For a high pressure, high mileage fleet like Blenners Transport from Tully in North Queensland, preventative Maintenance is vital. Hauling fresh produce out of North Queensland to customers all over Australia is a high pressure task. By sticking to the task and always looking for improvement, Blenners have become an iconic refrigerated transport operation, recognised nationally.
The shuttle trucks running up and down the East Coast on staged runs are doing the most kilometres, well over 330,000 km each year. The line haul trucks heading over long distances to other destinations do a little less, at around 280,000 km each year.
Running at these kinds of numbers means the maintenance team need to keep on top of the game and minimise any breakdowns. Most of the trucks will return to Tully every seven to ten days, although the road trains to Perth have a 12 day turnaround.
The processes used in the workshop are all designed to cover all of the bases in terms of preventative maintenance. With trucks travelling so far from base, it is essential to ensure they will make it back to base intact.
The fresh produce transport business is all about customer service and keeping all of the trucks on the road as scheduled and on time. There is little room for breakdowns and fixing trucks in remote locations.
“We base all of our maintenance strategy around breakdowns,” says John McKnight, Fleet Maintenance Manager. “We track every breakdown”. Whoever handles the breakdown fills out a form with all of the details captured from the event. That gets thrown into a spreadsheet. Then, every couple of months I go into the spreadsheet and review the data. I need to pick up where we are seeing trends of failure.
“Then we will develop a strategy to address that failure. If we have turbos failing at 540,000 km we will set up preventative maintenance at 530,000. We have been doing this for the past five years and reduced our breakdown rate considerably.”
This kind of analysis is followed up with training staff as to what to look for when servicing.
There’s No Planning
“There’s no planning in this job. I come from a mining background and I used to plan equipment to come out of the ground every eight weeks,” says John. “There’d be a plan and parts ready and waiting. I came over to road transport and it’s turned into, ‘the truck you’re expecting today got turned around’.
“You’ve got to put processes in place so that you are probably over-servicing equipment, so at times when the freight task has a higher tempo, you still remain compliant. You run the fleet so, if a truck does miss a week, it’s not going to go non-compliant and it’s not going to break down. The quality of the equipment has to still be there.
“To put it plainly, we overcook everything. The reason we do that is to allow the business to have some degree of flexibility. It can utilise the equipment when it needs to and keep the customer happy. The biggest thing for us is we want to comply, we need to do things right every step of the way, while keeping that flexibility in the fleet.”
For example a truck on a Tully-Adelaide-Brisbane-Tully run may have to stop in Brisbane and load for Sydney, if another truck goes down. This means it will be doing considerably more time and kilometres before servicing.
A truck or trailer can sometimes get close to the wire in terms of servicing, so John has one member of staff go through all of the data every month to do a self-audit. This ensures everything is getting correctly serviced. If any omissions are identified, they Operations will get notified immediately and if they are non-compliant, they will be stood down until the problem is fixed.