Birds of a Feather

A long-held penchant for premium North American conventional prime movers has led Glenn Nightingale to purchase half a dozen Western Star 4964FXC Constellation prime movers, adding a new dimension to his fleet of 32 multi-combination linehaulers.

Having started his transport business with one European cabover prime mover in 1995, Glenn Nightingale acquired his first Western Star in 1998.

This started him on the path of exclusively operating North American prime movers, a decision which he says has served him well over the ensuing years. Glenn’s career in road transport started with a diesel mechanic apprenticeship with a prominent truck manufacturer and progressed to him gaining his heavy-combination and later multi-combination licences.

“I really wanted to drive trucks more than I wanted to fix them, so I got into interstate driving and did that for a number of years,” Glenn says. “However, I soon realised that I was busting my butt to help other people pay off their trucks which I might as well be doing for myself.”

Then a fortuitous event enabled him to gain his first haulage contract ,which he still holds today.

“The guy I was driving for at the time had a good contract carting palletised refractory products including furnace bricks and castings for the steel industry at Unanderra near Wollongong,” Glenn says. “He was planning to retire and offered me first option of taking on the work, which I did, and the job just grew and grew over the following years.”

Glenn’s business subsequently went from the initial prime mover to two then three, half a dozen and so on. Today, the company specialises in hauling everything from steel plates, coils and fabrications to precast concrete, commercial machinery and heavy equipment, catering mostly to the mining and civil construction industries.

Interestingly, the distinctive metallic blue colour of Glenn’s first Western Star cemented the colour scheme for Nightingale Transport henceforth.

The story of how he came to own it reinforces the influence of strong relationships between salespeople and truck operators – along with immediate stock availability when its needed most – in the truck buying process.

“I had ordered a bonneted prime mover for the new contract and was assured it was nearly ready, but during a trip to Melbourne I decided to drop in at the factory in Dandenong and discovered to my dismay that they hadn’t even started building it,” Glenn explains.

“At my wit’s end and desperate for a new truck so I could fulfil my new contract, I called a mate of mine Ron McKenzie who had just started in Sales with Western Star and he asked, ‘What colour would you like, blue or green?’ Ron flew me up to Brisbane and I chose the blue one to drive back, hence how we came to have our blue fleet colour and also the start of our long association with Western Star.”

Nightingale’s work with the refractory company grew in synch with the company’s growth.

Its workforce expanded from 28 to 100 staff at one stage and entailed flat-top work transporting the company’s palletised products all over Australia and returning with general freight.

Glenn says he kept driving until the company had six trucks, at which point he felt compelled to swap the truck seat for an office chair in order to keep abreast of things.

“I had been organising all of our subbies and doing everything from the truck while my then wife managed the paperwork. They were pretty hectic days back then,” Glenn recalls. “Then I employed my cousin and his wife who have both been with me for over 20 years and they now manage the allocating at Unanderra and do a great job.”

As the hub of the operation, Unanderra is where Nightingale Transport has its head office and mechanical workshop, with Glenn’s son Jason fulfilling the role of Workshop Manager, overseeing a mechanic, apprentice and yardman.

The company also has a Brisbane depot at Yatala where Glenn is based, along with another mechanic and yardman.

In regard to the affinity with Western Star trucks, Glenn says he loves the fact that he is able to specify them with a super long wheelbase of 245” (6.2m) and a 68” (1.73m) Stratosphere high-rise walk-through sleeper.

In defence of what could be perhaps construed as over-spec’ing, he contends that his drivers are travelling between 5,000 and 6,000km per week and are often away for long periods and, therefore, deserve to have the extra comfort and convenience these features provide.

Some of Nightingale Transport’s Western Stars in Brisbane.

“Sometimes our drivers don’t get home for up to one month when they’re running back and forth to Perth, for example, so it’s only fair that they have something decent to live in,” Glenn asserts. “You don’t want to be squished up in a confined space and shifting your bags every time you want to get into the bunk.”

Other ‘home comforts’ in the Western Stars include microwave ovens, TVs, fridges and Sleeper Air bunk air conditioning.

According to Glenn, the Western Stars are all-round solid trucks that are well suited to the harsh Australian conditions, particularly when operating under heavy demand as his do.

They are roadtrain rated for a gross combination mass (GCM) of 90.5t. Each of Nightingale’s Western Stars is powered by a Detroit DD15 engine rated at 560hp backed with 1,850lb/ft of torque and Glenn says he has found the Detroit engines to be extremely reliable and durable.

He also appreciates the peace-of-mind that comes with the market-leading warranty that fully covers the engine for five years, 1,000,000km, 500,000litres of fuel burn or 15,000 engine hours, whichever comes first.

Other durable components in the powertrain include the robust Eaton Fuller RTLO20918B manual transmission running synthetic oil, feeding into a Meritor RT46-160GP tandem drivehead with a 4.30 diff ratio via sealed and lubricated for life Meritor RPL25SD main and RPL20 inter-axle shafts.

Rear suspension is Airliner 46,000lb (20.8T) and the steer axle features three-leaf taper leaf springs with threaded pins and bushes.

Fuel capacity is just shy of 2,000 litres held in six cylindrical tanks that are stainless-steel wrapped for the ultimate in long-lasting shine.

Glenn emphasises the value he puts on the ability of Western Star trucks to be customised to suit the needs and purposes of his fleet.

“We reserve a big budget for customisation and all of our trucks are customised to a similarly high standard to reflect the pride we take in them,” he says.

As such, the list of custom features both inside and out is extensive, including polished stainless-steel items throughout which match beautifully with the King Bars polished bumper and Alcoa Durabright rims.

“Our aim with customisation is to create an impressive vehicle that drives well and provides a comfortable workplace for our drivers,” Glenn says. “The drivers have really taken to the new Western Stars. From an ergonomics perspective the seating is good and the sleeper cab is voluminous with easy access.”

Drivers return home after long, arduous trips in good condition and relatively unfatigued according to Glenn, another endorsement for the comfortability of the trucks.

Glenn also maintains a very good relationship with the local Penske dealership in Brisbane and in particular Sales Manager Derek Schroff with whom he has been dealing for more than 15 years.

“Derek is excellent at arranging and implementing any specifications we require and has always been there to assist if any issues have arisen,” Glenn says.

When it comes to acquiring new vehicles for his fleet, the most important features Glenn looks for are reliability, service prospects, driver experience and return on investment.

With his latest batch of Western Star prime movers, Glenn reckons all these criteria are well and truly covered.

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