A Most Wanted MAN

The very mechanism of road construction and repair calls for 12-hour shifts day and night, so that work-flow must, where possible, remain unbroken. Timing is everything for companies like Elite Roads, a civil construction business that runs a full service of profiling, asphalting and road repairs across metropolitan Melbourne. The task of delivering on each project can be challenging given windows are often narrow and road crews need to be well co-ordinated.

Elite Roads is a start-up made good by Managing Director Deon Coote, who launched the business in 2012 after 15 years working for others in the civil construction industry where he gathered a wealth of knowledge and contacts to resource when the time was right to go out on his own.

The business has grown quickly. A total of 60 staff are employed day and night. Deon, by his own admission, supports the site managers when required and is responsible for ensuring the jobs go ahead with minimal delays.

This includes overseeing the contracts for the award sections applicable to each new project. Melbourne is a hot bed for overdue road upgrades, rail level crossing removals and infrastructural augmentations.

Elite Roads, at present, works across all three areas. It also has contracts on the West Gate Tunnel project and the Federal Governments Blackspot Removal Program. The company’s steady growth, according to Deon, can be ascribed to its quality of service offering.

“For us it’s about giving the customers what they want and when they want it,” he says. “We try and cater to their needs in a streamlined and prompt manner.”

One of the areas it has made major inroads to facilitate greater gains across the business has been job-to-office reporting.

“The communication between site and office is critical for us. We identified that as an area with which we could facilitate gains in productivity and reduce delays,” Deon says. “Ultimately, the customer is the first to benefit from this. If there’s any issue it can be rectified straight away.”

The flow of production is considered crucial and managers are engaged in anticipating potential threats that might create obstacles or stem operations. With clients that include VicRoads, Major Projects Victoria and local councils, the pressure to perform is constant.

Even so, each project is not without its challenges. Pavement issues are bound to crop up. Operations must factor in obstacles whether unforeseen or not on a 24-hour cycle to cope with the hours of availability. Shifts are generally 12 hours. Moving fast is key.

“We’ve developed tools that can report on the job quite quickly,” says Deon. “There’s purpose-built software that we’ve developed that can provide live updates on what we’re in the midst of doing. If there happens to be any problem, it can be photographed and put into a document and sent through to the client to get an answer so that the job maintains progress. We’re pretty innovative with our electronic processes.”

Asphalt laying is an industry in demand during times like these in which there is heavy investment in infrastructure projects around Victoria. Elite Roads maintains six MAN trucks in its civil construction fleet. Five of these are MAN TGS 26.540s coupled with Trout River livebottom trailers, now synonymous with the daily and safe transportation of asphalt and road base.

A more recent shift in the construction and civil works industries has been informed by the growing popularity of walking floor trailers. It has, through the ease of use, convenience and drastically improved efficiencies, come at the expense of semi tippers.

Unlike a tipper and dog trailer there’s no need to unhook the livebottom trailer as it can be backed directly into position. Deon estimates this alone saves 20 minutes each time. For this task the MAN TGS 26.540s have excellent manoeuvring capabilities around the work sites.

Livebottom Trout River trailers are best defined by a hydraulic conveyor belt on the floor that discharges the load at a measured rate to minimise accidents and spills to provide added flexibility as unloading can be done under power lines, high foliage and overpasses.

After traveling through Europe, Deon settled on MAN commercial vehicles having repeatedly seen the trucks on the road on civil construction projects not unlike those he oversees in Melbourne.

He wasted no time looking into the trucks, initially struck by the competitive package as far as price point and reliability goes. Strong sales, especially in Europe to respected transport outfits working on big scale infrastructure jobs, helped to make up his mind as to what he needed.

“That gave me confidence that the overall package was well priced and reliable,” he says. “I needed a truck that was versatile and capable of handling the load bearing without missing a beat every day, every week, every month. On repetitive short haul the MAN is a workhorse that meets our foremost considerations and reliability, given the demanding and ongoing nature of our work, is top of the list.”

The MAN TGS trucks are loaded at two Alex Fraser locations in Laverton, for jobs in the North and northwest, and Dandenong in the Southeast. A higher powered MAN TGX D38 coupled to a low loader plant trailer is relied upon to haul the excavators, asphalt pavers, rollers and other equipment required on site.

According to Deon, the asphalt trucks have made a noticeable difference in Elite Roads taking greater control of operating efficiencies and evading costly shutdowns in production.

“That means having the product there on time when you need it. The MANs are a type of truck that delivers value to our business. As there’s no tipping now we don’t have to worry about powerlines or hitting anything overhead on the work site. So there’s a huge safety benefit as well,” he says. “Spills in which the asphalt falls in front of the machine can often cause disruptions to the paving. When there’s a pile of product it requires a clean-up and needs to be transferred back into the hopper. That in itself can create unwanted bumps on the finished surface of the asphalt. It all takes time.”

The ease of unloading and then returning to the asphalt quarry for the next load and coming back accelerates an increase in deliveries in the same duration of hours.

Payloads are restricted to 27 tonnes.

“Under this scheme the operation is much smoother,” Deon says. “Everything is automated. The truck driver doesn’t even have to get out of the truck.”

Deon expects to see a lot of growth in the industry over the next five years given the vast array of funded major projects in Victoria.

The company is currently also working on tram super stop projects where accessible points are created to allow more people to get on and off trams in Melbourne.
This involves re-routing tram works to create these stops.

Elite Roads is a versatile business and it needs to be in this era of mobility and revenue diversification. This was built into the operation early according to Deon.

“It’s certainly something the guys have become accustomed to. One day they’ll be working on a freeway, next day they might be working in a car park. From different extremes they’ve come to adapt,” he says. “All staff sign on to a daily tool box to understand the safety requirements as the work environments bring with them different considerations and change with regularity. It’s another reason for having chosen the MAN vehicles.”

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