Being an island state, Tasmania brings in, on average, about 15.5 million tonnes of freight every year.
Over 90 per cent of international freight that arrives in the state comes through one of the three facilities owned and operated by Monson Logistics. These depots — in Burnie, Bell Bay, and Hobart — are custom and quarantine approved.
Just recently, in conjunction with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Monson Logistics undertook major upgrades across its sites with the installation of facial recognition scanners recently completed in Burnie and Hobart.
Two-factor authentication of people movements in and out of the depots was a recommendation by a taskforce created by customs to ensure greater security compliance according to Managing Director Bruce Monson, who founded the company in 1992 with his wife Toni.
“The truck drivers now have a card to get into the depot,” says Bruce. “To obtain that card they need to verify their identity for customs. When they scan their card not only do they need to have the card, but it physically scans their face and it recognises the face with the card that’s been scanned.”
Instead of having somebody monitor camera footage all day to verify arrivals and departures, it was decided after some investigation that facial scanners would be the best technology to employ.
“As far as I’m aware we’re one of the first depots in Australia to actually use facial scan technology on all drivers and everybody coming in and out of the depot,” says Bruce.
“There’s quite a few movements through the gates and it’s working well. We had 90 trucks come in and out of the Burnie depot on the first day we had the system implemented.”
Monson Logistics undertakes all deliveries for its key account, Timberlink, which has a main softwood factory in Tasmania, Australia-wide. That equates to the delivery of ten trailers a day to the mainland.
Most of that, moreover, is delivered direct to the customer whether that’s Bunnings or other hardware stores. The fleet uses a combination of flat trays and curtainsider trailers for this task. On the back load the curtainsiders carry steel mesh, bottles for the wind turbine industry or miscellaneous freight into Tasmania.
“Most of that is 45-foot trailer work,” says Bruce. “Because we’re going in and out of Bunnings stores and all the other major retailers, we want a smaller more manoeuvrable type of truck.”
And that truck is invariably an IVECO.
Monson Logistics would be one of the biggest operators of IVECO prime movers in the state with some 60 prime movers on the books. Earlier this year a new order of IVECO S-Ways was completed, 20 units to be precise, five of which are already in action.
These initial trucks have been designated work in a Brooklyn depot in Melbourne’s inner-west, the company recently acquired from a retiring subcontractor as part of its mainland expansion.
The subcontractor, Eganmay Haulage, was running a fleet of 18 Kenworth 600 horsepower prime movers, most of which are of a 2004 to 2006 vintage. Those vehicles the S-Ways have replaced are in the process of being sold off by Monson Logistics who has introduced, according to Bruce, a better suited truck.
“The cabover is a bit more agile getting in and out urban areas,” he says. “Also, the safety systems are really good like lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and the automated manual transmission (AMT) makes for a better experience driving around the city.”
The S-Way is the first heavy segment vehicle IVECO has brought out from its factory in Europe. It is fully imported into Australia and features the latest technology.
“When they were building trucks in Australia the technology was a couple of years old by the time it was tested in Europe and then put into their factory in Australia,” says Bruce. “As a result, we’ve had quite a jump in technology that’s available now in the trucks because we’re going straight to the European spec.”
Five of the new IVECO S-Ways are rated at 550hp, making them equal to the task of the odd B-double assignment in country Victoria, with the others featuring a 460hp powerplant.
The remaining units due by March next year, will be assigned to Tasmania as the fleet phases out some long-in-the-tooth IVECO PowerStars. In Tasmania the fleet, at present, constitutes the IVECO Stralis cabover, ranging from 460hp, 500hp and 560hp variants. Timber industries globally withstood an upheaval in 2021.
Tasmania though went largely unscathed. Just as harvested plantation timber is considered a renewable resource, Timberlink is currently expanding its factory following stronger than usual timber sales.
The sawmill produces in the vicinity of 200,000m2 of sawn timber a year. Timberlink is also in the process of refining its operations to hit its zero emissions target by 2030. That’s another reason why Monson Logistics is investing more heavily in the new IVECO S-Ways given the Euro 6 trucks, profile favourably, with a lower emissions output.
While the demand for timber has been inordinately high it is steadying according to Bruce.
“Most transport companies in Tasmania can move fairly quickly to adapt to the local conditions,” he says. “Aside from Team Global Express down here, the majority of the transport companies in Tasmania are privately owned as opposed to being corporate. Customer service goes a long way with a lot of the local companies here. I think people are more loyal.”
The fleet utilises 60 trailers for its Tasmania to Melbourne transport task. Of those 25 are flat tray trailers to accommodate the movement of steel products and components for infrastructure work. As a bond store provider, Monson Logistics processes a wide range of cargo from overseas, destined for many of Tasmania’s large manufacturers and infrastructure projects. These are unpacked at their depots before being delivered to site.
“Any infrastructure required components from overseas ultimately comes into our facility and then once it’s in our facility, more often than not, we get the opportunity to quote, unpack and deliver it to the end user,” says Bruce. “At the moment the state is the beneficiary of lots of infrastructure work. There’s a lot of cargo moving. We also export a bit of product as well.”
Originally founded as a shipping agency business organising ships loading bulk concentrates, bulk logs, and bulk woodchips mainly out of the Port of Burnie, Monson Logistics, as Bruce recalls, expanded its operations in time to meet the needs of many companies it was dealing with on exports that also required domestic transport assistance.
They purchased their first truck in 2003. By 2007 the fleet had grown to seven trucks. A depot in Bell Bay was purchased in 2010 soon followed by the Burnie site in 2012.
At the time they were running 14 trucks. The following year Monson Logistics purchased a depot in Hobart.
“Up until 2015 we used a subcontractor to do a lot of the timber deliveries to Melbourne,” says Bruce.
“In 2015 we decided that we would do that ourselves. So, we scaled up which meant we had to start getting backloads from Melbourne as well. Once we took over the Burnie depot in 2012, we started doing international container storage and bond work for ANL and now we represent every major shipping line in Tasmania doing all their bond work down here and any movement of empty or loaded containers on their behalf in Tasmania.”
The company now employs around 100 staff. They possess 160 trailers and operate 30 forklifts and have just introduced three reach stackers to the Burnie container facility.
It’s located on a 7-hectare site, making it one of the largest off-wharf container depots in the state. Truck Safe accredited, Monson Logistics also complies with NHVR fatigue management and NHVR mass management.
All trucks feature tablets which include an incident reporting system. All jobs are scheduled electronically — there’s no time sheets to fill out.
Telematics are provided by MTData. Maintenance is conducted via a system called Gearbox with all pre-starts completed electronically as well.
“We allocate each driver a truck and that’s theirs to look after all the time,” says Bruce. “Overtime is not an issue. We always have overtime available. If drivers want to work overtime, then we can give them 12-14 hours a day most of the time, every day.”
He adds, “We don’t work night shifts.”
Having commonality across the trucks through the IVECO brand helps with parts and servicing.
The business, unlike many others, escaped the pressures of having to revise their approach to new asset investments when a timely delivery of seven new IVECO X-ways landed in January 2020 before supply chains tightened up.
“We weren’t under pressure to update any of our trucks until we did purchase the Melbourne facility in Melbourne last year,” Bruce explains.
“The fact that we’ve had all of our trucks with IVECO saw the OEM work extra hard to make sure we got priority on trucks that were coming in on order because they had, at the same time, just moved from their factory in Australia to Europe. IVECO worked very well with us. We did have eight or nine trucks on order at that time and we managed to get another dozen units on order for delivery in the following six months which was good.”
The new trucks have been welcomed by most of the drivers. That said, some resistance has been encountered in Melbourne from Kenworth loyalists.
“A lot of people love their Kenworths and especially with all the extra safety features on the S-Way you do have to adapt your driving style especially with warning signals and alerts,” says Bruce.
“Overall, they’ve been received quite positively in Melbourne and in Tasmania we’ve been using IVECOs for 20 years. There’s not too much change here. The drivers are used to them and the main thing they like down here is the comfort. They can do a 14-hour day and get out of the truck and feel quite refreshed especially if they’ve been driving some of the older type trucks.”