Hauling Fresh Produce is a High Pressure Task

Hauling fresh produce is a high pressure task, especially out of North Queensland to customers all over Australia. By sticking to the task and always looking for improvement, Blenners Transport have become an iconic refrigerated transport operation, recognised nationally.

Hauling Fresh Produce is a High Pressure Task

The operation has a number of depots across Queensland, in Tully, Brisbane, Innisfail, Townsville, Mareeba, Cairns and Mackay. However, the fleet only has one workshop, at company headquarters in Tully. The person charged with keeping the fleet on the road and efficient is John McKnight, Fleet Maintenance Manager.

The fleet in question runs to 160 trucks and 220 plus trailers. Most of the trucks are high mileage prime movers pulling singles, B-doubles and road trains all over the country, including regular services to Perth.


“Like any company in the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme, we report any missed services and faults,” says John McKnight, Fleet Maintenance Manager. “We try to be as accurate as we can. I don’t hold back any numbers. It is what it is, a working business. As long as we keep improving on a month-by-month or quarter-by-quarter basis, I am happy with it.”

The business is Trucksafe and NHVAS accredited. The fleet uses a MT Data fleet tracking system throughout its vehicles. This includes MT Data Fleet Manager, which has enough flexibility built in to enable John to get the kinds of reports he needs out of the data. It can be tailored to the needs of a smaller or larger fleets.

“We actually still do a manual count for our auditable reports,” says John. “The reason for this is because ‘data in’ errors can occur and I don’t want to get total faults recorded, or whatever, wrong. We still manually check that data for submission every quarter. It ensures the data is as accurate as possible.

Hauling Fresh Produce is a High Pressure Task

Managing the Fleet.

This year, Blenners will be retiring their first Cummins ISX E5 SCR powered trucks into local work, from line haul.

New trucks on arrival into the fleet go straight on the highest mileage work, on shuttle runs. After two years at this level, they will move across to another two or three years on line haul work. At the end of this period they will either be traded out of the fleet or put on local work.

“Our trade-ins are pretty clean trucks,” says John. “We take them off line for a week before we trade them in to ensure they are fully cleaned up. The cab is buffed, parts are new, oil leaks are sorted. This is because we want people who buy our second hand trucks, we want them to say, ‘We want a Blenners truck’ because they know it’s been through a good process in its life.”

Looking to the Future

Across the company, Blenners are always looking to improve productivity, either to lower cost or improve durability. In the workshop, John has instigated a process to utilise the collective knowledge of the maintenance team. Starting with spare parts and now across other departments, he is looking at has a ‘benefits capture scheme’.

“Benefits capture is generating and loading a pipeline of cost saving activities,” says John. “In spare parts, my manager supervisor will need to report to me a pipeline of projects. They might have 12 categories of parts, filtration, coolants, lubricants etc. Every year, I am looking for them to take a category to market to make sure we are still at the best buy price.

“It’s like mini-tendering. At the end of this I need to see some improvement in the total cost of ownership model, whether they identify the part will last twice as long but only costs ten per cent more or negotiate the price down on a current part. It has delivered quite good results over the last couple of years. It’s all about giving people buy-in to the whole project.

Hauling Fresh Produce is a High Pressure Task

“You don’t want staff who don’t care about costs, you’ve got to drive a behaviour where they start to care about it. I’ve got a lot of subject matter experts who know a lot more about parts of the equipment than I do. I have to got rely on them coming forward with suggestions, it can’t all come from me. It’s about empowering them to come to me and say, ‘we can extend these oil drop intervals, because of this or that’.”

Ideas can be tested and sampling done to see if costs can be reduced. The pipeline needs new ideas to be put in at one end and they may come out of the process and get rejected, but others get taken on board.