“I learnt early on in the piece about fuel economy. An unreliable truck with good fuel economy, you don’t want,” says Ken Pitt, All Size Equipment Transport (ASET) Managing Director. “It’s hard for us. We are running against a lot of wind and on smaller tyres. It’s very hard to compare loads and consumption. I’ll take reliability every day of the week.”
The world of agricultural machinery transport is not the easiest market sector to work in. The loads are invariably awkward. They are big and indivisible, as well as heavy. Carting this equipment interstate introduces countless issues of over-length, over-width, over-height and sometimes over-weight. Vehicle dimensions and bridge formulas also come into the equation.
The ASET fleet currently has 23 trucks on the road. There are another two in the workshop being built. These are two Freightliner FLB trucks being completely stripped down and reworked to fit into the ASET envelope.
The fleet has 35 trailers, of which a few are custom-built specialist trailers. The plan is to grow this number as fast as possible. Although a lot of the bread and butter work done by the fleet can be handled by the normal off-the-shelf widening trailer, Ken would like to see half of the fleet pulling the more flexible customised models.
At the moment, 30 drivers handle the work. The fleet runs at Basic Fatigue Management (BFM). Ken is looking at a more flexible approach to fatigue with more flexibility as to when drivers can take 24 and 48 hour breaks. If the load is wide, a driver cannot leave the depot, deliver to WA and get home in one week. They end up having to take a day off at Ceduna, a day’s drive from home. He feels some form of Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) may provide a solution.
There are no illusions for drivers – this is a complex hard working task. The loading process involves a lot of handling and physical work. There is also a need for precision, when machines are loaded close together, the driver has to secure the load in a way that will not damage the goods.
Some drivers can come into the business and have the right kind of experience. Someone from a farm background will have experience of driving some the large machines they will be shifting. Machinery like self-propelled sprayers have a high centre of gravity, and when loaded on a trailer, needs a steady driver who will not rush. As a result, most of the drivers are from an older demographic.
This fleet is clearly very different from many plying their trade on the highway. However, it has found a niche market to work in and a method of working which works for a very specialist type of operation.
To get this kind of specialist type of operation to function properly, it takes someone willing to think a long way out of the square to achieve the aims of the operation. If there is one thing Ken can do, it’s think outside the box, or the envelope in this case.