FILLING TIME – J.R Stephens & Co | Review

J.R Stephens & Co is the transport specialist for Brisbane’s landfill and resource recovery

Moving the nation’s waste has become a highly specialised segment of the transport industry. Not only does it involve landfill and resource recovery, as the technology and infrastructure develops in an area it can lead to the creation of bio-generation plants and the production of green energy from waste products.

J.R Stephens & Co was founded in 1954 in Ipswich, near Brisbane, and for 40 years moved coal. With its current fleet numbering 83 trucks and 155 trailers, the company business has diversified through the intervening years. Since the mid 90s it has focused on the requirements of the waste industry, performing the cartage of waste materials and recycling from transfer stations to landfill sites.

As general manager, Nathan Stephens is the grandson of the founder and is one of several members of the family working for the company, which remains privately owned by his grandmother.

The region has a long history with coal mining that dates back to 1848 when the first recorded mine was established in the Woodend area. Many of the early mines were open cut seams and many of these were developed into underground mines prior to the industry ceasing operation in 1997.

After mining of the open cut seams was exhausted, the pits that remained were developed for landfill, providing new opportunity for companies specialising in waste recovery, such as J.R Stephens & Co.

TrailerTorque caught up with Nathan Stephens and Glenn Steele, the company’s fleet manager, to discuss how the vehicle and trailer fleet has adapted in recent years to enable the latest design innovations to achieve higher levels of productivity and efficiency.

The bulk waste cartage side of the business is centred on the movement of waste product from transfer stations to tips for landfill, glass recycling, bio-solids and scrap steel. Some of the sites are B-double accessible but others are restricted to single-trailer access with walking-floor discharge, side tipper or end-over tipper discharge.

As technology improves it enables the development of other technologies such as Bio Waste generation.

Companies such as Veolia are already able to generate enough electricity to power 10,000 homes per year in the local area. It is envisaged that the appeal of landfill operations will reduce, and over the next 50 years less waste will be going into landfill and more effort will be placed on recycling and more effective waste recovery to reduce environmental damage. Whatever the outcome, there remains a resource that needs to be moved.

“Eighty percent of our trailer fleet is manufactured by Lusty EMS, but recently we purchased five sets of B-double Stag combinations from Brisbane-based Graham Lusty Trailers (GLT). The lead trailer in the Stag combination features a Keith walking floor with the Stag rear trailer being an end-over tipper.

“Being shorter than the lead trailer, the Stag trailer is highly stable and can be tipped quickly and then jackknifed into position. At this stage the larger capacity lead trailer with the Keith walking floor can discharge completely and without any risk of instability. When unladen the Stag trailer can raise both the front and rear lift axles so that the turning circle is much better and tyre wear is minimised,” said Nathan.

Director of GLT James Yerbury told TrailerTorque: “With the type of materials they were looking to haul in these trailers, the Keith walking floor system with Hardox V-9 V-Floor slats was an ideal.

“The slats, bearings, sub-decks and drive units in these trailers are been given a tough workout, but we have been impressed with how well the system has stood up to the job.

“From a fabrication point of view, the Keith system is easy to build around. The drive module comes pre-assembled, making it easy to install. Keith has a large range of slat profiles to choose from so they can cover a wide range of applications. Support from Keith Walking Floor Australia has also been great, providing us with solutions if we have any issues,” added James.

“Including the five new GLT trailers and those from Lusty EMS, we operate around 16 or 17 walking-floor trailers and all of them use the Keith walking-floor system,” said Nathan.

“There is no other manufacturer in the market that supplies a heavy-duty walking floor that can match those of Keith. They make a very good floor with high durability. Some are now seven years old and we are refurbishing them in our own workshop to replace the bearers. The other competitors for walking-floor designs have lightweight slats and lack the durability for the hard work.

“We are always on the lookout for the most efficient configuration, and dependent on the application we run 60 cubic metre roll-on/roll-off bins, 48-foot walking-floor trailers, AZMEB side tippers in a B-double configuration as well as high volume RediTips from GLT.

“The side tippers carry 65 tonnes while returning a 32 tonnes payload, whereas the high volume Stag trailers have a higher payload of 37 tonnes.

“Although we get a bigger payload on RediTips, the downside is they take longer to unload. Rear discharge trailers are not suited for our work, which is more linked to concrete and building waste.

“We do have PBS units with rigid truck and quad-dogs and quad-axle single trailers, plus for the container market we operate A-doubles that can carry 2 x 40-foot containers across the Toowoomba ranges. All our fleet is under satellite tracking monitoring,” added Nathan.

Unladen weight is one of the guiding factors affecting trailer selection, and to date the company has preferred to stay with drum brakes, rather than switch to disc brakes.

“We don’t run disc brakes largely because when you enter landfill sites the dust and debris can damage the disc pads and rotors,” said Glenn Steele.

“The condition of landfill sites is also responsible for damaging tyres and we have to contend with a high tyre damage cost that can average between $2500 and $5000 per week, just from tyres being staked by debris.

“For the on-highway trucks and trailers we use Ringtread as our supplier, with premium tyres and cleanskins such as Bridgestone, and opt for low-profile tyres in order to gain payloads of up to 30 tonnes per container. For trucks running off-road and into landfill sites, a more realistic approach is to use brands such as Triangle that stand up to the abuse and provide a better financial return on investment. In this application we use recaps for drive and trailer tyres.

“We have fitted BPW axles in the past for their reliability and extended warranty, but we are now currently using Hendrickson INTRAAX for the slight gains in tare weight reductions and because of the one million kilometre warranty support,” added Glenn.

J.R Stephens & Co has traditionally operated a Mack fleet, but recently the company has added 20 new Kenworths to the fleet, with T409, T409SAR and T909 models. These are powered by a combination of Cummins ISX and ISXe5 engines and the PACCAR MX 13-litre. A new T1610 SAR powered by a Cummins X15 is also due for delivery shortly.

“We are not having any problems with the MX-13, which is performing well. Our intention is to evaluate them over 1.3 million km before we move them from B-double to local single life for the remaining three years,” said Glenn.

“The MX-13 has fitted in well to the fleet. Apart from a few water leaks we haven’t noticed any high distance issues. Our B-double work is at 65 tonnes and we re looking to push them past 68 tonnes with HML.

“We continue to operate our own service workshop to cater for the vehicles not covered by contract maintenance. Having different brands requires different tooling and different computer systems. Keeping pace with this can prove to be difficult, but it is necessary to invest in the correct equipment,” said Glenn.

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