The longest runs with fuel for the Emerald Carrying Company Townsville depot are those where the highest productivity vehicles are needed and ECC have been pushing the envelope on trucks running out of this depot to achieve those gains.
The most productive combination on the road is a typical triple road train, with one major difference, instead of triaxle trailers and tandem axle dollies, it used quad axle trailers and triaxle dollies. The prime mover used to pull the set-up featured here, is a tri-drive Kenworth T909.
“When you look at what we do, they’re called dangerous goods for reason,” says Troy Sabin, the ECC Townsville Depot Trainer. “When you look at the adverse conditions that we drive in, when we look at our western roads, they can be less than optimal.
“What I’ve noticed with the trailers, with the standard air system, compared to what the Base Air fitted trailers do, is there seems to be a bit more stability there. It seems to get the airflow quicker, you know, as opposed to the standard system.
“The quad axle triple is grossing out at 152 tonnes GCM, as opposed to the 136 tonnes achievable with triaxle trailers.You can see the difference in the way those trailers respond to what the driver is doing. Whether it’s at 70km/h at 90km/h here at 30km/h. You can see with that improvement to the suspension system, what an improvement it makes to the handling. You notice the difference straight away. You can see the difference when you sit behind them on the road.”
On some combinations the Base Air system is on the trailers only, but with ‘The Big Picture’, the truck PowerTorque came to see and photograph it’s on the prime mover and the trailers.
“The comparison that I have come back to is that it’s very similar to driving with a steel spring suspension,” says Troy. “It doesn’t have the kick like the old heavy six rod does. but it has that stability aspect, and it gives you that confidence.”
The combination runs to Mount Isa from the Townsville ECC depot three times a week. It is double shifted with one driver handling three runes out and back, making the run from Townsville to The Isa in one 14 hour shift, taking a break there and heading back the following day. After the three are completed the truck gets washed and checked over before a second driver takes over and drives the next three trips.
There’s always improvements, in the industry and when improvements are warranted the leaders in the business will look at them and and make the decision as to whether they’re viable if they suit what what the business needs.
The issue in tankers is that the centre of gravity is constantly on the move in the tankers and that does have a detrimental effect on stability. Experienced drivers learn though experience just how to handle the three trailer and any movement or sway which eventuates.
The Base Air system has the effect of reducing the effect of any sway and improving the suspension’s ability to keep the trailers upright along the length of the more than 50 metres long combination.
“This suspension now gives you more control or control over what’s going on,” says Troy. “It gives us the ability to stiffen up the suspension, where it needs it. It takes out the slosh factor. There’s less chance of that EBS coming on, if the suspension is stabilised. You have still got to watch what you’re doing, you can’t be a drone guy. You can’t just think ‘I’ve got this wonderful air system’.”