Greenmount Hill has an archaic restriction that is slowing down essential supplies.
Greenmount Hill has an archaic restriction that is slowing down essential supplies.

Business as usual at many Perth dealers

YOU could be forgiven for being completely bewildered by the current Australian social and economic landscape.

But if you work in a truck dealership in Perth, you’re in two worlds. At home you’re in lockdown, in transit you’re wondering where the traffic has gone, but when you get to work it’s business as usual.

In fact, in many cases busier than ever.

A ring around of the Perth truck scene this week revealed orders, deliveries, service and parts at full steam ahead. With the logistics sector at maximum capacity, the support network is geared up for the long haul.

Phil Winkless of Truck Centre (Volvo, Mack, UD) said right now it’s almost as if it hasn’t happened. Orders are still coming in, deliveries are continuing, workshop and parts are busy. But they are planning for big changes if complications arise, such as deliveries that can’t be made because the buyer suddenly hasn’t got the money to pay. Volvo is mobilising parts warehouses across the world to make sure the supply chain trucks are always mobile.

They’re already cleaning every truck contact point on arrival in the workshop, even when a technician moves between jobs, and desk jockeys are working from home.

Michael Berti at Scania said the dealership is flat-out with a combination of deliveries and service work. He said the majority of Scanias are now on service contracts so the flow in the workshop is constant.

Frank Johnston at Isuzu is puzzled at how busy the dealership is. Sales from 2018 to 2019 were up around five per cent and this first quarter is even stronger. He said each week seems tighter in some ways but the enquiry rate is still strong. There is a positive reaction to the government’s stimulus packages and he can see many decisions being made on the back of that.

CJD Trucks is busy delivering Kenworth and DAFs to new and existing customers.
CJD Trucks is busy delivering Kenworth and DAFs to new and existing customers.

Paul Wilson at CJD Trucks, the Kenworth DAF dealer also said the government incentives are opening wallets. The dealership has a lot of deliveries scheduled between now and June, with most of the trucks going to interstate, farming and livestock work. There isn’t a high percentage of mining work for them, but as long as the wheels keep rolling they’ll be in business. Parts manager Jack Greig was in on the call and said his people had been flat out for the last several weeks, with no sign of slowing down.

Amber Gaden at Off Road Trucks Australia runs the Australian Tatra distribution from Perth, and they have a lot of new work on the table. Some of the fleets that shifted their specialist off-road trucks to Tatra 7-10 years ago are coming up for rotation and coming back for another dose. The parts operation has 12-months worth of absolutely everything, and with the factory in the Czech Republic still working there’ll be no problem with supply. Most Tatra customers are big companies and they have the horsepower to bring forward scheduled servicing as things slow down, but basically it’s very busy still. OFR is on track to have its best year for deliveries since the boom.

Paul McGovern at WA Hino is still basking in the glow of the 500 series success, and it doesn’t look like slowing down much. He also sees a lift from the new 300 series due soon with a similar safety package to the 500. He has split the day and night shifts in the service area so he can isolate an infection, and the workshop is sanitized between shifts. All trucks are disinfected before they’re admitted into the workshop and his people bring their own cups and utensils when they use the canteen facilities.

Major Motors in Perth is firing on all cylinders.
Major Motors in Perth is firing on all cylinders.

Tim Fiegert was appointed dealer Principal at Daimler Trucks Perth a month ago and said the government stimulus has sparked a number of orders and they are still flat out with deliveries. As well as a big fleet of logistics trucks the dealership also looks after Perth’s ambulance fleet so they’ve taken some steps to make sure they can cover that. He and his people recognise they are an essential service so all their procedures are with health and safety in mind.

The manufacturer position is quite similar across brands, with most closing factories and re-jigging supply lines to be ready when they’re back in business.

Daimler has closed its truck plant in Worth near Stuttgart for a minimum of two weeks. Parts production has continued in a limited way and distribution continues. Locally, Daimler Trucks has split its parts teams so that if anyone gets the virus they can isolate the team, sanitise the work space and shift work over to the remaining workers.

Volvo and Scania have closed their Sweden factories for an initial two weeks. Scania says their Chinese suppliers are now restarting production and those components will start to flow by then.

Locally, Volvo in Wacol is still working assembling the trucks that are on order.

Iveco has shut its Italian plants as well but Dandenong is still producing. Their parts are supplied from Belgium and that’s still going full speed ahead.

WA manager Keith Berwick, who also has NZ under his wing is isolated at home in Perth, as are all Iveco staff whose presence at the factory or store isn’t necessary. He told me that the dealer in Perth is still delivering trucks and taking orders for new units.

Mark Mazza has never been busier
Mark Mazza has never been busier

Mark Mazza’s Southwest Express is on the frontline of keeping WA fed and provided for. He said it’s presently busier than the Christmas rush but repeated every day. His fleet is fully engaged and the driver pool is working huge hours.

Mark made a valuable suggestion to help with the current crisis. In WA we have a roadblock called the Greenmount Hill. Road trains are not permitted to come down the hill. They have to break up the train in Northam, and another truck – and driver – has to head up and pick up the trailers. For each complete turnaround it means six trips instead of two.

You can legally drive a pocket road train down the hill at 106-tonnes, which is far more of a threat than a 36-metre road train at 85-tonnes.

Mark’s asking the government to change the rule by regulation urgently, even if on a temporary basis for essential supply vehicles such as fuel, energy, food and medical supplies, and speed up the process of interstate truck turnaround.

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