Express freight specialist AJM Transport has engaged a number of different truck brands over the last 15 years for its fleet but now prefers to be dealing with a known quantity. Paul Matthei speaks with Anthony Mansell, Director of AJM Transport, to find out more.
Based at Beresfield near Newcastle, AJM Transport specialises in express freight along the eastern seaboard between Brisbane and Melbourne. The company also runs an express freight service to Darwin, employing a two-up driving team operating the flagships of the fleet – a pair of Kenworth T909 conventionals. The two do opposite legs with one hauling a quad road-train and the other a B-triple.
The remainder of the line-haul contenders in AJM’s 46-strong Kenworth flotilla are the evergreen K200 cabover hitched to double drop deck curtain sider B-doubles traversing the Pacific and Hume highways between the northern and southern state capitals.
According to AJM Transport Director, Anthony Mansell, the company’s Beresfield base is ideally situated between Brisbane and Melbourne. This, he says, ensures close to ideal fleet utilisation with the trucks virtually running 24/7, basically only stopping for loading/ unloading, driver changes and rest breaks, fuelling and scheduled servicing.
“With our shuttle system we use four prime movers rotated around three B-double sets,” explains Anthony. “It can get quite involved which is why some other transport companies have moved away from this method. However, it works well for us due to our Newcastle location.”
As Anthony goes on to explain, this consistency in operations has enabled the company to develop an extremely fine-tuned blueprint for preventive maintenance procedures. These procedures are essential to ensuring close to 100 per cent reliability from the Cummins engines and Kenworth trucks during their lifecycles.
“We know pretty much exactly what we need to do with the K200,” says Anthony. “In terms of a truck for our business model, we virtually know it down to every last nut and bolt.”
He proceeds to elaborate on the company’s fleet management program, saying that a new K200 purchased for the shuttle service will average half a million kilometres per year. After two years and one million kilometres, the engine is rebuilt and another year after that the gearbox and diffs are rebuilt. Following this, either the cycle is repeated giving the truck an effective working life of six years or it is moved to a less kilometre intensive role within the company which might see its useful life pushed out to seven or eight years.
“It’s a bit of a juggling act,” admits Anthony, “because we don’t want all the trucks coming up for replacement at the same time. We try to spread them around to the different roles to keep a consistent flow of them coming and going. It’s also a matter of sequencing the downtime of the trucks for the minor servicing as well as the major component change-out events to ensure we have sufficient trucks on the road at any given time.
“For instance, as an alternative to the previously mentioned scenario we may buy a K200 and run it hard on the shuttle for the first 12 months then pension it back to a lower kilometre run in which case the engine rebuild isn’t needed till year three and the diff and transmission rebuilds till year four.”
He goes on to explain some other component replacement intervals that the company has deemed necessary to ensure the elimination of the dreaded and expensive unscheduled downtime.
“With the shuttle runs, because each truck is doing between 10,000 and 11,000 kilometres per week, we don’t have the luxury of things progressively breaking,” says Anthony. “So we have a fairly stringent preventative maintenance program and we change out things like drive belts and tensioners at regular intervals. The upshot of all this is that we have determined pretty much exactly what we need to do with the K200 to ensure ultimate reliability for our operation.
“We made the decision to stick to what we know we do best, which is the overnight express service with either straight through, change-overs or shuttle operations,” says Anthony. “And we’ve grown the business from there.”