Keep on learning is the mantra for the man behind the wheel of Russell Transport’s heavy haulage operation, both operationally and literally, Shane Rachow. His time is divided between organising loads and gaining route permits in addition to loading, unloading and driving the trucks.
The Russell Group of companies comprises three distinct businesses, Russell Transport, Metro-Lift Cranes and Caloundra General Transport, with common directors and shared support service functions that enable the businesses to work either independently or collaboratively, as needs dictate. This results in a cohesive service offering to clients across a range of disciplines.
For example, the obvious synergies between the Russell Transport heavy haulage division and Metro-Lift Cranes means the two companies are often working together to facilitate the loading and unloading of over-dimensional and over-mass freight.
With nearly 18 years of heavy haulage under his belt, Shane concedes that while his knowledge of the operation is extensive, he is still learning.
“You never stop learning in this game,” says Shane. “There’s not much I don’t know but there’s always going to be someone out there who knows something I don’t. So if I don’t learn something knew every day, I’m not trying hard enough, I reckon.
“One thing I remember my father saying to me was: ‘The day you think you know everything is the day you need to retire’. That’s always stuck with me for some reason and it’s what I’ve lived by.”
Shane goes on to say that nowadays safety and compliance is a huge deal which throws out its own set of challenges.
“Some days I do more paperwork than anything else,” says Shane. “You have to have your transport management plans in place and various other documentation to make sure everything is legal and due diligence is done.”
Talking with Shane, you get the feeling that he’s not the sort of bloke who would want to be stuck behind a desk every day.
“I try to keep it about 50/50 between the office and out on the road.”
When Diesel interviewed Shane, he was due to head off to Adelaide the following morning to transport a large switch room back to Queensland.
“Quite often I’m out on job sites or down at the wharf, which is where a lot of the company’s heavy haulage work originates, then it’s back to the office to get everything sorted.” says Shane. “In addition to the wharf work, we transport a lot of switch rooms to and from various places including South Australia and Western Australia.”
For the uninitiated, a switch room is similar to a large donga fitted out with electrical switchboards for use at the likes of power stations and mine sites.
“The three switch rooms we brought up from Adelaide recently weigh about 50 tonnes, are 4.8 metres high on the trailer, 25 metres long and five metres wide,” says Shane. “The two we are taking over to Western Australia soon are 28 metres long, 7.5 metres wide, weigh 120 tonnes and are around 5.3 metres high on the trailer.
“There’s a lot involved with the planning to get these out from where they are and over to WA.”
Hauling this sort of weight across the country requires both staff and equipment of an extremely high calibre. Dedicated to the heavy haulage task, Russell Transport’s heavy haulage operation has five experienced drivers along with a brace of Drake trailers and six Cummins-powered Kenworth prime movers.
Three of these, two C509 conventionals and a K200 cab-over, are ultra heavy-duty 240-tonne rated units. Shane says it’s useful to have the short-wheelbase K200 for loads where overall length is critical. All three feature 18-speed manual RoadRanger transmissions and Sisu super-duty hub-reduction rear axles with six-rod mechanical suspension.
The two C509s also sport two-speed ‘joey’ boxes which provide an additional gear reduction of exactly half of the standard 18-speed gearing. All up, that gives the drivers 36 forward gears and two reverse to play with!
The three additional Cummins-powered Kenworths, two K108s and a 2000-model K104 are 140-160 tonne rated and all feature 18-speed manual RoadRangers and six-rod rear ends. In addition to the smaller local jobs, these three are used as ‘block’ trucks to help push their big brothers up the Toowoomba range on the ultra-heavy long hauls such as the aforementioned switch rooms going across to WA.
Shane says the 13-year-old K104 is a great example of the longevity potential of the KW models when well looked after.
“It’s still going surprisingly well for its age,” says Shane. “It’s done over one-million kilometres and in heavy haulage that’s widely considered equivalent to more than double the mileage in a line haul unit. We re-powered it with a new Cummins 550hp engine last year which has given it a new lease on life. We expect to get quite a few more years from it yet.”
In general, the company has had a good run with Cummins engines across the board, accodrding to Shane, although he speaks more favourably about the early Signature 620 engines in the K108s and the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) equipped 600hp X15 in the K200 than the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Signature 600s in the C509s.
“The earlier (pre-EGR) Signatures are unbeatable, they’ve never let us down, and the K200’s AdBlue (SCR) engine is pretty good, but the EGR units in the C509s consistently have small annoying issues like not burning off the diesel particulate filter (DPF) properly or some small sensor that’s not playing the game and shuts the engine down – it’s really frustrating. I’m fairly old-school and for me the earlier Signature is definitely the pick of them.”
Meanwhile, Russell Transport’s heavy haulage operation has an all-Drake trailer flotilla consisting of two 10x8s, one 9×8, two 6x8s, one 4×8 and two quads, along with two 4×8 dollies.
“We have all the equipment we need for the work we do,” says Shane. “The heavy haulage arm of Russell Transport is a relatively small but highly valued part of the company and we pride ourselves on doing the work to the highest possible standard. To my knowledge the company has been doing it since near on day one and it really took off about 10 years ago when the gas work started to ramp up.”