The fuel operation run by John Fraser is definitely trucking Territory style. The business operates out of Katherine providing a dedicated delivery service in the Territory for IOR Petroleum.
“There are two trucks on fuel full time, plus one subcontractor,” says John. “We have the 700hp Volvo rigid with three trailers, and we have a Kenworth K200 tri-axle prime mover pulling three trailers.
“It has a pusher axle so it gives you full loading on the drive. With the pusher you can get 22.5 tonnes on the drives in the Northern Territory. It’s not as expensive as the tri-drive and we reckon we can get away with a bit less maintenance.”
The tri-drive twin-steer Volvo has a completely Volvo driveline and runs at a GCM of 164 tonnes. The truck is actually rated up to 175 tonnes, but this kind of loading is only achievable if John upgrades the dollies’ suspensions.
The truck gets a surprising 1.3km/litre fuel consumption, a good performance at these kinds of masses. The Kenworth K200 carries a little less weight and is a tandem drive, but fuel consumption comes in at about the same level. It uses a 600 Cummins ISX and usually needs to be kept at a higher rpm when climbing, compared to the Volvo.
The rear diffs on the Kenworth are shorter at 4.89:1, so the engine will sit at around 1,650/1,700rpm at the chosen cruising speed of 92km/h. The gearbox is the 18-speed Eaton Ultrashift Plus, which John finds slower shifting than the Volvo, especially in the lower gears.
The Volvo’s tridrive is, essentially, a tandem drive with a third drive axle replacing a tag axle. The power is divided 50/25/25 from front to back on the group, but the control of the suspension has the front two linked as they would be on a tandem drive, and then the third is on an independent control system, receiving data from the other two drives.
“I’ll probably keep this truck for another two years,” says John. “I like to sell my trucks at about 500,000 to 600,000km, while they still have some value in them. It gives the next owner some degree of confidence with a truck which has still got warranty on it and is still the current model. We like to keep our trucks neat and tidy, they don’t have pinstripes all over them, but they look well maintained.
“The Volvo is still serviced at the Mack/Volvo facility in Darwin, because we don’t have the computer to plug into it. We service the Kenworth ourselves, but every 80,000km we take it to the dealership in Darwin and get them to download all of the latest software for it.”
Frasers has one mechanic who will handle all of its servicing requirements. He operates his own business on their site, acting as a service department for Frasers, as well as bringing in his own work in to supplement his income.
All of the trailers in the fleet are made in Darwin by Tristar. The latest to enter the fleet were made out of Weldox steel, which has more structural integrity, enabling it be used thinner in tanker applications.
“They are holding up well,” says John. “Of course, they are over engineered, over-strength, heavy as hell, they are very strong and I have never had a problem. They are all on BPW running gear. If everything is the same, the maintenance is all the same. We need one bucket of grease and only one set of spare parts.
“I will go to any extreme not to have to change a tyre by the side of the road. So if you look at my tyres, you would probably say they are in excess of 60 per cent tread on all of them. The moment I see one start to wear, I will change it and I, actually, sell my run-out tyres. Livestock operators will always buy them, because they run on such rough roads.”