Catalano’s is a strong family focused business in Brunswick, near Bunbury in Western Australia, which has grown from a small local country trucking operator to an operation working in many areas of the state with tippers, tankers and a large fleet of equipment involved in many major transport and earthmoving projects for governments, mining operators and others.
Although there are fluctuations in the business as the projects come and go, the Catalano operation expects to stay at around the same size into the future. They were bigger in the latest WA boom, with more than 400 employees, but the number is steady now around the 350-mark. In the early 2000s, the payroll got up to 500 plus, and it was all going well, until it all fell over. The business has consolidated back into where it wants to be.
The current fleet of trucks sits somewhere between 50 and 60 trucks. Alongside these, especially with the large outer ring road contract running, there are also around 40 subbies to help handle the work.
When it comes down to the choice of trucks, the long-haul work is handled by Mack trucks, in the main. There are also some Western Stars among the fleet. Alongside them some Volvos are involved in certain tasks and there are also a selection of Scanias and Kenworths.
The combinations include a lot of twin steer prime movers or twin steer tippers pulling different trailer combinations. There are also what they call the ‘two and a half’ combinations, which are a B-double pulling a single dog trailer at the rear. There can also be a rigid tipper with two trailers.
However, the main combination is the WA pocket road train, which comprises a prime mover with two tri-axle trailers with a tri-axle dolly. These run at 27.5 metres long and at 98 tonnes GCM. These pocket road trains have access just about anywhere a truck needs to go in the state. This combination has superseded the previous favourite which was a four-axle rigid with a five-axle dog trailer.
Catalano’s have to run a big workshop with all of the machinery it runs, this means that all of the maintenance is done in-house, all the trucks and trailers can be handled alongside the excavators and bulldozers.
The company has a fully manned workshop team but has struggled for people in the past couple of years. The team of fitters is around 50 strong. Some of them work out at mobile sites for specific projects. They also run a number of contract fitters as well.
“We probably fall in love with our gear and keep it too long,” says Clem. “What we generally do is, we will do a rebuild after 1.2 or 1.3 million km. Then halfway through that rebuild life, we’ll get rid of it. It all depends on the truck, and what it’s doing too. We’ve got the trucks that do a lot of hours but not a lot of kilometres. Then we’ve got some on the long runs, doing some of the tanker work and doing high kilometres.”
In terms of monitoring all of this gear Catalano’s use MTData, which is hooked into the maintenance program. Prestart checks are monitored and maintenance programs pull in equipment, trucks and trailers into the workshop when issues are reported or regular maintenance required. All the trucks run through the workshop at night.
“We haven’t got driver monitors or cameras watching them,” says Clem. “We pick it up on the MTData, because that comes up with all the waypoints for speeding, and then you got the fast cornering and heavy braking alerts.”
The kind of work involved means the fleet does not have to stretch the limits on fatigue issues. Longer haul drivers can manage their own fatigue within a relatively relaxed schedule. Other drivers on shorter runs rarely need to go over 12 hours in any day. Most drivers only have a five-day week. Drivers working out of the port get warning if there is a ship due in on the weekend in need of unloading.
All trucking operators in WA are involved in the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation as part of their certification to operate in the state.
“We get audited all the time,” says Clem. “We can we do an internal audit ourselves, and then we get outside auditors every every 12 months. They come in and check us and we don’t have a problem with that.”
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