the challenges with turning the business around as well as getting it back on track were huge," O’Brien says.
"It was very small, probably only turning around over $700,000 and was going backwards."
Fast forward eight years and the company has 84 customers and 20 employees across its three depots in Melbourne.
With 80 subcontractors on its books, its fleet consists of four trucks – down from 10 due to maintenance costs.
Xtreme Freight grew into 3PL services when O’Brien took on smaller contracts, staying true to the company’s motto of "We never say no to our customers" – big or small.
Its warehouses facilitate bulk storage, racked freight, pick and pack and container deconsolidation.
The last leg
Xtreme Freight is the last piece of the logistics puzzle and can handle most demanding jobs thanks to its experienced staff.
It stays innovative by looking at overseas trends and jobs in the most uncommon places, such as moving high-end fashion for Melbourne’s shopping complex Emporium.
"I think I approach transport very differently because I know it touches every area," O’Brien says.
"I don’t necessarily look for transport in the common places or go to freight forwarders because I know that freight touches everyone, so it’s a case of looking for ways to improve people’s lives like going to people that deliver bathrooms or lights.
"You can have your big global forwarders that we do lots of business with, but you also have to have a good mix of that pie to have a very good split in business."
That’s why she believes the industry is big enough for everyone. What sets Xtreme Freight apart is its ability to customise solutions to each client’s needs.
O’Brien incorporates clients’ branding to its consignments as most customers want to be known as the complete end-to-end provider.
"It’s the way I see freight moving; it has to be transparent, but it also has to be about the customer," O’Brien says.
"The reason we have survived is because people are very ego-driven, they’re about themselves, it’s the nature of the beast and organisations are about their image and themselves.
"From a personal point of view, I think profitability in a business is more important than any of the glamour of perception.
"We don’t necessarily advertise our brand as much as the other players in the market do because we want to blend in with our consumer and client," she adds.
"We are like a chameleon; we infiltrate the market in many different areas, but we also stay hidden because we become seamless as everybody has their own set of processes, their own culture.
"Every driver is not going to fit in to David Jones or Myer, so you need to fit a certain type and I think that’s where our innovation comes from."
Even though the company is big, it is often perceived to be small because of its limited branding, she adds: "I’m very guarded and confidential when it comes to my clients and their needs, so I’m always out there, but you may not perceive us to be those people and that’s why I’ve survived and thrived in this very difficult industry."
Established in 1988, Xtreme Freight services the transport, logistics and warehousing sector.
A competitive market
The transport industry has seen its fair share of acquisitions over the last two years, creating an even more competitive market. As a result, Xtreme Freight has learned to become flexible.
"We have to be more transparent in business transactions and deliveries, everything is seen now," O’Brien says.
"I think it’s because of security; it’s one of the big issues in the world we face and freight is a very important part of that.
"People want to be able to measure it, and I always say if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
"There’s such an impetus for transport to take on all these costs with the way the world is changing, however, transport costs haven’t risen very much and we have to absorb those costs and move with the regulation and compliance required," she adds.
"Acquisitions have become second nature in the logistics industry because it’s about survival.
"Customers and consumers are fickle these days, and everybody will turn on a dime because everybody is so cost-conscious.
"Loyalty is slowly becoming more tied up with profit gain, which unfortunately sometimes drops service levels."
The company provides online tracking of its vehicles and real-time event information, including sign-on glass and instant proof of delivery (POD) retrieval.
O’Brien, 48, still has days where she’s not being taken seriously by fellow operators.
"It’s been tough," she says. "Let’s be honest; I’ve been abused, I’ve been stood over by intrastate truckies, I have copped laughter in container yards – but it’s never fazed me.
"In fact, I thank everyone for that bad experience I’ve had because they’ve made me survive, they’ve actually helped me and challenged me," she adds.
Despite her journey, she does believe the industry is fit for women and encourages anyone to be part of it.
"There are so many different careers within the transport industry and the supply chain," O’Brien adds.
"It is a global commodity; it is something that people can work within. You have to be able to deal with every part of the community and you have to be able to deal with directors, CEOs, industry, middle management and workers.
"This industry is the best training you will ever get because life is not always easy, it is tough. Every year has its challenges but I think it’s an exciting, amazing and growing part of the world."
Through the Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Australia (SCLAA), O’Brien has recently hosted Women in Logistics forum in Melbourne, showcasing women in the mining, transport and logistics industry.
"These women are self-made and I’m self-made," she says.
"I will never put myself in the same category of others who have been brought with the family and have had transport going since they were teeny boppers.
"When you’ve been around for 100 years you’ll survive, however, I’m very proud of the fact that I’m self-made and I didn’t have any assistance and that I had to do it with my own financial prowess and ability to survive and thrive in this industry."
Its warehouses facilitate bulk storage, racked freight, pick and pack and container deconsolidation.
Freight of all kinds
Xtreme Freight carries all kind of freight; from cement, piping to retail.
As competition gets stronger, sleep for O’Brien is scarce. She wants to change the way the industry is being perceived, saying people should pay as much for transport as they do for Chanel products.
"People have called me crazy, nuts, insane," she says.
"I think you always need to look at new ways to do business – you have to look at opportunity because opportunity isn’t visible, you have to find it.
"I can’t quite explain how I am or why I don’t sleep, but I think the mind is an amazing thing and if you want things badly enough you’ll succeed.
"The goal for Xtreme Freight was not to come in and be gone in five years.
"I think the hardest thing for newcomers or women is that they have to get through those first five years because I don’t think others take them seriously.
"I think it’s about tenor and this industry is built on tenor, not what you know but it’s who you know; and I’ve walked enough pavements to get to know those people and realise at the end the small, medium or large are the same, but the only difference is zeros at the end.
"It’s still running a business and staying competitively viable, it’s about managing profit and loss."
Rest area death trap
A dangerous truck parking bay snapped by driver Brendon Carlson
WHILE enforcement agencies hammer truckies in the name of safety, councils and state bodies escape liability with death traps like this rest area, picked up by driver Brendon Carlson.
Near the Victorian town of Skipton, imagine being loaded and tired at two in the morning, pulling in to this one - disaster!
Even though it is signed as a rest area, the access is totally inappropriate and the gravel dumped there for some future upgrade could mean a very nasty rollover.
There is no signage saying the rest area is closed.
Brendon shared the photos with Big Rigs and said he wouldn't have been able to use the bay if he was fatigued.
"Even though there are towns nearby, it's not good enough," he said.
"Fatigued drivers should not have to be pushed to find another bay."
A dangerous truck parking bay snapped by driver Brendon Carlson
Two-truck crash case appeal dismissed with costs
Appellant wears extra expense as judge is unconvinced by arguments
A New South Wales Supreme Court appeal on the result of a negligent driving case over a two-truck crash has been dismissed and costs awarded against the appellant.
The 2015 case, Doble Express Transport Pty Ltd (Administrator Appointed) v John L Pierce Pty Ltd, stems from an April 2012 incident, when Doble’s Volvo prime mover and triaxle taut liner collided with a Kenworth prime mover and B-double trailer.
The proceedings were between the companies rather than directed at either driver.
The accident occurred in thick fog as the Kenworth turned from the Hume Highway into Burley Griffin Way near Yass, headed for West Wyalong.
Doble began proceedings in the District Court against Pierce claiming $172,034.78 for damage to the Volvo and consequential losses due to inability to use it.
Doble alleged driver negligence on, primarily on the ground that the fog made the turn unsafe.
Pierce cross-claimed, seeking $159,538.29 for damage to the two trailers attached to the Kenworth.
Pierce counter-alleged driver negligence due to excessive speed in the conditions.
The primary judge found both drivers at fault.
Doble’s responsibility was assessed at 40 per cent and Pierce’s at 60 per cent.
Doble gained $103,220.86 ($172,034.78 reduced by 40 per cent) and Pierce $63,815.32 ($159,538.29 reduced by 60 per cent), with interest on each judgment accrued from the time of the crash to the date of the judgment.
Despite that, Doble appealed on whether driver negligence caused Pierce’s loss and, if so, whether it was worth 40 per cent.
The negligence argument hinged on evidence that Volvo was travelling at 80km/h and visibility was about 50 metres.
To be compliant with the Heavy Vehicle Driver Handbook, however, expert evidence was that it should have been travelling at closer to 60 km/h to allow for response time and braking time.
At that speed, reaction time would count for 25 metres and, depending on brakes and given the load, braking time would be about the same.
While it was argued that slowing the Volvo further could have induced a jack-knifing, the appeal judge found that there was ample time to slow the Volvo to a reasonable speed for the conditions, given thick fog started at least 200 metres from the intersection.
Older drivers reunion at Goodna
G'day Big Rigs. We have a forthcoming reunion that we are organizing for the older generation of drivers from the 50s/60s/70s era.
These blokes were directly responsible for the transporting of the majority of freight in South East Queensland and country areas before the introduction of containers.
Back then, there were dozens of small transport and crane companies in Brisbane.
Names such as J.N.Nicholson (Nichos), Finney Bryce, Cavanagh, Athol Flynn, Western Transport, Brambles, Banks, Lukes, Jacksons, Cobb & Co. Aitkins, the list goes on.
Most of these companies have disappeared into the mists of time, but they are not forgotten by us.
A lot of us are well advanced in age, but we still remember the good times and the comradeship and our mates and we still love to tell a story.
Which is why on Saturday August 22 at the Goodna RSL Club about 10am. we shall hopefully meet blokes that we haven't seen in years.
We shall have a few drinks, tell a few lies, exaggerate a few stories and drive a million miles again.
This invitation is extended to everybody who was or still is involved in the transport game, but most notably from that earlier era.
Make an effort you old bas***ds and get out of the arm chairs for one day and relive some of the memories.
Regards Gary Harris and John Smith
Truck-jackknifes-blocks M1 southbound
The accident has been cleared but traffic remains heavy on the M1 southbound after a truck jackknifed near the Logan Hyperdome on Tuesday.
The Australian Traffic Network's Adam Smith said there were still traffic delays southbound back to Springwood.
A truck jack-knifed on the M1 Motorway, with several cars damaged and traffic building.
A police spokesman said there was also a diesel clean-up following the incident.
All southbound M1 lanes near the Logan Hyperdome are blocked, after a truck jackknifed on the highway near the Mandew Street overpass.
The Australian Traffic Network's Adam Smith said there are traffic delays southbound back to Springwood and also northbound delays back to Loganholme, thanks to people having a "sticky beak" at the accident.
A police spokesman said the incident happened about 12.30pm on Tuesday, with no reported injuries.
The spokesman said one other car was involved, but others may have minor damage from the incident.
Emergency services are working to clear the highway.
2016 cover stories: Simpson's Fuel
Family-run Simpsons Fuel has kept plenty of heart in the tank during its 62-year presence in regional Victoria
Committed to serving the local community, Alexandra-based Simpsons fuel has been going from strength to strength since its early days as a general freight carrier.
Established by Ian Simpson upon migrating from Scotland, the business soon changed track to fuel, providing petrol for Commonwealth Oil Refineries (COR) which later became BP Australia. Simpsons became a fuel distributor for Caltex Australia in 1985 when BP pulled out of country Victoria, seeing its customer base grow to 1200 today.
Now run by Ian’s son Gordon and grandson Cameron, the company carries more fuel than ever following last year’s purchase of a performance based standards (PBS) 20m rigid dog and tanker built by trailer manufacturer Tieman Tankers. The 57.7-tonne truck can carry 46,000 litres of diesel on each run – up from 30,000 on a regular semi-trailer.
What’s cost $700,000 to build has paid dividends for the Simpsons; they’ve been able to cut down a trip per day to Melbourne, leading to massive cost savings. They were the first to run the tanker after custom-designing it with Tieman.
"It took about 12 months to create it and get it on the road," Gordon Simpson says. "We came up with the idea after seeing something similar with tip trucks; we thought there was no reason why we couldn’t do it in the fuel game.
"We asked some other trailer manufacturers prior and Collin Tieman was virtually the only one that wanted to take us on as he is a good friend of ours. We knew exactly what we wanted and spent a lot of time on Tieman’s simulator to get it right."
Being the first fuel distributor to run a PBS tanker has led to many operators come and view the vehicle, Simpson adds.
"The industry is talking about it; it’s been followed now in Australia and there’s other people doing the combination."
Simpsons have four vehicles: a Scania semi-trailer; two Isuzu rigid trucks; and the truck and quad. They plan to add another PBS vehicle to the collection next year and upgrade their fleet to Volvo, saying Volvo meets "every requirement" they’re after.
"I think Volvo trucks are the safest in the world; with the technology and safety that they put into them our customers are impressed," Simpson says
Fuelling the community
Nestled between the Goulburn Valley Highway and Maroondah Highway some 26km west of Eildon, Alexandra is a sleepy little town with a population of less than 3000.
Being a major fuel distributor across three shires, Simpsons also supplies fuel to the local urban and rural communities, primary producers, government agencies, haulage companies, earthmoving contractors and timber harvesting operators.
It regularly delivers to remote locations such as logging coupes and ski resorts, and by arrangement provides fuel 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"We are a small company but we’ve been here a long time and we love it," Simpson says. "We plan to keep on growing and within the next five years we hope to increase our business by a manageable amount."
Currently in the process of purchasing a part of another fuel distributorship, the company expects to grow by 50 per cent over the next two years.
"We will reach different customers in a bigger market area within Victoria, which means we have to become closer to the Melbourne market to grow our business closer to Melbourne."
Simpsons carries some 20 million litres of fuel each year, with winters being quiet and summers busy.
"When the price of fuel is up our retail part of business drops off a little bit, but all our industrial and logging customers probably use the same amount of fuel, and they’re a big part of our business."
In 1985 it expanded into retail, with its major retail facility, service station and head office located at Alexandra. Selling oils and additives, Simpsons also offers after-hours diesel at Mansfield, which was opened six years ago and is mainly used by trucks and trades people
Eyes on safety
Being a regional fuel transporter means coming under scrutiny from fuel suppliers and customers alike. Therefore, Simpsons is an accredited member of TruckSafe.
"We wanted to show to our customers that we excel in the transport industry and that we are as safe as we can be," Simpson says. "Joining TruckSafe was all about implementing best practice into the business and has brought a whole lot of things into our operation.
"Through TruckSafe we use all accredited workshops and our drivers have become compliant with our measures; we have better working procedures now because of TruckSafe.
"It’s become a national asset to our company and it’s good to get someone to come to our company and check us out and audit us and suggest better ways to make our company better. People see that you’re trying to lead and run TruckSafe vehicles, you’re trying your hardest to be safe and compliant."
Being a small player in the national fuel market, Simpsons makes regular visits to other fuel distributors to learn from.
"Even before we joined TruckSafe we went to Bonney Energy in Tasmania to have a look at how they comply with TruckSafe and what’s expected of us in the industry, so we’re always learning from other people in the transport industry," Simpson says.
"Fuel industry is a competitive market but the people that are in it are willing to share how they do their process and how they do their maintenance.
"We’ve got no hesitation ringing other distributors and say how do we do this and how can we improve our business – it’s a two-way street."
Servicing Victoria’s alpine region means that one has to undertake regular driver training.
"Prior to winter months every year we train our drivers in putting chains on trucks; we’re a bit unique as we have a dozen main customers in the snow region who only run on generators and if we don’t get there they stop," Simpson says.
Simpsons’ injury rate stands at zero thanks to its drivers.
"It all comes down to selecting the best of drivers – they’re all local and we know where they come from and their background.
"In winter, if conditions are tough, we send two drivers per vehicle."
Being a third-generation company, Simpsons has kept up with the times by staying proactive within the industry. It is a founding member and sponsor of the Alexandra Truck Road and Ute Show, and prides itself on customer relationships.
"Because we’ve got a small base business, we know personally probably 90 per cent of our customers – we’re still a hands-on business that knows its customers," Simpson says.
"Customers are everything to our business; if we don’t have them we haven’t got business.
"A lot of these people in business I’ve grown up with, and now we’re servicing them and my children are servicing them."
All of Simpsons’ trucks are GPS tracked and its IT systems are run by fuel and logistics software provider Queensland IT Group, which helps it oversee pick-up, delivery and fuel payments through mobile truck computing.
We give a pat on the back to some of the truck dealerships which are showing the way for the entire industry in providing good bunkrooms for drivers
Fortunately, individual air conditioned bunkrooms seem to be a growing trend in Australian truck dealerships and depots.
We have been told about each of the following from drivers who have benefited from them.
First prize goes to Westar Truck Centre at Derrimut in Melbourne. Westar is a dealer for Isuzu, Western Star, MAN and Dennis Eagle.
Not only are the rooms quiet and dark, with towels and linen provided, but they each have their own toilet and shower as well. There is free WiFi, a self-service cappuccino maker and even complimentary continental breakfast.
Gilbert and Roach at Huntingwood in Sydney (Isuzu and Kenworth) also has individual rooms well located away from noise generated by the workshop and waiting day drivers.
So too does Westrac Caterpillar at Hexham in the Hunter Valley, with a big TV lounge area, laundry, and even computer terminals along an office-style bench.
2016 cover stories: Russell Transport
RB Russell Transport director Julie Russell wants to be recognised for her achievements than family name
Julie Russell turns 40 this year – not that it matters. The National Trucking Industry Woman of the Year plans to make the industry safer whilst taking her 90-year-old family business to a new level.
She’s been involved since 1997, earning her stripes while studying psychology and business management.
Always the one to forge her own path, Russell entered the industry as a receptionist working full time and studying until early mornings.
She sought work outside her family business, saying it was important to find her own identity.
"I always wanted to be known as Julie Russell, not Russell Julie," Russell says.
Being part of a well-known family business is not a right but a place deserved and she owes a lot of her work ethics and integrity to her late grandmother, Beryl Russell, who mentored her until she died in 2001.
Julie Russell had planned to spend a decade in Beryl’s shadow but a sudden stroke at the age of 78 saw Russell take over the company.
Married to the firm’s founder Roy Bayley, Beryl was 20 years his junior and had continued working in the business when Roy retired and their son Philip took over the reins in 1970.
As Philip puts it, Beryl was an "incredibly dedicated woman" who wanted to work until her 80th birthday.
She started her career as shorthand typist, later overseeing the company’s payroll department.
Philip says his daughter Julie reminds him of Beryl, with her hard work and passion for the industry speaking volumes.
"The types of jobs she’s charged with are the difficult end of the transport industry – compliance, injuries and accidents," Phillip says.
"Julie reminds me of Mum; they’re both hard working, focused women that are competent.
"Mum started her business career using Pitman shorthand and she finished with Microsoft, she was able to adjust herself to her working life as well.
"You have to reinvent the business and you have to reinvent yourself too."
Knowledge to power
Interested in gaining more experience at a directorship level, Russell plans to strengthen business operations by tapping into the minds of other transport managers through her involvement as the chair of the Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) industry skills and workforce committee.
"I have an interest personally of getting more experience at the directorship level, so external directorship where I can take some of that learning from my business here and the other industry boards and governance groups I sit on," Russell says.
"I want to bring it back here so that we’ve constantly got a new flow of information from other industry sectors in how we can make road transport better and a great company."
To make it happen, she’s working on a succession plan. Russell and her brother Ken are both company directors and still work alongside Philip, who is slowly thinning out his role in time for retirement.
"I don’t think family business in transport is dying and I don’t think it’s the families that are killing off generational growth; I think it’s an evolution in the transport industry itself that changes the players in it," Russell says.
"At the moment, I see the industry moving through a change in there being amalgamations; you just don’t have your two or three top transport organisations in terms of large entities, so there’s a few more now on the scene and those have a way of cutting out the family in the business because it’s corporate."
The pair is seeking to modernise the company, introducing sign-on glass technology and updating its IT systems.
It was a necessary move that otherwise would have seen the company lose customers, Russell explains.
"The clients we are currently working with and tenders that are coming up we see a growing trend of the need for proof of delivery and real time traceability of the vehicle," she says.
"It’s no longer about where’s the packaged goods of my box of electronics, they want to be able to look at where an agricultural plant is at any point in time so they can talk to the dealer about how far away it is or that they’ve got evidence that it was delivered in a good condition."
Roy Russell won a contract in 1925 to distribute motor spirit for Dalgety & Co – the Queensland agent for the Commonwealth Oil Refineries.
Today, the business spans cranes, warehousing and customs/quarantine services.
The Russell Group specialises in heavy haulage, specialised transport and freight terminal services and is made up of Metro Lift Cranes, Caloundra General Transport, Bayley Industrial and Lytton Industrial – all acquired over the years.
Its fleet of more than 100 vehicles is made up of Kenworth trucks in the heavy sector and Hino for the lighter operations.
It has some 280 employees.
However, the business has lost a significant amount of employees when it moved out of a contract in 2008.
"It was a decision we made because of risk; we became a lot more focused on our safety and compliance systems, making sure we’re aligning our values and that of the customer we’re engaging with," Russell says.
"Over the last few years, we have started to upgrade how we spec our fleet and thinking more about how we integrate technology and safety solutions in that spec rather than just how the spec of a vehicle suits the operational purpose."
Attracting skilled people is still a challenge for Russell Transport.
It takes more time to find those with experience than attracting females as the company is not the typical entrance employer because of its heavy haulage business.
"It’s a ‘catch 22’," Russell says.
"From my insurance premiums, it’s not about how old they are because they recognise what we do, it’s not the age excess but it’s the experience excess so how do we get around that?
"When we’ve got people who want experience but I don’t want to give them experience because for the next two years I carry the risk of higher excess if they make a mistake.
"Our recruitment has always been that we’re not the entrance employer, we’re looking for people with experience already so there are other companies out there that are happy to get new entrants because of the type of work they do is low risk whereas ours is higher so we don’t want to have a magnifying effect by also having an inexperienced person on high-risk items."
There are nine women working for the company, two of whom are drivers.
It has never been about gender but recruiting the right person with experience, Russell explains.
"Just because someone’s a female does not automatically mean I should run out and sponsor them as another female if I don’t necessarily have any likeness or feel that they’ve got something that’s unique about them," she says.
"It doesn’t matter about the gender; it’s your choice to sponsor someone or to champion somebody.
"I have women and men come through this business that I can sit there and say ‘Look at that diamond in the rough’.
"We can really champion them and get behind them, coach them on the certain behaviours and whatever it is to help them become better."
When the company seeks new employees it looks for a generalist – someone’s that’s across a wide set of skills.
"I like to do adverts out saying to people if you want a general understanding of things rather than being pigeonholed you need to come and work in a place like this," Russell says.
"The transport industry offers that to people, so the people coming out of high school want to know everything to then decide where they want to go; why don’t we let people know about that and not be seen as "I’m going to come into a dirty operation where there’s dust flying everywhere and there’s large heavy vehicles at my feet"?
Firm but fair
The reputation of the family business is what makes Russell firm but fair with those she deals with.
"I would like to think my employees perceive me as someone that doesn’t discriminate," she says.
"If I have to talk to somebody about an unpleasant conversation, I’d talk to them in the same way regardless of whether they were someone who I knew really well or someone who I had just met.
"I come with standards of these are the expectations and let’s make sure we are all meeting those standards rather than trying to change for individuals but I also try and be open to hearing what they have to say and understand where they’re coming from rather than being close-minded and I’ve only got the company-way of doing things."
She’s got a different way of looking at things thanks to the five years she spent working outside the family business.
The way she documents risks has resulted in the business winning larger projects with blue chip mining companies.
"We used to be the second tier, now we are often the first tier with engagement in some of the larger mining projects and the heavy haulage which is great to be because when you’ve got specialised heavy haulage fleet which we want to get working and we need to be able to demonstrate good safety record and solid systems to support a continuation of that safety," Russell says.
Smaller transport companies should be in the know if they want to survive the times ahead, Russell says.
She believes participating in industry associations is the only way of keeping up to speed with current trends.
"That’s really important for a small business or else they can find themselves on the wrong end of the law without intending to," she says.
"For large businesses I think it’s the age old issue of as you get bigger you become more inefficient because of the volume, so I see a lot of big companies wanting to keep the values and the behaviours of a family business but they want it on a bigger scale.
"It’s how they find the right balance to get the best of both worlds. It can be great for a large organisation but you can actually lose some of those family values and connectivity of the work you’re doing because it’s so disjointed."
Her involvement in the ATA has helped bring a new perspective into the company.
"To not be part of it we would be just a little bit more into the forest," Russell says.
"I sometimes feel because there are so many things going on that are affecting the transport industry we’re just one tree in a massive forest; to get your branches up in the air and oxygen to breathe you need to do something more than just stick your head in the ground and hope that other people would let you know; you actually need to look around and take it on board yourself and to hear it yourself and to put that into your business.
"You then have an influence in the say."
Woman of the Year
Russell was named the winner of the National Trucking Industry Woman of the Year Award last year.
Proud to bring the trophy to Queensland, she’s humble, saying there wasn’t anything unique about her that made her noticed.
"I don’t think it’s my uniqueness or anything that I’ve done that’s been fantastic to make me stand out," Russell says.
"I just think it was the everyday person, the everyday woman that could be seen and just keeps working.
"I’ve always been average at everything – I was an all-rounder, I think I was recognised by my peers because of my all-rounded contributions.
"I’m there and I’m consistent and I want to work for the betterment of the business so it’s that all-round that may have seen me rise up in the eyes of many people to say that’s something that we want to promote and encourage because I don’t see it as the work that I did in the past has got me the award – it’s what you stand for and can show women to succeed in the future."
When asked if her grandmother would be proud of her achievements, Russell takes a moment before responding: "I don’t go to bed at night saying this is not what grandma wanted of me.
"There are certain days I do walk around thinking I’m sure this is not what my grandma wanted for me but at the end when you go to bed I think I’ve put in something to make her proud of me."
Julie was named the winner of the National Trucking Industry Woman of the Year Award last year.
Into the new century
Phillip Russel has no doubts that his kids will take the family company into the new century.
He was a tough father who made sure they both learned hard work from an early age.
"There was no schoolies for those guys; when they finished high school they started work the next week," he says.
"That was my attitude with them – if you think Year 12 was hard work I can tell you working was going to be even harder. You don’t need a week off because you’ve done Year 12.
"You need to get into it."
Having worked in the business for 45 years, he’s seen significant changes but says it’s no easier nowadays, just different.
"It’s still a robust and cost-focused industry. You’ve got that generational renewal where they’re young, they’re energetic, enthusiastic and they want to do things," Philip says.
"That’s where you get businesses growing when you get a new younger management team wanting to do things.
"I’ve learnt that the industry is cyclical; it goes up and down and it’s got its good times and quiet times. You just have to adjust and reinvent yourself when things change.
"Change is inventible, you’ve got to embrace it if you want to survive and succeed."
Going forward, Russell wants to keep diversifying the business and possibly open up new depots in other states.
With 60 per cent of its fleet servicing various contracts within the manufacturing and retail sector, 30 per cent of the business is found in general haulage and the rest in heavy haulage.
"There will be areas where we’ll look at diversifying the spread of interest so we have capabilities within that spread," Russell says.
"We don’t want to be too broad but we also don’t want to be too narrow; it’s making sure we’ve got the right mix. I don’t want to be just only known as a heavy haulage company, we certainly take pride and do that very well but we also don’t want our business to be so diversified that we’re stretching ourselves too thin."
Woolworths sell-off: Prepare for petrol price pain
We could be forking out even more for fuel in 2017 and 2018.
IF YOU thought there was too little competition in petrol prices already, I have bad news. Woolworths is selling all 527 petrol stations it owns. BP is going to buy them and become even bigger. Could the sale of all those petrol pumps to BP make matters worse?
The competition watchdog - the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission - is already laser focused on the fuel industry.
It took a bunch of fuel retailers to court recently and is constantly monitoring petrol prices looking for collusive behaviour.
In parts of Australia, fuel prices already move in patterns that imply competition is not too strong.
If the sale goes through, the chances of strong competitive pressure in the petrol market get weaker still. That could hurt all of us when we fill up our tanks.
It comes at a bad time for motorists. The global oil price cartel, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has recently made pledges to cut supply and push up the global oil price.
Prices at the pump could be about to skyrocket just as this deal goes through.
THE MASTERS CONNECTION
Competition is important. Without it, capitalism becomes completely unfair. If big businesses can pocket huge profits and set prices wherever they want, our whole system is broken.
Low profits are ideal, but negative profits are no good. They cause collapses that actually reduce competition.
The Masters hardware collapse was spectacular. Woolworths' attempt to take on the hardware market never got going.
That left Bunnings as the big green giant of the hardware sector. Home and Mitre 10 are trying but they are like a mosquito on the side of a racehorse. Bunnings is boss in that sector and that makes its owner Wesfarmers sit pretty.
Masters cost Woolworths a lot of money. Many millions were spent, for little return. Woolies posted a loss of more than $1.2 billion last year.
Now Woolies is selling up its petrol business, in order to "strengthen the Woolworths balance sheet and reinvest in its core business".
This is the link to Masters. If it had succeeded, Woolies may not have needed to bolster its finances, and we'd have more competitors in both fuel and hardware. Instead, once again, Australia is sliding towards oligopoly.
AUSTRALIA ONLY LIGHTLY COMPETITIVE
Australia is famous for having what is called market concentration, where a handful of firms control much of the market.
Two big supermarkets, for example. Or four big banks, two big airlines, one big telecommunications company, etc.
The head of the ACCC was complaining about this just a few months ago.
"The revenue of Australia's largest 100 listed companies increased from 27 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) in 1993 to 47 per cent of GDP in 2015," he said.
The big guys are getting bigger - and it is often through mergers and acquisitions like this petrol station deal.
He then argued that mergers can, in some cases, "reduce competition and cause harm to consumers and our economy" mentioning - just by the by - that the largest petrol retailers were "making good profits", while "many retailers with only a few outlets struggle".
What's interesting here is the ACCC will have to approve the Woollies-BP deal before it goes through. Will they do so? It seems likely but is not certain.
BP says it is confident that clearance will be granted.
"Australia has a highly competitive fuel market and we are confident the ACCC will ensure this isn't altered by the transaction," a BP spokesperson said.
"Our partnership with Woolworths has the customer in mind - it is about reinventing the convenience sector in Australia."
COMPETITION - NEXT YEAR?
If the deal goes through, Woolworths gets $1.8 billion dollars and can focus on its supermarket business. If the deal falls apart, then it might be in trouble.
Because 2017 could be the year when really serious competition comes to Australia's supermarket sector.
Amazon has launched its Prime Video service here, and rumours are its fresh food business is not far behind. If that happens, Woolworths will need its A-game.
This kind of pressure - businesses fighting for their lives - is exactly what good competition looks like.
In fact, 2017 could be a very good year for supermarket consumers. Even if Amazon doesn't come to Australia, the threat is going to keep supermarkets on their toes.
Aldi is renewing its stores so it can sell more fresh food and compete better, while Coles is also knuckling down, renovating 50 supermarkets in 2017 and ever-ready to compete on price.
We can only hope that, one day, we see something similar in fuel too.