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THE BITUMEN HIGHWAY | TRANSPORT NEWS Speedies Contractors

Knowing your business in depth can mean the difference between fighting for work and always keeping busy. 

The need for specialist transport solutions spans such a broad spectrum that for many of us there remain areas of which we have no experience. While that can restrict the opportunities when looking for new work, for those with specialist knowledge of a niche area it can mean the continuation of regular work because of a lack of experienced competition on the open market.

Australia has more than 817,000 km of roads, and, of these, only around 355,000 km are sealed. This leaves 257,000 km of roads with a gravel or improved surface and 205,000 km of dirt roads.

The main composition of sealed Australian roads uses bitumen as the surface layer, but most sealed roads will have two or more other layers that stabilise the roadway. These layers are primarily made of a mix of bitumen, crushed rock, compacted sand, chalk and larger rocks, dependent on the local conditions. Most rural roads are usually made of earth, loam, gravel or bituminous spray seal.

Bitumen plays a major role in stabilising our road network and providing a durable sealing system, often combining other materials such as synthetic rubber compounds to promote integrity and adhesion.

Back in the ‘60s, Garth Knowles was a sprayer driver in the bitumen industry working at that time for BHP, before it became absorbed by Boral. For the ten years from 1960 onwards, Garth operated rigid tippers for sealing work, followed by asphalt work.

From the late ‘70s, Garth and his wife Helen started to expand into the bulk tanker and low-loader segment, and this diversity enabled them to expand the business again from the ‘90s as Queensland ramped up its infrastructure activities.

These days the company operates under the name of Speedie Contractors and its main focus is on carting bulk products, although it still retains an interest in spray seal and the asphalt work using rigid tippers and live-bottom trailers.

The live-bottom trailers are particularly effective in this application as they remove the risk of trailer tipping instability.

The original supplier of live-bottom trailers was Etnyre, but more recent purchases have been manufactured by Trout River Australia and supplied through its Queensland-based dealer, Shepherd Transport Equipment of Larapinta, Brisbane. Shepherd Transport also supplies and fits the hydraulic systems used on the trucks in the fleet.

The Speedie Contractors fleet comprises 34 powered units, which are predominantly bonneted Kenworth models such as the T408 and T409, plus T609s and the latest T610. With 30 trailers in the fleet the company operation includes running single trailers, B-doubles and road trains to peak weights of 97 tonnes.

“Our operations with Boral are based from the company’s Eagle Farm depot, whilst our work with SAMI Bitumen Technologies is based from a separate facility we operate at Pinkenbar,” said Simon Knowles.

Cummins is the main engine supplier and this preference has continued with the T610, which features the latest X15 engine complete with UltraShift PLUS dual-mode transmission. There are also four PACCAR MX powered T409 prime movers and these again are fitted with the Eaton UltraShift PLUS Roadranger with the dual-mode transmission management option.

“With the bitumen industry you are always 50 percent unladen on trips. The dual-mode UltraShift PLUS is much more civilised. We first experienced a dual-mode UltraShift PLUS Roadranger at a Kenworth drive day and were really impressed. It’s particularly capable when coupled to the PACCAR MX engine and is a great match. We also run a Mercedes-Benz with the Telligent AMT,” said Simon Knowles.

“Our fleet focus is on the standardisation of EBS and roll stability. We still find drum brakes to be more reliable given that a lot of the work we do is on less than class-one highway.

“Bitumen tankers do get exposed to less than ideal road conditions, and we find the disc brake does not handle the poorer quality roads as well as the drum brake. The durability of disc brakes versus drum brakes can also be affected by additional corrosion where the units are subject to coal dust water ingress with a high sulphur base that can occur on haul roads.

“Personally, I love disc brakes, and, with prime movers in different applications such as with low-loader work, they are fine and you wouldn’t have anything else. We have some DAF tippers with discs and they are fantastic. We also have a further eight trailers already fitted with disc brakes.

“Drivers are now noticing the effect of EBS and adjusting their driving style accordingly. The latest systems also provide increased options for the monitoring of vehicle use and we are just about to move into evaluating downloads from the trailer ECM in association with the information we obtain from our NAVMAN vehicle tracking system.

“We were the 29th company in TruckSafe in Australia, we are in NHVIS and mass management and that all helps you in terms of relationships with State Road Authorities as well as insurance companies. With NSW commencing mandatory EBS fitment for dangerous goods transport from 2019, we expect that other states will follow suit,” Simon added.

As Ian Williamson, sales executive of Holmwood Highgate, confirmed, “Once NSW started the ball rolling about EBS and roll stability we made the decision to only build trailers that included these features.

“We don’t offer an EBS alternative and the difference between the pricing is minimal. Our preference is to use the two-axle actuation sensor as this provides the security of knowing that if one axle should suffer a sensor failure the remaining axle sensor is able to continue exercising EBS control,” he added.

Additional safety and operational benefits include Wabco TailGUARD and the RearGUARD and SideGUARD systems. These apply the trailer braking systems automatically when a person or obstacle is detected in the vicinity of the trailer, such as during reversing manoeuvres. On-board weighing systems with driver notification inside the cab or via a mobile phone app are also available.

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