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JATEC Transport: driving ambition

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A visit to Volvo’s headquarters in Sweden five years ago has changed the way Sydney operator JATEC does business

JATEC Transport: driving ambition
Troy Barlow

 

Sitting in a lecture listening to Volvo’s director of traffic and safety Carl Johan Almqvist, JATEC Transport owner Troy Barlow had a lightbulb moment which saw him convert to Volvo’s telematics platform Dynafleet.

Whilst presented with convincing evidence that drivers rather than technology hold the potential for greater fuel savings and efficiency, Barlow knew it was time to evolve the business.

He bought his first Volvo truck in 2009 – six years after establishing his company.

Today, his entire fleet of 12 trucks wear the Volvo badge and the company services around 400 customers.

JATEC uses the Volvo 500 because it provides the best fuel consumption and economical running costs for its operations whilst providing flexibility for future growth, he says.

"I was sitting in a lecture listening to Almqvist and he was talking about how the company spends millions of dollars on the Volvo product trying to save us a couple of cents per litre on fuel," Barlow says.

"But he pointed out that the big savings is in training your staff and showing them how to use the equipment."

Since then, the Blacktown-based business has embarked on a journey that he admits has evolved over time.

He says the decision to invest in Dynafleet was "not a matter of an open and closed door" but building a relationship with the aftersales team at VCV Sydney and winning the support of his drivers through an incentive scheme.

"Dynafleet has been a long-term journey for us and that comes down to the relationship with the guys at Volvo," Barlow says.

"I’m always ringing them up and picking their brains and finding out how

I can get more of out of the trucks."

While Dynafleet provides applications such as GPS tracking and logistics, Barlow mainly uses the app to save money on fuel and to promote safety through better driving habits by tracking driver behaviour.

The drivers each have a USB stick they slot into a truck and, over a seven-day period, it gives a score out of 100 for fuel efficiency and driver behaviour.

The app provides data on braking and anticipation, engine and gear utilisation, speed adaption and excess idling times

A driver who achieves a score of 95 or above for the week wins a $50 fuel voucher.

Barlow estimates that by lifting the average score from 75 to over 90 he is saving an average of $350 a week per driver on fuel.

"Five of our drivers consistently score over 95 every seven days, while six score over 90," Barlow says.

Phillip Hillier was the number one driver in January, hitting a score of 100.

"My goal personally is to have every driver on 95 or above," Barlow says.

"I’d like to be giving them all a fuel voucher every week."

Dynafleet helps Barlow pinpoint the small changes that need to be made to make big savings. Better driving habits also benefit the bottom line by reducing wear and tear on trucks and minimising the potential for downtime, he adds.

More importantly, the Sweden trip provided a second light-bulb moment; the role of driver training as a central plank in Volvo’s commitment to safety.

"When I came back from Sweden, I told my wife and kids that when dad is out driving his truck, know that I’m in the safest truck on the planet. That is what I truly believe," Barlow says.

FAMILY-ORIENTED

Building his business through word of mouth, JATEC is "just a small transport company" that flies under the radar, Barlow explains.

The company carries 55,000 pallets a day for some 400-plus clients, fitting 480 pallets on each truck.

With only a hardstand yard, Barlow is looking into an office that will house three staff.

The company reached a peak five years ago of 23 trucks doing deliveries for KFC and Pizza Hut.

"From there, I got rid of that business as it was a lot of hard work," Barlow explains.

"Delivering all the materials for that business, night shift operation – the truck would then be sitting there during the day so we started up a pallet business during the day and kept them working well day and night.

"But it was a lot of work, so I decided to downsize and brought that back to 12 trucks.

"A family is a big part of our business; watching our kids grow up is all part of it, that’s why we haven’t gone interstate and started up another operations because our name is everything, if I can’t do it 100 per cent I don’t want a part of it."

COMPANY IMAGE

What’s changed since the early days is attention to detail.

Barlow treats each customer the same, no matter the work involved.

"Whether we do one delivery a month or five deliveries a day, it’s the same," he says.

Paying attention to his drivers and customers is also something Barlow focuses on.

"Listening to what’s happening out there and listening to what drivers have got to say and their feedback on what’s happening in the market and customers and the hold ups they have – just following up on those things," he says.

"Their point of view is central to our success; they’re my eyes and ears out there."

Barlow has seen many drivers join the company due his fleet, with the state of trucks also helping decrease driver fatigue.

"By giving them the best equipment and the best working environment, it makes a difference," he says.

"Whilst they’re waiting to be unloaded and loaded, they’re not running a truck with the air-conditioning, they’re switching the truck off so they’re saving on diesel and they’ve got air-coolers fitted into vehicles, so it’s keeping the cab cool and them cool.

"I’ve definitely seen over the years where a driver that was in a vehicle prior to the air cooling and the fridges, they’d come in and look grubby and sweaty.

"I remember one of the drivers, he’d come in on a Friday afternoon and I’d say ‘Clear your truck, you’re going into a new one’. He wasn’t too happy at the time; on Monday afternoon he comes in, looking like he had just changed his shirt, he looked clean and fresh and I couldn’t believe it," he adds.

"It was apples and oranges – the difference in his appearance for doing the same amount of work but a different vehicle to use was mind blowing.

"I can tell you now that it’s got to be better for everyone, they’re not getting out of a truck hot and sweaty, they’re cool, calm and collected and that shows to the customer."

A PARTNERSHIP

Tapping into Volvo’s suite of aftersales services, Barlow has enjoyed staggering savings as a result.

One to always run a tight operation, Barlow’s commitment to the old-fashioned values of "doing what you say you are going to do" has meant that his business has expanded fast.

He has watched every dollar, yet never skimped on maintenance.

He says he is proud of the loyalty his values have inspired. Many of his employees have been with him for over a decade.

With an expanded fleet, Troy wanted to take a back seat on maintenance and that is when he signed up to Volvo’s gold service agreement where Volvo takes care of all servicing needs.

Such a measure has taken away unplanned vehicle downtime.

"I was amazed," Barlow says.

"I thought, ‘How can Volvo do it any cheaper than me?’ The fact is that they do and here is the proof in the pudding.

"Hats off to Volvo for what they do and how they do it.

"I spent $60,000 over five years or more by servicing the trucks myself than having Volvo do it for me – it was a no brainer," he adds.

Without a background in mechanics, Barlow says that he is drawing on the knowledge and years of experience of the team at VCV Sydney.

"I can’t really get across how much this is a partnership," he says.

"I take a little bit of responsibility for our success. But I owe a lot of it to the team at the dealership. Without those guys I wouldn’t be where I am.

"Their resources are global – I’m only Troy Barlow from Sydney, we’ve only got a small amount of trucks in the bigger picture."

With a more efficient business nowadays, JATEC is in the top five per cent of the most efficient operators within the Volvo business in Australia.

CHANGE OF HABITS

It takes some effort to change a driver’s old habits and Barlow does just that when training them in Volvo trucks.

"If they’ve gotten out of a Kenworth truck they’re listening to revs rather than in a Volvo truck it’s nice and quiet, like driving a car, so now they’re watching their speed rather than listening to the truck," Barlow says.

"Just a few little changes to their driving can make a massive difference."

By switching over to Volvo trucks, Barlow’s customers are also happier.

"Our carbon footprint with the likes of Woolworths is massive to those guys; at the end of the day, the trucks look great on the road, they’re clean and maintained, it’s a professional service and the drivers are all in uniform and well-presented, so they’ve got a nice clean unit that pulls up on their site to do their deliveries and that shows a lot about who you are."

JATEC will be introducing safety cameras in all vehicles over the coming months, mainly due to other parties hitting the trucks.

It also has a couple of new Volvo I-Shift dual-clutch transmission trucks on order.

"We’re not going back to other brands, definitely not," Barlow says.

"I’m excited about that one [dual clutch], I haven’t driven one but I’ve ordered two new trucks so that says a lot doesn’t it?

"I’m also excited about Volvo’s vision; I can’t wait to go back to Sweden; at the end of the day there’s a lot of technology around the corner and I’m happy for it to come on board."

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