Success for AGM Heavy Haul comes from keeping the customer informed and satisfied. – Report by Chris Mullett – Photography by Mark Bean
After 30 years of representing a major international manufacturer of mining and construction equipment, Lawrie Mills, with his wife Michelle, decided to branch out on their own to fill a need for improved customer service. It had become obvious to Lawrie that while the companies with whom he worked had excellent customer service systems in place, there were areas in the supply and delivery of products to the customer that fell short of the required standards.
“Customers were concerned over delays in the supply and transportation of equipment and these concerns were compounded by a lack of available information as to where the loads might be and when they might be delivered. While the transport suppliers were able to effectively transport the equipment, the lack of communication to the customer was a major factor leading to client dissatisfaction,” said Lawrie.
Having established a high reputation with his customer base through his career with machinery suppliers, Lawrie then set about establishing his own transport operation with a focus on service and communication.
“I had a passion for trucking and heavy machinery, which probably stemmed from my father who was a truckie. I had the opportunity to move into transport and consequently bought a truck and a trailer. I knew that to be successful I had to fill the gap in the industry that always resulted in a lack of information as to the whereabouts of the plant and equipment being transported,” he added.
With a head office now in Newcastle, plus a depot in Sydney, Lawrie and Michelle Mills’ company AGM Heavy Haul now operates nationwide with five Freightliner Argosy prime movers and a collection of heavy-haulage plant trailers by Multi-Lynx, Top Start and Drake that includes three rows of eight quad-axle floats, three rows of four wideners and also drop-decks with ramps.
“We have operated Freightliner Argosy’s since we started the business and now have five in service. We have one 110-inch extended-cab model, three existing 101-inch models plus a further two new 101-inch cab models that have joined the fleet recently as part of our normal five-year vehicle replacement programme,” said Lawrie.
The two new arrivals both feature the Cummins X15 SCR engine with AdBlue, joining one other Cummins-powered Argosy with the EGR engine. The remaining two are powered by Detroit Diesel DD15 engines. The ratings are 550 hp for the Cummins and 565 hp for the Detroits and all are running with 18-speed manual Roadranger transmissions and use Neway air suspension with conventional drum-brake systems.
“We started originally using the Series 60 Detroit Diesels and didn’t have any issues with them. That reliability has continued with the DD15s we use today. We did initially experience some problems with the earlier EGR Cummins engines, but with the new X15s that is not something we are anticipating.
“Fuel economy comparisons are always difficult to evaluate between the two different drivelines as with our GCM ratings ranging from 106-120 tonnes the loads and weights vary tremendously.
“Our analysis currently shows both engines returning similar figures of around the 1.6-1.7 km/litre mark, with the Detroits being slightly better. The X15 engines with SCR and AdBlue are still a new development for us and we need more time to evaluate the improvements that might be available,” added Lawrie.
Maintenance on the newly-arrived vehicles is completed initially by Daimler Trucks of Huntingwood through sales executive Mario Agius who has supplied all the Freightliners to AGM Heavy Haul through its 13 years of business. The relationship between Mario and Lawrie Mills is typical of AGM’s approach to business and client/customer relationships, with Mario this year celebrating 33 years of continuous employment at the same dealership.
“Heavy Haulage requires operators that have particular knowledge and experience. Our drivers complete a very comprehensive daily pre-start check of the vehicles, trailers and equipment, because in heavy-haulage transport we have to ensure that nothing is likely to impact on the movement of the machinery. In this way we minimize any possibility of having an unscheduled stop somewhere far from the availability of roadside assistance.
“The Argosys have been particularly suited to our type of work and although they have the benefit of a larger cab for the driver, we can stay within the 19m overall length requirements (or 20m for longer floats),” he added.
Communication between AGM and its customers provides regular updates of vehicle and load location and progress. The communication between the drivers and head office has until now been via mobile phone links and GPS positioning but the company is currently evaluating an upgrade with NAVMAN and Verizon that will enable each driver to communicate to head office through a PDA in the cab.
If there is one concern in the heavy haulage it relates to the issue of permits, now the responsibility of the HVIA, with expected permit issue times now taking up to three weeks to authorise. This time delay is now restricting the ability of members in the heavy-haulage sector to react to more urgent short-term traffic movements. Other concerns include the continuing lack of commonality of legislation and permits between the different States and Territories.
AGM’s tyre-monitoring programme is handled by Tates Tyres of Riverstone, with the current preference for the Argosys being to run with either Continental or Pirelli products. All vehicle and maintenance requirements are handled by STR Mechanical of Londonderry on the western outskirts of Sydney.
As a satisfied operator of the Freightliner Argosy product, Lawrie Mills is currently keen to evaluate the potential of the Mercedes-Benz 2658 and 2663 prime movers as a possible replacement.
“The warranty support of 1,000,000 km for Detroit engines and 1,200,000 km for Cummins engines governs our vehicle replacement programme to five years. We will be looking at how the 16-litre Daimler engine and Powershift transmission in the Mercedes-Benz performs in our heavy-haulage area, together with evaluating the Freightliner Cascadia when it is released in the latter part of this year,” added Lawrie.