For a 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, powering into the future is obviously high on the agenda of Blenners Transport.
The transport industry has had a difficult few years, but has remained buoyant with demand for its services increasing. Now the need to combat climate change means the trucking industry will be with new technology.
Les Blennerhassett, head of the Tully-based family company 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.
Higher productivity vehicles such as 38-pallet B-doubles, achieved under PBS (Performance Based Standards) guidelines, are another priority for a company with massive involvement in the banana industry in north Queensland.
Blenners currently operates 185 Kenworths, around 100 of which are linehaul B-double and road train units with Cummins X15 Euro 5 power – a specification providing the high utilisation needed to move the tidal wave of bananas from north Queensland to Australia-wide markets.
More than 200 Cummins engines
The strong relationship with Cummins has seen more than 200 red engines specified by Blenners in Kenworths since 2008.
Twenty-two road trains alone are dedicated to banana haulage across the country to Perth, WA. Overall, Blenners moves around 60 per cent of north Queensland bananas to the capital cities – a task that is carried out 52 weeks of the year since bananas are not seasonal.
Bananas aren’t the only high volume fruit transported by Blenners from north Queensland. “We had to diversify our customer base in 2006 after Cyclone Larry destroyed most of the banana crop. We went from doing 110 loads a week to four loads,” Les Blennerhassett recalls.
Blenners this year transported more than 100 pallets of seedless lemons a day out of the Mareeba region on the Atherton Tablelands during the peak period, while thousands of pallets of mangoes and avocados will be moved during their peak.
With a monthly fuel bill totalling $3.5 million, any measure to improve fuel consumption just a fraction is looked at closely by the Blenners team.
The entirely new next generation 15-litre Cummins X15D, unveiled at the 2023 Brisbane Truck Show, will be the next major engine step for the fleet. Reports from field trials of a fuel consumption improvement of up to eight per cent over the current best from X15, obviously has huge appeal.
While the diesel truck engine still has a long life ahead of it, especially in Australia’s challenging operating environment, studying alternative powertrain technologies and their impact on carbon reduction is of interest to Les Blennerhassett.