Payload pays off for PBS triple rig across Nullarbor
GTS FREIGHT Management's new PBS triple rig on the SA to WA run attracts attention wherever it goes, even including a couple of Main Roads inspectors at the road train assembly area in Northam, 100km east of Perth.
But not for the reasons you might think.
I was taking photos of the truck and B-double set as driver Ash and I waited for the lead trailer to arrive.
The black Vawdrey trailers with dramatic purple flowing stripes along the side glistened in the early morning sun and were the only ones in the top section of the yard.
Together with the big Mack in a matching colour scheme waiting quietly for the hook-up, the inspectors couldn't have missed us.
But it wasn't an inspection they were after.
They just wanted to have a look, and after a brief chat about the spec, complimented Ash on the rig before rolling off and heading back to the Great Eastern Highway.
Damien Matthews is the managing director of GTS Freight Management, based in Mildura.
He told me that the reasoning behind the new set-up was simple.
"From 68tonnes to 106tonnes with still only one truck is a no-brainer," he said.
The rig handles the east-west run weekly and the specs are tailor-made for both the load and the road.
Mack's 685hp Superliner with M10 power was the perfect fit for the long-distance haul.
Towing a multi-trailer rig requires a high level of rolling stability and the long-wheelbase suits tracking as well as offering the space needed for a high fuel load.
Damien specified an all-Mack driveline - the ATO3112D mDRIVE 12-speed AMT transmission is a variant of the Volvo Group's I-Shift transmission family, and easily handles the engine's 3180Nm of torque.
Mack's Grade Gripper hill start assist is standard with the mDRIVE, although you'll be waiting a fair while to face up to a hill-start on the Nullarbor.
My experience with this engine and box towing another operator's 100-tonne triple road train is that it'll skip shift from zero to 100km/h, using the full range of the engine's wide torque band (1000-1560rpm) and 89 per cent torque rise, changing only five times with a gentle throttle foot, on the flat of course.
Behind the engine it stays Mack all the way back to the tapered rail chassis ends. The PowerLeash engine brake, Mack 2370B axles and Mack Air Ride suspension means the gold dog sits proudly on the bonnet.
The chassis itself is Mack's Advantage, which offers a residual bending moment up to 212,000psi.
Behind the truck is a trailer set designed and built by Vawdrey. The company is the key supplier to GTS - more than 95 per cent of the 225 B-double tautliner trailer combinations have their brand name stamped on them, including some 4.6m high 36-pallet PBS High Cube tautliners with mezzanine floors for maximum volume loads.
This particular rig is a combination of unique and standard. The company's existing fleet of 36-pallet B-double sets meant it made sense to include them in the planning.
The B trailer has a rear axle setting forward of the trailer end to maximise the pallet count. The lead trailer was built shorter than standard - 22 pallets - so that the Mack's long wheelbase wouldn't take the rig overlength.
That thinking also meant Vawdrey's people signed off on a bogie dolly instead of a tri.
The engineers told Damien the rig was fine with the shorter unit, and he's had no negative feedback from the drivers.
Additionally there's the performance benefits and fuel saving from one less axle to pull and less weight.
Planning for the rig started last year with the straightforward idea of maximising capacity for produce and general freight on the long haul west.
Damien said the approval was really just a matter of process.
"We'd done our homework and the approvals came in as we ticked all the boxes," he said.
Numbers wise, the business case isn't hard to figure out.
The rig allows a 56 per cent increase in payload over one of the company's fleet B-doubles (68 to 106 tonnes), but burns only 25 per cent more fuel (1.6 to 1.2km/litre).
That calculation means the productivity of the rig is allowing the company to expand capacity on this run without the major expense of a new prime mover.
However, I was also told that the success of the formula means another triple rig is in the making.
GTS is a family business that started in Mildura in 1980. It has grown to become one of the largest wine and beverage transport distributors in the country.
Presently around ten per cent of the fleet operates in the vicinity of its origins within the boundaries of the Sunraysia region, but the rest of the plant works across Australia, averaging around three million kilometres each month.
The company is mass management accredited through the NHVAS and operates the fleet to Concessional mass limits throughout New South Wales and Queensland, and Higher mass limits (HML) in Victoria and South Australia.
To keep all that on the go, GTS uses auto-greasers and synthetic lubricants on all the trucks in the fleet. These measures have helped to extend service intervals to 50,000km. Lab testing of oils at each service allows early detection of problem components.
The fleet is overseen via real-time satellite tracking, a proof-of-delivery system and in-house logistics software that allocates a driver and rig to a designated job.
A dedicated driver manager oversees the driving team, and coordinates on-road and web-based training programs.
The company's warehousing currently around 30,000sqm in total, with 21,500sqm insulated to meet the requirements of the Australian wine industry. 1500sqm is a temperature controlled bay and another 360sqm is refrigerated down to minus 18 degrees if required.
The depot in Adelaide has been operating for several years now and the company is growing. To the extent that Damien is considering a new purpose-built depot to service the growing freight task.
The GTS Mack triple is a key part of the company's push to maximise service to its customers across the country.