Gaetano Capaldi has a found a niche feeding the chooks in which to thrive and keep under the radar, out of sight of the big boys, based on the flat dusty Northern Suburbs of Adelaide, which are home to most of the trucking industry in Adelaide. From here the roads to Perth, Darwin, Sydney are all accessed without the grind through the city to the foot of the Adelaide Hills and the climb up to the road to Melbourne.
The yard just off the main highway in Two Wells is in an ideal situation for trucks delivering chicken feed to farms dotted around the flat plains between Adelaide’s Barossa Valley and North. 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 one MAN working general haulage, but the rest of the fleet consist of six Western Stars, a Freightliner and a Kenworth. He began concentrating on Western Stars about four years ago as the fleet replacement process continues.
“Our main line of business here is chicken feed,” says Gaetano. “We work for a company called Baiada, who own Adelaide Poultry and we supply and service all of their farms around Adelaide. Currently, we are handling 42 farms, running a 24 hours a day, seven days a week operation.
“The chickens don’t stop eating so we have to keep feeding them. We are hauling an average of 4,700 tonnes per week, both to broiler and free range farms. We also take approximately 350 tonnes per week to the breeder farms.
“We have one truck running out of a smaller mill and the rest out of the main site at Wasleys Mill. We run a combination of five trucks in the day and four at night or vice versa. The work is pretty steady on all seven days. With seven trucks, and because we are only running five at any one time, it allows us to rotate trucks on the maintenance side of things.
Gaetano took over the fleet 10 and a half years ago with just three trucks and the feed business has grown that number to the current eight. Gaetano bought the contract back in 2007, the seller was also a chicken farmer and sold the transport side of his business off to concentrate on his core business.
“It’s been a hard 10 years,” says Gaetano. “As the poultry company has grown, we have grown with them. Adelaide Poultry is my customer, their orders go to the mills and then we collect them up on behalf of the poultry business. These loads are delivered to the farms of all of their contract growers.”
The farms are owned by the farmers but the feed is supplied by the company, which is part of Baiada, and which is contracted to buy the chicken when ready. Some farms can go though up to 80 tonnes of feed a day.
Loads are in 25 tonne lots, in the main. The business runs one B-double at 32 tonnes payload, but the rest are semis. The furthest run to a farm from the mill is 90 km. The base mill is about half an hour North East of the depot in Two Wells. Each truck will move something like 750 tonnes per week.
The business runs mass management but can only go to Concessional Mass Limits, and one extra tonne, as the local roads are not classed as capable of handling Higher Mass Limits. However, even at a one tonne gain in payload, this saving mounts up to over 180 loads a week. As usual, local council access is the sticking point for higher productivity.
“We are experimenting at the moment with onboard mass scales on both our truck and trailer,” says Gaetano. “We are trying to eliminate the need to blow off feed, if the trailer is overloaded, to save time. As the trucks are loading, the driver can see the gauges, as they are mounted on the top of the cab. They can see the mass and stop filling.
“The drivers are still getting the timing right. We will need to find a happy medium. We also have trouble at the site, because the ground is a little uneven. The weigh-bridge doesn’t give us axle groupings. So, we’ve developed a system where we are within a few hundred kilos, but it would be nice if we could just get the right weight and go.
“We’ve been trialling it for about six months, it still has a few teething problems, but we’ve got to get it right. To fit the system in all of the trucks it’s a $10,000 exercise. We have them on two trucks at the moment and it has got me thinking about tare weight.”
In fact, Gaetano is considering a radical change in the company’s operation. He is assessing the impact of getting rid of the tankers and going over to using tippers. This would buy a reduction in tare weight and it is possible to pump the feed out of a tipper in the same way as it is pumped out of the tankers.
A tanker will unload in 35 minutes and tippers are capable of about the same performance, according to Gaetano. Tippers are quicker to load as the driver doesn’t have to line up a top hatch, as they do on the tankers.