From livestock to general haulage, Betts Transport knows that success is based on service.
Peter Betts reckons that as far as having a hobby is concerned, he has yet to find one that fits the bill. Although he admits to being semi-retired these days, it seems that he hasn’t quite yet worked out the true definition of the word, preferring to still drive out on the highway when he feels like filling in on a trip.
“I think in this job you live it 24/7. That’s what it’s about. I don’t have sports like fishing or golf, I usually end up in the workshop at weekends,” said Peter.
“My wife kept saying that my trucks were my sport. We also have trucks working at weekends, so you have to be there with them and make sure that everything is okay. We have a workshop t Tomago near Hexham and do 90 percent of our servicing, plus we have another smaller workshop at Walcha, our home base. We also use Glen Artney Truck Repairs at Tamworth. If we need an A or B service completed they have a drivers’ room and good facilities there,” he added.
The Betts family originally got into transport as a logging contractor, with Peter’s father joining with two other brothers. By 1996 the family had moved away from logging and aimed its growth on highway running.
“When we decided to cease logging I thought seriously about what we should be doing next. I considered a motel, but that would have driven me nuts. When our son Christopher finished school he came and worked with us, and then with the start of the Sydney cross city tunnel he moved south and drove rigid tippers on that project.
“The next step was for Christopher and Daniel Bower to join forces with the founding of Betts Bower, specialising in heavy haul work with the mining industry in the Hunter Valley. Together they did a fantastic job building up the company. Then around 18 months ago, Chris decided to return home to the family base at Walcha. We were getting on in years and had to decide what we wanted to do with our side of the transport business.
“You have to have new equipment to keep competitive, and Christopher came into the family business as general manager. That enabled me to supposedly retire, but that’s something I have yet to come to terms with. I still love truck driving and I don’t seem to be doing any less work. Perhaps the main change is that I can actually choose what I want to do these days.
“About seven years ago, Shane Carter, our fleet manager, asked why not get a stock crate? Having agreed with Shane that we should get one, I soon realised one was no good and needed some more.
“Jaimie was our first driver on stock transport, and he remains with us today. We now have 11 stock crate configurations in either B-double or road train work, while Shane Carter looks after operations and running the general freight side of the business,” said Peter.
The Betts fleet hauling stock crates and general freight largely comprises of Kenworth prime movers with a couple of Western Stars hauling sheep crates. One of the Kenworths is a C509 designed more for heavy haul work that Chris brought with him when he left Betts Bower, while the remaining prime movers are T909s, all powered by Cummins engines and rated at 600 hp.
“We like Kenworth and have a good relationship with Brown and Hurley, and we currently have a new T610 ready for delivery. We know the product and we like the product, running them also on general. The Western Star is 16 months old and is also working well on sheep crate work .The driver likes it with the extra room inside. The Detroit at 565 hp seems to be handling everything well on B-double work as well as doing a little two-trailer road train work,” said Peter.
“We’ve stayed with manual Roadranger transmissions for the stock work, but for the on-highway general freight we have started moving to AMTs with the UltraShift PLUS fitted in K200 Aerodynes. We have a couple of T909s on general freight, but they are limited to only 32 pallets capacity, so we will move out of them to achieve greater productivity.
“Our stock crate fleet is a bit of a mixture. The first two were from Byrne at Wagga, and then we bought a Rhino stock crate from Toowoomba. We also have some Cannons Trailers from Crows Nest in Queensland. More recently we have purchased a new stainless steel stock crate combination, again from Byrne.
“There’s no weight saving from changing to stainless steel construction, but the gain should be from it eliminating corrosion problems that you can encounter when using steel trailers.
“From a rust perspective it’s too early to tell, as we haven’t had them long enough. The Rhino crate is also going well. We needed another set in a hurry, and they were able to supply quickly. It was specced up as a heavier weight unit for harsher conditions. They are good to use and could be specced in a lighter configuration,” added Peter.
In line with a common preference amongst livestock transporters, the preferred braking system in general use relies on load-proportioning valves rather than adopting EBS systems. The only exception to that is the latest stainless unit from Byrne, which was fitted from the outset with EBS.
The standard axles in use with the fleet are supplied by BPW and are fitted with drum brakes, rather than moving to disc brake applications. The reasoning behind staying with drum brakes is largely historic, with memories of earlier disc brakes having smaller rotors that required replacement at shorter intervals than is the normal practice today. What Peter did find through experience was that, on extremely rough road conditions, the BPW drum brakes appeared to be more durable in service.
“With the normal run of the mill work on highway I think they (disc brakes) are pretty good. We have two stock crates with EBS and the driver is happy with it. I think it’s a sign of the times and we have them on Barker Tautliners for our general freight division, and we haven’t been aware of any problems with them,” said Peter.
As Chris Betts explained: “Engine wise we have gone through EGR and ISXe5 alternatives, and the e5s are certainly better than the EGRs. We run trucks on New England and it certainly knocks your fuel economy down, but when on the highway work we get 1.6 to1.89 on B-doubles, whereas the EGRs were returning 1.5 km/l. The upgrade to e5s was a good move forwards.
“It’s difficult to put a good average fuel economy for comparison because the New England is a fuel-guzzling route. We judge most of our fuel economy from the general freight side of the business rather than livestock, as it is more predictable.
“We have a couple of e5s with the UltraShift PLUS AMT that have improved the fuel economy so far by 0.1 l/km. From just under 1.8 and 1.76 now it’s up to 1.88, plus we are going to be trying a taller diff ratio at 3.9:1 as suggested by Cummins and Eaton.
“The UltraShift PLUS is such an improvement over the first autoshifts. Eaton is talking now about one that can have two programmes (in the gearbox control module), so that when it receives information from airbag sensors it can choose a different programme from laden to unladen application,” added Chris.