Blue Chip

For PepsiCo Australia, lowering its environmental footprint takes precedence. It runs, where possible, the latest vehicles in low emissions technology to move its beverages and snack products like Smith’s between retail sites and DCs.
PepsiCo prime movers.

Much was made of the PepsiCo distribution facility in Sacramento where it took delivery of some 21 all-electric Tesla Semi trucks in late 2022.

Aside from the initial novelty value, the Tesla Semis, which are running on about 18 different delivery routes, some up to 800 kilometres in distance, with a gross combination weight of up to 37.2 tonnes, generated great interest worldwide given their capacity for megawatt charging.

Here the American multinational’s lofty goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2040 begins to unfold.

Closer to home, PepsiCo, in looking for versatility and optimised efficiencies with its OEM partners, has turned to DAF, what’s more by driver consensus, for the latest in internal combustion heavy vehicle technology.

Nationally the fleet consists of 13 prime movers and three rigids. The business operates two sites in Brisbane and Adelaide involving constant use of trucks.

In Brisbane there are ten prime movers in operation while it requires two in Adelaide with both facilities using the latest generation Euro 6 DAFs to transport products from its extensive snack portfolio, which includes not only Smith’s and Red Rock Deli chips but also its Doritos, Sunbites and Sakata ranges.

As one of the largest snack manufacturers in Australia, PepsiCo, a little over a year ago, professed a commitment to bringing healthier products to market, as well as reformulating its market-leading brands to ensure they reach a Health Star Rating of 3.5 stars or above.

The DAFs are pulling single trailers for the main part.

By 2026, PepsiCo Australia expects approximately 30 per cent of business growth to stem from products that have a HSR of 3.5 or above.

It also values the total 3.5 or above HSR savoury snacking category to be worth approximately $300 million in Australia.

At strictly an enterprise level, such focus gives added impetus to the logistics involved in moving product and how this is achieved safely with, where possible, rolling improvements.

“The DAF prime movers are in constant operation, 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week, across two of our key sites in Queensland and South Australia,” says Craig Bowles, PepsiCo Distribution Optimisation Manager.

“Chips are pretty lightweight so the size of the DAF models we’re using are the most appropriate size for our transportation needs.”

The 12 DAF units have been drip-fed into the fleet over the past 18 months. These models are comprised of nine FTT CF 450hp 6x4s and three smaller FT CF 360hp 4x2s.

Both vehicle types are pulling single trailers while the CF450s also move standard and hi-cube B-doubles. A single trailer load is around 5 tonnes in payload while the B-doubles handle between 7-10 tonnes.

The DAFs are utilised primarily to service its larger customers, from supermarkets and distributors in Metro Queensland and South Australia and to shuttle stock from PepsiCo’s manufacturing facilities to offsite storage locations.

“For most of our customers we find 24-pallet single trailers are optimal, and we use the B-doubles for deliveries for internal transfers and when servicing our largest customers,” says Craig.

“We contract our interstate and long haul work to third party carriers.”

A DAF CF450 on road in Brisbane.

PepsiCo aims to turn over the fleet on a five-year cycle.

Typically, at this point, the trucks are approaching 1 million kilometres.

“We believe this is the optimal time to refresh the fleet and it also allows us to explore options on newer model vehicles and look at the latest safety and sustainability features,” says Craig.

“Sustainability is at the centre of how we as a company create growth and value by operating within planetary boundaries and inspiring positive change.”

The PepsiCo Positive (pep+) initiative is a global end-to-end transformation that puts sustainability at the centre of how the company sources ingredients, makes and sells products and “inspires consumers” to make better choices for themselves and the planet.

“We have a goal to achieve net-zero emissions across our value chain by 2040 – a decade earlier than called for in the Paris Agreement,” says Craig.

“By 2030, we plan to reduce our scope 1 and 2 greenhouse emissions by 75 per cent and 45 per cent respectively, against a 2015 baseline, doubling our previous climate goal. The DAF prime movers comply with the strict Euro 6 emission control standards.”

PepsiCo driver Nick Stringer at the Tingalpa depot.

The 2030 commitment to reduce its scope 1 and 2 greenhouse emissions requires a detailed sustainability assessment of new vehicle leases, showing PepsiCo has explored all options for low/zero emissions vehicles.

The first preference is always, according to Craig, to look for net-for-net zero options, such as the 2023 hydrogen-powered prime mover trial with Pure Hydrogen.

“The potential for this trial is exciting. As one of the largest food manufacturers in Australia, we recognise we can use our scale for good and have a positive impact on the environment,” says Craig.

“Where zero emissions vehicles are not suitable for our required purpose, we look for best-in class sustainability features including the Euro 6 emissions rating.”

As it seeks vehicles that meets its operational requirements for range, recharge time, and economic model, PepsiCo is continually in discussions with multiple vehicle manufacturers in regard to zero tailpipe technologies.

With many other live EV projects in other markets, PepsiCo is also able to leverage learnings in this area from across the wider PepsiCo business globally.

This includes just under two years of data from the Tesla Semi battery electric trucks in which PepsiCo was an early adopter — perhaps the earliest in outright commercial terms.

The Tingalpa site runs ten DAF units 24/7.

Now that truck width limits have increased in Australia to 2.55m, under the cover of new and amended Australian Design Rules (ADRs) announced last year, Craig notes that PepsiCo have been able to add great knowledge in this area from its US counterparts and will continue to explore a range of options for Australian conditions.

The DAFs are initially sourced by LeasePlan from Brown and Hurley who deliver the appropriate specifications.

There is no disputing the trucks are made for drivers and endorsed by drivers.

The driver workforce of PepsiCo Australia, who was named an Employer of Choice in 2021, provides all the corroboration necessary.

“We initially had a mixed fleet from several different manufacturers, but received consistent driver feedback that they preferred driving the DAFs,” says Craig.

“We’ve seen positive fuel efficiency which continues to improve with newer models.”

Several years ago, PepsiCo ran internal tests comparing the DAFs with another leading manufacturer and found the DAF fleet to be superior for both fuel economy and driver feedback according to Craig.

“We have previously trialled other comparable vehicles, and our drivers told us that they prefer the DAF models,” he says.

“Additionally, although our drivers don’t make long haul journeys they can be away from their bases for extended periods of time and the DAF trucks offer them improved amenities.”

Several enhancements can be found in the high comfort interior of the DAF CF cabin. The climate control unit now features one-touch defrosting, park ventilation, park heating with timer, and automatic air recirculation.

The rear wall includes a temperature control unit, which allows the driver to access the system from the comfort of the bed. Interior lighting has a rotary switch that features three modes. The control button is centrally located in the middle of the console, so it is within easy reach.

The driver can choose a lighting mode for different driving and resting conditions, and there is also a dimming function. Interior noise has also been reduced to mitigate fatigue caused by engine noise.

Nick behind the wheel of the Euro 6 DAF CF450.

The energy-absorbing cab suspension and reinforced cab structure, additionally, has pre-programmed front and rear crumple zones to provide industry-leading vehicle safety and passenger protection.

The new DAFs are endowed with a high-end look, not in the least the contoured shape of the prime mover cab and other notable accents like the lowered bumper.

“Our drivers are proud to drive the DAF trucks and they’re a nice visible representation of PepsiCo and our brands on the road,” says Craig.

Regular drivers like Nick Stringer, are canvassed for their thoughts on the commercial vehicles and the latest technology employed by the OEMs.

On these DAFs a ZF TraXon 12 speed automated gearbox and SR1360T ECAS rear suspension with Axle Load Monitoring and PACCAR Airguide 400 with Axle Load Monitoring is preferred.

PACCAR Connect also comes free for the first 12 months so Craig and his team can monitor and evaluate every aspect of the truck’s performance.

Expressed advantages such as these have helped to vindicate purchases additional to that first batch.

The safety systems have been of particular benefit to the drivers given the intense operational usage of the vehicles.

“Driver assist features on the latest models, such as brake assist, lane assist and the cameras over the passenger side door to cover blind spots, have been well received by our drivers,” says Craig.

“As part of our commitment to commercial vehicle safety we have also fitted the Guardian Eyesight system and Geotab telematics for driver behaviour monitoring.”

Previously, PepsiCo worked with other telematics providers for many years but recently made the switch to Geotab.

At present it is completing the rollout of the Geotab technology across all of its vehicles to get better visibility and to better understand driving behaviours.

As well as offering popular home-grown products like Smith’s, Red Rock Deli and Twisties products, PepsiCo is also responsible for global brands Pepsi Max and Gatorade.

On top of the two snack manufacturing sites in Regency Park, Adelaide and Tingalpa, Brisbane, PepsiCo operates an oat mill in Forrestfield, Perth that processes West Australian oats for export to Asia. One of its most recent and significant investments into logistics operations was securing large offsite storage warehouses in Queensland.

That has allowed for storage capacity of an additional 20,000 pallets over recent years as volume and customer demand have continued to grow.

Approximately 50 per cent of the 1,700 people PepsiCo employs in Australia work on the frontline of its manufacturing sites.

As strong advocates for Australian agriculture, PepsiCo spends $120 million on locally grown produce every year, including potatoes, corn, wheat, and oats.

Three of the Euro 6 DAF units at changeover time.
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