Taming mongrel fleet
BOB Hancock didn't quite fall into the container transport business by accident, but close to it.
Sixteen years ago he was working for Joseph's Transport in Fremantle when the owner became unwell. Bob put a deal to him to buy him out and he took it. The name was changed to Container Cargo Specialist, and most of the people stayed on.
Along with the company came experienced people, a loyal customer list and a handful of decent trucks, even though it was a "mongrel" fleet - different brands and configurations.
Pretty quickly Bob zeroed in on a specification and brand that he could standardise for efficiency and that would give him some leverage with the supplier.
A couple of 1989 used UDs were the first purchase in 1996, followed by another two used UDs before CCS bought its first new UD in 1998 and the brand has remained the major supplier ever since.
The operation moved across the harbour to the South Molle development so it could take advantage of some fresh space for stacking. The yard and storage sheds now take up 10,800 square metres, and there's another 8000 square metres out at Bibra Lake.
The latest UD to join the fleet is a GW470 6x4 with an Eaton UltraShift automated manual transmission. It joins 20 other UDs, plus a DAF and an MAN prime mover that have been bought as competitive comparisons. Another 14 sub-contractors are kept busy in the business as well.
All the new equipment is clutchless - Bob feels it's best to employ drivers who can focus on being good "steerers" and let the driveline look after itself in all the stop-start work.
The MAN was an opportunity "we couldn't afford to miss," according to Troy Hancock, the general manager and Bob's son. AV Trucks, which used to supply UD in WA, saw the franchise move to Truck Centre when Volvo Group decided to merge all its brands under one roof. But it retained MAN and Western Star, so it wasn't hard to give the MAN a go.
So far all is good, but the UD remains popular with the service people and drivers.
Because the work is so intense, the CCS fleet has to be versatile enough to do anything, although the UDs work best with the sideloaders because they are the shortest wheelbase and have the tightest turning circle. The sideloaders now have on-board powerpacks to avoid the need for PTO connections.
Bob and Troy are keen to upgrade the fleet to the latest emissions standards to make sure there's no chance of losing the fuel rebate for non-compliance.
Although CCS will deliver anywhere, most runs tend to be within a 100-kilometre radius of the port. A lot of the work is very short haul with transfers between terminals keeping the fleet on the go permanently.
The maintenance team looks after all the equipment with only major warranty work going out to the supplier's agent.
UD's GW 470 is being seen far more frequently around wharfs across Australia. The brand has made a major impact on the Sydney scene, starting with some evaluation units that won friends wherever they operated.
Drivers who run the trucks report that in this environment, the GW brings interstate cab comforts to a city transport task. The GW cab is by far the best equipped and styled of all the Japanese prime movers. The wrap- around instrument panel impressed me at first drive and has only been refined.
Ultimately, the GW470 is a perfect all-rounder fit for an operation that may need a B-double set towed to a regional centre every now and then but doesn't want to buy a specific big-power prime mover just in case that happens.