According to Steve Davidge and his wife Sam, who run a small operation from a modest yard on the edge of Temora NSW, it’s important to keep flexibility in the fleet. Typical of transport businesses in the area, their operation serves the agricultural industry with sets of tippers geared to handle the cyclical changes of location and product as the seasons change.
The Davidge business was formed in 1970. However, the family had been running trucks for some time before that. Originally, the family business was based on the south coast of NSW at Moruya with Steve’s father and grandfather hauling for the logging industry.
The basic business started off just carting logs, but was extended after 1975 when they began to handle general haulage, in and out of Sydney, up and back from Moruya.
At that time there was also a growing demand for grain in that area and they began to haul grain from inland NSW back down to the coast. The grain was being moved on flattop trailers, tippers, at the time, were a rarity. Sheets were laid on the bed and over the gates, then the grain was shovelled into place.
The double road trains run at 36 metres and for them to run through to Temora the trucks have to be on mass management and use triaxle dollies and run with road friendly suspension. The business has two road train sets, but the operation can run with three B-doubles and one road train, if needed. When there is no road train work one truck will work as a single trailer.
One of the B-double sets has a trailer which is fitted with a sliding triaxle set, so that it can be used either in a B-double or in a road train. Steve reckons the flexibility in the fleet introduced with the sliding triaxle could be introduced into the rest of the fleet to improve flexibility to cope with changes as workflow goes up and down.
“They have opened it up in a fair few spots for road trains now,” says Steve. “We have also been able to get permits through the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to get around town here. If we are taking gypsum loads to a particular place all of the time, then we will push to get a permit into there. They have opened the roads up now over to Wagga Wagga. Things are getting a lot more user-friendly.
“We put in applications and the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) will come out and have a look to see whether they will allow the permit. We got knocked back over a couple of corners with our road trains last year. There were a couple of tea intersections which weren’t good enough.”
The gypsum work is all road train work. Often they will have to pull into the yard, drop a trailer and then deliver each one as a single, in areas where there is not enough access for a double. There have been steady if slow improvements in the access available to the bigger road trains.
“Having to drop trailers and run them in as singles is very time-consuming and fuel burning,” says Steve. “Our double road train it’s probably only about 28 metres long anyway, and the B double can run through these routes at 26 metres. To the public’s eye there’s not much difference between them anyway. It wouldn’t look any different. The road trains with triaxle dollies truck pretty well.”
The business has looked at running larger combinations under the intelligence access program to further improve flexibility in the fleet, but found that the benefits did not outweigh the costs of setting the whole thing up to the business.
Keeping an Eye on Things
The Davidge Transport fleet uses the Dynafleet option, available in the Mack trucks for some of its tracking and telematics needs. Steve admits that the company doesn’t need a lot data and it’s probably underutilising the data which is available to them.
With the advent of the new trucks fitted with MP 10 16-litre engine and the M-drive AMT, Steve has used the Dynafleet monitoring of the trucks to track how well the drivers are coping with the new gearbox.
“Because the drivers hadn’t driven the AMT trucks, weren’t used to them and they don’t need to drive them like they used to drive a manual trucks, we had a Mack bloke who actually came down, jumped in the trucks and went out with them,” Says Steve. “The information can be brought up in the Dynafleet and actually shows you how they are performing.”
Steve reckons the drivers did get something out of the exercise and he could see the change on the Dynafleet after the drivers had been taught how to use the and drive AMT properly. One driver in particular seemed to get the message straightaway and improved in all four sectors in which the system monitors each driver.
“We’ve always had three drivers who have stuck with us for a long time, but the fourth driver has been difficult to find and we have them coming and going,” says Steve. “We have also had a few casual drivers, but they are all cocky’s sons and so when spray time comes around they’re not available.”
Steve himself does not drive any of the trucks full-time. Instead he spends some time running the trucks around locally, when needed. The family run a couple of businesses so he has to divide his time between the two. They also run a horse breaking and training business. Steve says he is often out on horseback, with a phone in hand talking to road transport customers.
The truck maintenance for the business is handled by a subcontractor, Jason, who dedicates several days a week to the Davidge business but also works for others on their trucks. The two new Mack Superliners are still under want warranty and get serviced at the local Mack dealer in Wagga.
The operation is also in the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme. It runs on standard hours, Steve says there is a certain amount of work which needs to get done in a week and the drivers can manage it without being pushed too hard. The system seems to work for them.