The answer to profitability for TJB Transport Services means 20-metre efficiency under 19-metre constraints.
As a strong supporter of both the Mack and Volvo brands, well before they became part of the same corporate group, Cliff Brown of Newcastle made his living behind the wheel of prime movers hauling semi-tippers, backed up by flat-top and general freight when the tipper industry went quiet.
Not surprisingly, when Cliff’s son Tristan started driving trucks, it was the Volvo and Mack brands that led him to look closely at what he would subsequently operate when, with his partner Kristie Smith, he started his own business, TJB Transport Services of Beresfield, Newcastle.
“Dad owned trucks, and driving is in the blood. He was always a Volvo man, operating G88 and G89 prime movers and even an early F86. I remember as a kid riding in his Mack E9500 V8 Valueliner. That’s the way it’s always been, and, with Dad now having passed on, we put “Dad’s Ride” on the front of my truck in his memory,” said Tristan.
In April this year Tristan took delivery of a brand-new Volvo FH540 supplied through CMV Trucks in East Gippsland. With the Hercules Trailer manufacturing facility being relatively close to the dealership, Tristan opted to maintain a common link with his previous truck, a Kenworth T404 SAR, which also features Hercules bodywork.
The T404 SAR is a 2005 model powered by a Cummins ISX Gen II engine. It’s rated at 550 hp and is a pre-EGR and pre-DPF version.
“I bought theT404 as a day-cab unit through Gilbert and Roach of Newcastle and already knew the previous owner and its history. It had been operating as B-double on tipper work on a 24/7 basis and had notched up one million kilometres. The chassis was already built to tipper spec, and I had it converted to tipper and dog.
“With the delivery of the new Volvo, I’ve recently been joined by Mathew “Frog” Wilson who drives the T404. Mathew is a qualified heavy-vehicle mechanic that I’ve known personally for ten years and was with Wallsend colliery until they shut it down and made him redundant.
“The new Volvo was purpose-built specifically because we have to run off an 18 m weighbridge. I wanted a truck that conformed to PBS 20 m spec, and there is not a truck on the market with a bonnet that will fit on an 18 m bridge. It has exactly the same wheel spacing as a 19 m SAR even though it is 20 m in length (at 19,995 mm).
“That includes everything, with a bull bar, a long draw bar and bodied with a big 8350 mm long bin as a quad-dog combination. Delta Hydraulics supplied the 65TT hoist for the truck and also the 77TT hoist for the trailer. We also specified Right Weigh digital load scales.
“This 20 m combination gives me a total load volume of 65 cu.m, with a 39.5-tonne payload within a gross of 57.5 tonnes, and it tares off at 18.34 tonnes including 680 litres of fuel and a 90 litre AdBlue (DEF) tank. By being able to maintain this level of efficiency it has justified us looking at ordering our second unit.
“When comparing the fuel economy of the Volvo with the T404 SAR, the Volvo is just ahead on fuel, despite carrying an additional 10 tonnes more in payload. At the moment I am getting 1.9 km/litre and this consumption figure is for running loaded both ways.
“I particularly like the safety features of the Volvo. With the truck featuring EBS and ABS and disc brakes, I’ve insisted on continuing that design spec throughout the trailer for absolute compatibility.
“Hercules completed the PBS accreditation and the quad-dog features Hendrickson INTRAAX axles that come with a 1.2 million km warranty, disc brakes and a full Knorr-Bremse EBS system with roll stability control.
“It’s an amazingly safe system. There’s nothing like disc brakes. I can pull it up anywhere and the braking is unbelievable.
“When it comes down to maintenance, the truck is a fully greaseless system apart from the BPW ball-race turntable, the tipping pins on the back of the body and the back of the subframe. Service intervals are 40,000 km, and as an operator you really benefit from the reduction in maintenance intervals that lead to lower operating costs.
“Our business is based on carting quarry products and specialised grains and meals that require a dry containment. As I cart dry sand that has zero moisture in it, I had my own requirements for a completely waterproof, roll-back tarp system.
“I worked out my design ideas, and Hercules was able to incorporate my requirements and link them to a wireless remote-control Razor powered roll-back system.
“We are aiming for simplicity in recording systems and absolute accuracy. In addition to running manual work records for compliance we run all electronic mass management to validate full compliance. This includes electronic pre-start checks, and, although it’s not compulsory, a fully electronic work diary.
“When it comes to the mass management side of things, the Transtech electronic recording system provides axle weights, the start and finish location, kilometres travelled, docket number and identifies, and records every individual axle weight.
“You set the reporting intervals, and at the end of the term you log on and all mass management, pre-start checks etc. will be printed out. By positioning the data unit on the centre of the dashboard where it is right in front of you, rather than up above the windscreen, it’s right by your fingertips and is easy to keep up to date.
“The RMS doesn’t seem to be interested in the electronic management, even though it provides everything and more details than they could ever require. But with the way compliance is these days, if you are not up with it you have no chance.
“Our future buying policy will be centred on Volvo and Mack for the simplicity of the I-Shift and the mDrive. If we can get the axle spacing right with a bonneted truck, we’ll be looking at a 685 hp Super-Liner, and when the time comes for replacement of my FH540 I’ll be looking at the FH700.
“The performance of the FH540 is on par with the Cummins 550 because of the 1920 lb-ft of torque. I can just match the Kenworth and just start pulling away as I head up the Hawkesbury over Ourimbah on the M1. If it was 1850 lb-ft I reckon it might struggle.
“The Volvo pulls well, and I know when I load it to 50 or 50.5 tonnes the Kenworth at 550 hp is a direct match. If we do go ahead with a Super-Liner it will be 685 hp. The 700 would replace the 540 after a four-year programme, as I would keep the bin and the dog.
“Because I also do a lot of work out towards the West, the option up from 540 hp to 700 hp, price-wise, means there’s very little difference. It’s a bigger motor, and, although it’s 600 kg heavier, I would get 39.5 tonnes when set up with a sleeper cab and bull bar.
“I don’t need the new I-Shift with crawler gears, first gear is low enough. The only thing I don’t like is when in soft ground and you want to be able to rock it back and forwards to clear mud. It doesn’t really like it. But, for what we do, it’s perfect,” said Tristan.