In a yard just off the main highway in Two Wells in the flat dusty Northern Suburbs of Adelaide, Gaetano Capaldi has worked hard building up a substantial business specialising in delivering chicken feed. Pulling into the yard, one of the workhorses for the company is being serviced. It’s a Western Star 4800 pulling a bulk tanker set up to handle the chicken feed.
Gaetano has a good idea of how much work each truck will do, week in, week out. The fleet is organised to always have a spare truck, something vital in a 24/7 operation. However, once the spare truck is starting to be used more than 50 per cent of the time, Gaetano knows this is the point at which to go out and get another truck and expand the fleet to cope with the higher workload.
Time is of the essence in this game. In a typical day for a tanker heading out to the furthest farms around Port Wakefield, within a 50-100 km radius, three loads a shift is normal. On the shorter runs the tankers will manage four a day.
Increased compliance requirements from the customer, resulting from CoR changes, add time to each driver’s day. Gaetano reckons it amounts 30-45 minutes each day. There is more paperwork to handle and the weights have come under increased scrutiny.
“Compliance and CoR is the biggest change,” says Gaetano. “I think it’s a good thing within the industry that it is happening. There are a lot of guys out there, who really shouldn’t be there and it sorts it out. We’ve just put all of our guys through a course on mass management. We have got them up to speed so they also understand the law.
“Sometimes an employee won’t understand something when it comes from the employer, but when you have an independent trainer coming in, it’s different. So, the drivers understand it a lot better now and things have changed since then. So, we are going to look at a few different workshops with different associations.
“The mass management one was very good for us, even for us as managers, it opened our eyes to a few things. There’s a lot to think about, like making sure there’s a paper trail. At the end of the day if you don’t have proper records…..”
Getting and Keeping Drivers and Technicians
Drivers are either night shift or day shift workers, they do not rotate. They all work five days on, two off, with the days off spread throughout the week. This does enable the drivers’ body clocks to get some sort of stability. There are, as always, casual drivers who can fill in when needed.
“We’ve got 15 drivers, at the moment, including the one on interstate,” says Gaetano. “Finding drivers is a hard one. Good drivers are hard to keep, but I have drivers who leave and come back. That happens in transport, but I have a couple of long-termers who have been here over seven years. The younger ones tend to move on, but the middle aged guys tend to hang around.
“The work is not bad, we are not seasonal, the seasons don’t affect us. The only thing which affects us is heatwaves, the birds don’t eat and just drink a bit. These only last a few days. We’re pretty much the same all year round.”
Now the operation has reached this size, any new employee has to do an online induction into the Capaldi business, followed by a further induction for the mill where the trucks load and then more information about the unloading sites, especially the breeder farms. The mill or the farms can do random compliance checks of driver, license and truck, and often do.
GPS tracking on the trucks is used to monitor where the trucks are and to police self imposed speed limits. There is a strict company policy stating the speed limit on dirt roads is 60 km/h, regardless of the posted limit. Dropping down from the previous 80 km/h limit has seen maintenance costs drop considerably.
The next stage is likely to be forward facing and cabin cameras monitoring the roads and driver awareness and fatigue. The camera also rules out the possibility of getting into a ‘he said, she said’ situation if there is an incident.
Capaldi’s runs its own maintenance program and ensure every truck goes though the workshop once a week.
“We’ve got one full-time mechanic and an assistant in the workshop,” says Gaetano. “Plus we have a full time driver here washing the trucks for our biosecurity. He washes two trucks every day. Everything gets washed at least once a week and the tankers are cleaned and inspected inside.
“We have our own internal maintenance system. We do our own A,B and C services on trucks and trailers. Since we’ve opened our workshop, we do a bit of outside work for other people as well.”