Les Blennerhassett sees Cummins’ much-discussed hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine currently under development as a strong contender, looking to the future, hydrogen ICE is in Blenners’ sights.
Having a 15-litre ICE running on hydrogen and virtually eliminating CO2 emissions has advantages over other carbon reduction technologies for heavy truck operations.
Les is head of the Tully-based family company, Blenners Transport, he started in 1988 with wife Judy, realises that while diesel will dominate for a long time yet, he must also look closely at next generation power options.
The Blenners fleet that hauls up to 300,000 cartons of bananas a week out of north Queensland and has a monthly fuel bill of $3.5 million, future power options are obviously high on the agenda.
The familiarity of internal combustion is a big plus: There’s no reinventing the wheel, rather the base diesel engine is adapted for an alternative fuel, greatly simplifying the installation of the 15-litre platform into an existing truck.
This year, around 20 new Kenworths with Cummins X15 power will be put into service – a far cry from the days when Les and Judy wondered if they could afford to put one new truck on the road a year!
“We have a very good relationship with Cummins,” he says. “We get good support from Cummins nationwide and we pay a lot of attention to our own preventive maintenance and trend analysis.”
While future power sources are a focus at Blenners, higher productivity vehicles, operating under PBS guidelines, are in the spotlight too, with the number of 38-pallet B-doubles in the fleet steadily increasing, with close to 20 in service at the time of writing.
Replacing 34-pallet B-doubles, the new bigger capacity units feature a quad-axle lead trailer and operate at 73 tonnes over a length of 28.1 metres, with 16 pallet spaces in the lead trailer and 22 in the second.
Three PBS A-doubles, operating at a gross weight of 91 tonnes over a length of 30 metres, are also proving their value, running from far north Queensland to Derrimut in Melbourne. Three more A-doubles will be put into service in 2023 on this freight route.
Blennerhassett’s involvement in the banana industry hasn’t accrued just through his trucking business. Before he and Judy ventured into trucking in 1988, their roots were in farming – bananas and sugarcane. “The reason we bought a truck in 1988 – a Kenworth T650 – was to cart our own bananas to market,” he recalls.
Understanding farmers’ needs
The business has grown on the back of customer service – understanding the needs of farmers and providing the flexibility that has encouraged a strong relationship with Blenners Transport as a family company. “As our customers have grown, we’ve grown with them,” he explains.
Blenners’ continuation as a family company long term also seems assured with Les and Judy’s two sons involved in the business, Roger as Brisbane manager and Ben as Tully manager.
The company operates eight depots in Queensland – Cairns, Mareeba, Tully, Innisfail, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton and Brisbane – and offers storage and warehouse services for freezer, chiller and dry freight at its Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns facilities. Construction of a new $12 million facility in Cairns is about to begin while a new Rockhampton depot will follow in 2024.