Brenton O’Connor and Monty Khaira have a MAN-to-MAN discussion

Monty Khaira, of Simba Trans in Melbourne’s western suburb of Altona, operates three prime movers under exclusively contract to Owens Container Transport, a fully owned subsidiary of Mainfreight. As a confirmed MAN supporter, Monty recently purchased his second MAN prime mover with the aim of hauling a Super B-double combination of up to 77.5 tonnes from Melbourne’s ports to the Owens depot in Altona.

Born in India, Monty’s family moved to Africa when he was young, where his father was employed constructing the railways during the time when large parts of Africa were under British rule. Some 15 years ago, Monty moved to Australia for further opportunities and started ‘from the ground up’ in the transport industry, initially with driving medium rigids loaded with palletised freight around Melbourne. From there Monty purchased his first prime mover, a used 2006 Volvo FH460, which, after 1.2 million km, was sold to purchase his first MAN.

The first MAN was purchased in 2012, as a brand-new unit supplied through Westar in Dandenong, Melbourne. This truck was the largest MAN model available at that time, the 26.540 with its 540 hp 13-litre engine. This truck is still used in Monty’s fleet today, and while its 630,000 km showing on the odometer may not sound excessive, the engine has completed a substantial 20,000 engine hours of operation, testimony to the type of work this truck handles with containerised freight.

Long wait times at the wharf mean very high idle times, and, according to Monty, the truck needs to be kept idling as the queue is constantly moving up. Also, in the warmer weather, the engine needs to be running to power the cab air conditioning. Monty trialled the Fresco auxiliary AC unit but found it doesn’t have sufficient cooling to chill down the large cabin of the MAN in Melbourne’s hot summer weather.

This success of his first MAN was the impetus behind Monty’s decision this year to purchase a second 26.540 MAN from Westar in Dandenong, through MAN salesman Tony Lamana.

Prior to purchasing the latest MAN, Monty sourced quotations from other truck manufacturers for units suitable for his type of work. Having undertaken the price comparison of various European B-double rated prime movers, Monty found them all to be within a similar ballpark figure, with no particular standout truck at either end of the pricing spectrum.

As a result of this product evaluation, Monty’s purchase decision was based upon aftersales experience, with his satisfaction with the service levels provided by Westar in Derrimut proving sufficient reason to stay with the MAN brand and the local dealership.

The new MAN 26.540 TGX is powered by the MAN 12.5-litre, six-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled engine that provides maximum power of 397 kW at 1900 rpm and with peak torque of 2500 Nm rated at 1050-1350 rpm.

With a parabolic front suspension and with an eight-bag air suspended rear that is electronically controlled for ride height, the MAN features disc brakes front and rear, with EBS and ABS as standard fitment. Also available is the safety pack, which adds adaptive cruise control, lane guard system, emergency brake assist and emergency stop signal system.

Operators looking for higher power and torque output can now choose the MAN TGX-D38. Powered by a 15.2-litre, six-cylinder, common-rail fuel-injected diesel, this Euro 6 compliant engine produces 560 hp and peak torque of 2700 Nm.

In addition to the two MAN prime movers, Monty also runs a Mercedes-Benz Actros, which, due to its 50 tonnes GCM, is limited primarily to single trailer, side-loader work.

The new MAN 26.540, with its impressive red paintwork, alloy wheels and bullbar certainly looks the goods, and stands out in a sea of white trucks fitted with steel wheels lined up at the wharf waiting on containers. One of its major features is the 90 tonnes GCM rating that enables Monty to undertake Super B-double work. What also impressed Monty was MAN’s willingness to support the truck through maintaining the standard warranty terms and conditions, without alteration, despite running at such high weights.

Super B-doubles in Melbourne, running under PBS standards are allowed up to 77.5 tonnes on selected routes. Unfortunately, Melbourne’s famous Westgate Bridge has an imposed GCM limit of 68.5 tonnes, meaning it’s off limits to Super B-double combinations. This restriction results in these longer and higher payload trucks travelling through the dense urban streets of Footscray and Yarraville, in Melbourne’s inner west. There is an end in sight to these restrictions, with the completion of the construction of the Westgate Tunnel due in 2022, at which time these trucks will be able to move off suburban streets and avoid truck curfew hours currently imposed on some of these routes.

The MAN 26.540 spends most of its time running as a Super B-double carrying two 40’ containers, generally loaded both ways, with exports of grain, wine, fertiliser and recyclables being carried to the wharf, and then back loaded with consumer goods being imported into the country. The truck carries these goods on its PBS-approved route back to Owens’ impressive fully-concrete hardstand facility in Altona. From this point, the containers are either stored in the yard, or loaded onto regular B-doubles or single trailers for delivery to the end user, typically within a 150 km radius of Melbourne.

Monty singles out Kevin Rampage at Westar Derrimut for his exceptional knowledge and service levels provided to MAN customers. Kevin was trained in the United Kingdom on MANs and has since moved to Australia bringing with him countless years of expertise of the MAN product.

Monty is particularly pleased with Westar’s ability to fix simple issues on the spot, rather than having to book the truck in, drop it off, leave it, and then return to collect at a later date. Any larger jobs are booked in for completion at a mutually convenient time on a later date.

One particular example supporting Monty’s comments of support for Westar customer services results from when a new clutch was installed in his older MAN. This was completed within a total time of eight hours, which in anyone’s book is an outstanding effort.

Monty’s new MAN is covered under MAN’s “Comfort Plus” service plan, which fully covers the truck from back to front, including simple things such as globes and fuses, giving him peace of mind and also the ability to budget correctly for the length of time he will own the truck prior to changing it over.

When it comes to fuel economy, Monty finds the MAN to be very economical with fuel figures varying due to the different weights carried and also due to the highly volatile nature of Melbourne’s traffic, however he mentioned that over 2km per litre is not uncommon for the truck working as a b double loaded in both directions to and from the wharf.

Monty, who still does some of the driving himself, finds the MAN very comfortable. At his request, Westar has reprogrammed the ZF 12-speed AMT to default to a first gear lift off, rather than third gear, to save on clutch wear and minimise the effect of the high gross weights he encounters pulling the Super B-double.

Monty is very focused on growing his business and has worked hard to build his business from the ground up. His recall of numbers and prices is second to none, and, whatever question was thrown at him on the day we caught up to discuss his truck, he was able to answer with the exact cost and kilometres of when certain issues occurred.

His relationship with Westar and MAN is strong, thanks particularly to his satisfaction with the service department, and its ability to keep his trucks on the road working. In a low profit margin game like container freight, reliability is highly critical, as unplanned and lengthy downtimes eat into the small profits that are available to those who operate successfully in this environment.

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