Mixing national origins and vehicle buying preferences is just part of the success story of Stefanutti Constructions. Words by Warren Caves, images by Torque it Up
Urbanisation is driving growth in the civil construction and earthworks arena, and, with business growing strongly, it’s enabled Stefanutti Construction to form an alliance with Scania Trucks and Sloanebuilt Trailers to capitalise on our perpetual need for housing, roads and infrastructure.
Italian born, Loris Stefanutti moved to South Africa as a child and spent a good portion of his life there, eventually working in the building industry. Having always had a keen interest in earthworks, he made the decision some 20 years ago with his wife and three children (one son and two daughters) to migrate to Australia.
In a new country, and without knowing a soul, he set about setting up his civil construction business with an old F12 Volvo, a float trailer, one excavator, a front-end loader and two dump trucks (which they still own).
PowerTorque recently caught up with Loris’s son, Giulio Stefanutti, company head of operations, for an insight into their growth and success.
“For Dad (Loris) it was really hard in the early days, and I take my hat off to him, he knew no one and worked extremely hard in those early days after coming to Australia and slogged away for eight long years with those eight original pieces of equipment,” said Giulio.
Originally the business was operated out of a premise at Kembla Grange approximately 90 minutes south of Sydney in the Illawarra. For the past seven years Stefanutti Construction has been operating from its current site at nearby Unanderra. It also has a 10,000 sq m site around the corner, which is earmarked for the development of a purpose-built facility comprising shedding, office space and the necessary infrastructure to accommodate their growing demands. This is scheduled for commencement in the next two years.
Stefanutti Construction specialises in civil construction works on road establishment and repairs, subdivisions and bulk earthworks as its core business. With a large base of its own, the company uses its dozers, graders, excavators, scrapers, dump trucks and on-road trucks to fulfil their own contract work as well as subcontracting out their plant and trucks for the projects of other companies and bulk material movements.
A truly family-owned and run company, Loris and Giulio are both actively involved in the running of the company. Lisa and Chiara, Giulio’s two sisters, joined the company a little later when things got busier, and they also employ over 100 staff.
Giulio said, “We have experienced steady growth over the last ten years with the last four years in particular seeing the business basically triple in size, which is why we are outgrowing our current premises.
“Currently we have no real need to travel any further than Sydney for most of our work, with the Illawarra and Southern Highlands contributing to our workload as well. There was a quiet period of about three to four months in 2013 when we had to venture a bit further afield, taking on work in both Newcastle and the ACT, but we don’t find that necessary at the moment,” explained Giulio.
“Our routine scheduled maintenance, and basic repair work is handled in-house by our own workshop, staffed by four mechanics and our parts person”.
“We run a mixed fleet of Volvo, Scania and Isuzu trucks. Southern Truck Centre is the Volvo agent around the corner in Unanderra, and Illawarra Truck Repairs is our local Scania agent located at Port Kembla. Between these two options, and with our own service and maintenance crew, unless it’s a major problem or a warranty repair that might need attention we don’t need to take our trucks back to Sydney for repair.
“The Isuzu trucks are fitted out as mini-tankers and are filled from our 30,000-litre trans-tank to handle all our on-site refuelling needs. We tend to try and leave our machinery on-site for the duration of the contracts, depending on the location, as we do suffer a little from fuel theft and vandalism on unmonitored machinery.
“The most distressing event we have experienced was the setting fire to two excavators, one of which was Loris’s original unit that had just been refurbished. This hurt the most as it had an emotional connection to the family. However, floating machines constantly up and down Mt. Ousley is no cheap operation either, so, unfortunately, it’s a bit of a trade-off as far as cost is concerned,” lamented Giulio.
To facilitate growth, the purchase of new equipment becomes necessary, and Stefanutti Construction has recently commissioned into its fleet a new Scania R560 body tipper and three-axle dog trailer combination, soon to be followed by a second identical unit.
Two years previously, the company purchased it’s first Scania, being an R620 prime mover, which is alternated between floating machinery to site and towing a tipping trailer. Giulio says they have had great results with that truck and developed a good working relationship with Scania Trucks at Prestons in Sydney. This experience obviously influenced their final decision to purchase further Scania trucks, with a second body tipper and three-axle dog trailer combination already in the build and scheduled for completion in late January 2018.
“We envisage that these new units will be split 50/50 between our own contract needs and subcontract bulk earth movement and we have been very pleased with the whole process,” said Giulio.
The Scania features the DC16 560 engine, a 15.6-litre V8 design with a single-stage turbocharger and SCR catalytic converter, producing 560 hp (412 kW) @ 1800 rpm and 2700 Nm (1991 ft-lb) of torque @ 1000-1400 rpm delivered to the Scania RB662/R660 differentials, with power divider and dual-axle cross locks via Scania’s GRS0905R automated manual transmission.
Ironing out the bumps, the front axle features parabolic leaf springs while Scania four-airbag suspension looks after the rear end.
Safety features on the truck include both active and passive systems offering passenger-car-like levels of safety. Standard fare is, daytime running lights, lane departure warning (LDW), advanced emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control (ACC), and a driver’s side airbag.
Braking is via Scania electronically controlled disc brakes, with integrated EBS, ABS and traction control, also featured is Scania’s hill hold function, which proves to be a real asset when starting off from an incline on unsealed surfaces at high weights.
Scania’s hydraulic retarder further enhances safety providing rapid deceleration whilst reducing brake temperatures and minimising wear.
When it came to selecting a tipping body manufacturer, Giulio said they evaluated other companies but came back to Sloanebuilt Trailers of Smeaton Grange, NSW and have been very impressed with both the level of service they have received and the speed of completion.
Prior to the aluminium tipping body being installed, there was a good deal of design work “nutted out” between all three parties to come up with the final design.
Due to the length of the standard chassis and wheelbase, the fitted body would have been set-back well away from the back of the cab, resulting in a large air space there. This would be both aesthetically unpleasing and impractical with regards to weight distribution, and simply moving the body forward would have more than likely resulted in excessive steer weights.
The solution? It was finally agreed that the best course of action would be to shorten both the chassis and the wheelbase by 400 mm and set the body a little further forward, resulting in a reduction in the rear of cab to body gap of 700 mm. The shortening and subsequent modifications to driveshaft, airlines and electricals, plus fuel tank and other component relocation were completed in Brisbane.
The final result is a Sloanebuilt 4500 mm long, 1535 mm high, rock-lined aluminium tipping body with a CS13 Edbro hoist, LED lighting and topped off with a Georges Canvas 12-volt Auto tarp to keep the airborne dust at bay. The chassis and the side sheets are painted with PPG Autothane paint in Scania grey and Scania white respectively.
The three-axle low-body dog trailers are also of aluminium construction, 6700mm long and 1535mm high. The trailer is fitted with an Edbro CS15 hoist, plus a grain shute located in the tailgate and is rock lined with 5mm plates for durability.
Although the trailers are to operate within standard weight parameters for the N.S.W road system, the chosen design as far as safety is concerned, more reflects that required by P.B.S regulations, with BPW axles featuring disc brakes, vertical shock absorbers, ABS and EBS to ensure safe and controlled operation in varying situations. This is a prudent decision influenced partially by the raft of safety features on the Scania R560 towing unit up front, providing a balanced and stable combination throughout its length.
A JOST ball-race mount is fitted and a 1550mm tandem axle spread is used, with two 63mm axle weight pressure gauges fitted to the off-side of the trailer, adjacent to the aluminium water tank.
Stainless steel quarter arch guards sit over the front wheels and “Stefanutti “company mud flaps enclose in the rear bogie. Six “Alcoa Dura-bright” ten stud rims are used on the outers and six level ones on the inside.
As with the truck body spec’ on top sits a “George’s Canvas” 12- volt “Auto Tarp” with manual over-ride and gear reduction.
Lights are L.E.D with seven marker lights per side and round rear indicator, stop and reverse lighting.
With the first vehicle complete and its initial performance already assessed, Giulio said the weights are just about perfect.
“We were a bit apprehensive as to how the weight would throw, and thought we may have had to pay special attention to the way it was loaded. However, we needed not worry as our drivers say that we are well shy of the 6.0-tonne mark on the steer axle without making loading allowances, so we’re quite happy with that.”
“We have been really pleased with the job done by Sloanebuilt Trailers and we envisage that our new combinations will be run 50/50 in use between our own contract jobs and outsourcing to other companies for bulk earth movements,” concluded Giulio.