Business is booming since CNQ relocated north to Queensland 

Sometimes in life, and in business, a change can make all the difference. Since Graham Cooper and his family took up an opportunity to move their business from Tasmania to Brisbane three and a half years ago, their business has boomed.

Graham is no stranger to the transport industry, and explains the move saying, “I’ve been involved in the transport industry for 30 odd years. I started out driving in Tasmania, and then we formed our own business, basically as a transport logistics provider in Tasmania.

“Virtually 90 percent of the work was out of North Queensland, doing produce, and various other parts of the mainland, servicing Tasmania. We had the opportunity three years ago to expand into Queensland and to break into general freight, so we moved over to the mainland from Tasmania and set up here”.

In the short period since, the Coopers North Queensland Freight Services (CNQ) fleet has grown to 25 trucks, including linehaul and local trucks.

“We have a fleet of 14 linehaul vehicles, in both single and B-double combinations, 2 local prime movers based in Cairns, and 9 rigid vehicles running around,” Graham said.

“We now have depots here in Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns, so basically we cover from Rockhampton north. We employ 38 people, so within three years we’ve had massive growth. Trying to control that growth is hard”.

The most recent additions to the CNQ fleet are two MAN prime movers – a TGS, which was purchased about four months ago, and a TGX, which came into the fleet only a month ago.

“We bought the first one to base in Brisbane to do local work around here and changeovers at night,” Graham said.

“In metropolitan Brisbane, if we do it with a cabover, the visibility is great and they’re ideal for doing that sort of work. You take the big-bonneted things some of the places we have to go. You can’t back in, you get marks on the bullbar and stuff, you can’t see”.

But soon after its arrival, the growth of the business meant it was needed out on the highway, with Graham saying that, “Now we’re that busy we’ve had to rethink it, and that truck is now based in Cairns pulling a B-double set of trailers”.

CNQ has not traditionally been MAN customers, but through the perseverance of Brisbane Truck Centre MAN salesman, Callie Le Roux, Graham was persuaded to give them a go.

“We test drove Mack, MAN and Freightliner, and out of the three we identified the Mack would probably do the job a little bit easier,” he said.

“Along came Callie, who put a proposal to us. He came into the office, then came back with a demo truck, which we had for two weeks. Our son stepped out of a 685 hp Mack into the MAN, and was very impressed with the driver comfort and visibility. The fuel economy was a little bit better, and it got the job done,” he said.

Both CNQ MANs are powered by the 12.4-litre MAN D26 engine, which provides 540 hp (397 kW) and 2500 Nm of torque, and driven through the 12-speed TipMatic (ZF-AS Tronic) transmission.

As Callie Le Roux explained, “Prior to the D38, this was the highest horsepower we could offer”.

The TGS cab is slightly narrower than its big brother, and sits a little lower resulting in a slightly raised floor between the seats.

“The TGX is the top of the line MAN cab, and offers a flat floor, high-roof cab, so it’s a little better suited to the long distance work. While the TGS is rated at the standard 70-tonne GCM, the TGX has been up-rated to the maximum 90-tonne GCM, allowing it to pull road trains should the need arise,” he added.

Also on board the two MANs is the MAN Infotainment system, which includes Bluetooth connectivity, amplifiers and a subwoofer fitted to the CD radio system. The TGX also has the truck navigation pack fitted as an option. Graham will have the MANs serviced at Brisbane Truck Centre, and while it’s still too early to say for sure, depending on the fuel consumption, that will be either every 40,000 km or 70,000 km.

Having had them in the fleet for a short time, I asked Graham what the response was from the drivers.

“We just started a new driver in the first one (TGS, four months old) this week, and he’s very impressed with it. He’s based in Cairns and has been running north of Cairns in other trucks – Macks and Kenworths – and he’s really impressed. The newest one (TGX, one month old), the driver jumped out of a Western Star and was a bit hesitant at first, but he came in here last night and he’s also impressed with it,” he said.

“I think it’s a bit of an image thing, with the drivers of American trucks,” Callie said.

“The big truck, the noise, and a driver feels like it’s pulling hard, feels like it’s working. We find that older drivers are more used to that. It’s not because it’s a brand thing, or a truck thing, it’s what we call resistance to change. But once they get into it (the MAN) they go ‘Wow, I feel so much better at the end of the day’. In terms of fatigue and noise levels, it’s luxury.

“But there are other benefits over the traditional American trucks, including the ease of operation of the MAN driveline. I think also, in today’s times, it is hard to keep drivers for a long time, and when you replace them you don’t always get the guys with ten or twenty years of experience. With this product, because it’s so simple to drive, you can get a guy with three or four years experience, give them some product training, and send them on their way,” he continued.

Graham agreed with this comment, saying, “In this industry, the older drivers are running out. To attract an older driver, they like the old trucks, the big bangers as they call them. That’s the old school. There’s a complete new generation coming through now where a job’s a job, they like getting into something comfortable, and driver fatigue is a big thing. The comfort of the MAN compared to the Mack, there is really no comparison. You do substitute a little bit of horsepower, but at the end of the day you arrive in Townsville or Cairns five minutes apart, and feeling a lot better”.

But it’s not just about feeling good at the end of the day, the trucks still need to perform the task reliably. Graham is putting a lot on the line in trusting a new breed of truck, saying that the business has been built on reliability.

“The way the economy is today, people can’t afford to carry a lot of stock, so they rely on all of us guys to get it up there. We’ve got a very good record into the north. We are reliable, it’s all word of mouth, so, as we prove ourselves, the business grows,” Graham said.

If packing up and moving his family north wasn’t enough to demonstrate Graham Cooper’s willingness to try something new, the introduction of the MAN into the fleet should be. The early indications are good, with good driver acceptance, no big impact on trip times and good support from the team at Brisbane Truck Centre. In Graham’s words, “I’m impressed so far, for the time we’ve had them, but I suppose time will tell”.

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