PBS and INNOVATION | COMPANY PROFILE – Pushing the envelope delivers dividends for Porthaul

 Pushing the envelope delivers dividends for Porthaul.- Words by Ed Higginson, Images by Goodman Photography

Consistent growth comes from a desire to always look for better ways of doing things, says the general manager of bulk transport and civil contractor Porthaul. James Williamson.

With depots in Portland, Mount Gambier and Melbourne, Porthaul operates throughout South Australia, Victoria, NSW, and extending up into QLD, with the occasional load to Western Australia for the oil and gas industry. It currently has more than 60 trucks in its fleet and 20 full-time contractors on call.

“We’ve always pushed PBS (Performance-Based Standards). We don’t always look at building the biggest combination you can operate, but we focus on the most efficient way to do any job so that we can present the most competitive option,” James says.

“We’ve done most of the PBS process ourselves and own them internally. When we started looking at the A-double tippers, I’d regularly fly up to Queensland to sit down with NHVR (National Vehicle Heavy Regulator) when they were just getting going and discuss options and opportunities.

“Many PBS permits are from A to B, but for our forestry operations we might need to move from one plantation to another every few weeks, so we can’t wait a month for a new permit.

“We had to create a network where we could operate anywhere in the region as the work moved. We started with the main networks, then had to work with the local councils, which we’ve been doing for about seven years. Now our network is quite large with about 100 roads.

“We run level 2 PBS generally, but the restrictions apply from bridge constraints. We’d love to run at 85 tonnes, but the rating of the bridges can’t allow that. We look at our blanket weight of, say, 81.5 tonnes on the main VicRoads from Portland to the borders, after which it’s a case of dealing with the councils. If we talk to the council and explain that the plantation can take either 10 days with PBS combinations or 35 with standard trailers to clear, they are usually happy to give PBS access for a specific number of days.

“Our local council is brilliant, going away to PBS courses with us so they fully understand what we are talking about with the trucks. In the early days, councils would often simply say that the larger trucks wouldn’t fit, but now they understand what the reports tell them.”

With a desire to constantly push the envelope and trial new products, Porthaul has recently taken delivery of its first set of B-double tippers from Graham Lusty Trailers. The lead trailer body length is 9060 mm with a height of 2120 mm, while the tag trailer dimensions are 10,365 mm and 2120mm respectively. Floor thickness is 8 mm in the lead trailer and 6 mm in the tag trailer, with a common wall thickness of 5 mm.

“This is the first set of Graham Lusty tippers we’ve tried. We are always happy to try new products and we know they have a great reputation. They look good and we know they will hold up really well, so we thought we’d give them a go,” James says.

With the lead tipper designed with a 46-cubic-metre capacity and the rear tipper with 53 cu. m, plus a combined tare weight of just 13.9 tonnes, the trailer set will perform well carting fertiliser and grain. There’s a standard grain door on the centre of the tailgate and an access door in the front sheet on the passenger side.

The lead trailer features a JOST greaseless top fifth-wheel coupling, together with a 45-tonne-rated Hidromas hydraulic ram. There’s a 60-tonne-rated Hidromas unit fitted to the tag trailer. The tyre fitment throughout is Kumho KRT03 11R22.5, mounted on Alcoa Dura-Bright polished outer rims.

The combination has been specced up with Hendrickson airbag suspension, 10-stud MAXX22T disc brake axles, with HXL7 parallel bearing hubs. Hendrickson offers a three-year/1.2 million km warranty on wheel-end packages and two years/unlimited warranty on shock absorbers. A dual-line Westinghouse braking system is equipped with Knorr Bremse EBS.

“Everything is on EBS, which we decided to go with five years ago, knowing that it would become the norm. We’ve also now been able to hook it up with our weight scales, using Right Weigh gauges connected via Bluetooth to the driver’s phone and in-cab GPS,” James says.

“The only issue we have now is when we are loading in the forest or on the farm on uneven ground, as we can get small variances. But we’ve been trialing improvements with this and hope it’ll be accurate to the kilogram very soon.”

Focusing on making the task of working with the equipment easier, Porthaul has specified the B-double tippers with Razor landing legs and Razor electric rollover PVC tarps with pelmets. The electronic motor-driven system raises and lowers landing legs at the touch of a button and can be operated from both sides of the trailer. By simplifying the coupling and uncoupling process, it reduces the risk of injury or back strain.

This understanding of how to correctly specify the equipment comes from Brian Williamson and his three sons all driving trucks when they get the chance. “All of us drive, sometimes on weekends just to see what’s going on. We never expect anyone to do something we can’t do ourselves, so we can drive every truck and every piece of civil machinery,” James says.

As Porthaul has predominantly been a Kenworth fleet since it started, James decided to order a special K200 to pull its new set of GLT tippers. “It’s our 50th Kenworth that we bought from Barry Maney Group in Mount Gambier, so we thought we’d try a big cabover to match the GLT. The driver, Dave, is usually a T909 man but he was happy to try the K200 and loves it.”

Fitted with the Cummins X15 Euro 5 engine rated between 550-578 hp, it gives max power of 431 kW @ 1800 rpm and max torque of 2508 Nm @ 1200 rpm. Coupled to an 18 speed Fuller transmission and driving through Meritor RT46-160GP rear axles running a 4.30 ratio, the Kenworth is rated to a GCM of 97 tonnes.

“We put Groeneveld autogreasers on everything now, plus CTI and tyre pressure equalisers. We start by trialing equipment on the forestry trucks, then if we find that they work well and give us a benefit, we will roll them out across the entire fleet.”

With the entire fleet running under NHVAS Mass, Maintenance, Fatigue, plus Truck Safe Accreditation and HML, the fleet is constantly monitored through GPS. “Every driver logs on to the trucks’ GPS so we can monitor their weights, speeds, location and times.”

As well as the office getting access to the GPS, customers and the external workshop provider all get access to certain information to make everyone’s task easier.

Porthaul decided to outsource all of their maintenance from the beginning to a local repairer, L. Woods Transport Repairs based in Portland. James adds: “He has grown with us since the start. He’s very thorough and won’t let anything leave his yard until it’s safe and legal to travel. We know he’s got our best interests at heart, so he’s got access to our GPS in order to monitor the service intervals, whilst also looking after our new equipment warranty, too.”

As well as the GLT combination, Porthaul also uses Barker Trailers for its woodchip operations. “Barkers build a beautiful walking floor, so we have a few of their trailers. We also have some Octaquads, which we built with Barkers under PBS using quad-axle trailers and 8×4 Kenworth T610s,” James says.

“The woodchip facility where they unload can’t accept B-doubles, so we measured the unloading point and designed the truck to fit accordingly. We can now get 35 tonnes on these 55-foot trailers instead of 25 tonnes.”

James puts the company’s success down to being able to give personal service to its local customers, being just a phone call away. Combined with a proven desire to always look for a better way of doing things, Porthaul’s future growth out of Portland is an excellent example of meeting customer expectations.

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