Coast to Coast

Based in Brisbane, SGGS, operates a fleet of 100 prime movers carrying dangerous goods all over Australia. A record recent order through Daimler Trucks will see its fleet expand considerably over the next few years.

In general road freight terms, SGGS is something of a newcomer.

Founded in 2013, the business is based at Rocklea in Brisbane’s southwest from whereupon its base and operations, in just a few years, have steadily grown to sufficient national scope seemingly unencumbered by the pratfalls that can afflict such a relatively young company.

The one truck, one customer, business model that has served so many larger fleets well, holds true here.

That first Hino body truck tasked with pick-up and delivery for a local company in Brisbane multiplied in no time at all as customer service was more than equal to the tasks asked of it.

Contracts were renewed. Customer accounts extended. Business burgeoned as word-of-mouth spread, requiring operations invest in additional trucks to keep pace.

Exponential expansion in those first few years can’t quite explain the explosion of work.

The impetus for the sudden growth was relatively simple: SGGS, operating initially as a subcontractor, found itself being prioritised by its customers and this was a catalyst for the first period of seminal growth achieved by the company.

The first prime mover, a Volvo, was purchased in 2014. By then the pathway to heavier loads over longer distances, compared to what had been the acceptable norm up until that moment, was clearly evident.

“It basically multiplied from that first prime mover to one each year,” says Rajbeer Khangura, SGGS Owner.

“That’s gone up considerably in the last few years.”

It would be fair to say, without much exaggeration, it has gone up drastically. The company has been purchasing around 20 prime movers per year since 2019 and this year set a new company record by verifying an order of 120 Mercedes-Benz Actros prime movers.

Daimler Trucks will deliver these over the course of the next three years with the first nine units now operational locally.

SGGS have optioned the Actros 2663 Streamspace cab which has been optimised for low level fuel consumption with a 2500mm level floor and 197mm of headroom between the seats.

The 16-litre engine is rated at 630 horsepower. These trucks have a GCM of 106 tonne and will be performing roadtrain work coast to coast as well as pulling quad roadtrains into Darwin.

Gautam Dhillon at Daimler Trucks Laverton will facilitate the delivery order in accordance with SGGS’ production schedule up to and accounting for 2025.

The initial units will consist of the fifth generation MP5s and incorporate MP6s should they have been released during the agreed upon time frame. The vehicles are all B-quad rated.

“They’re all configured the same,” says Adam Fraser, SGGS General Manager. “And they’re all built the same. Now that the boys have ongoing contract work with a lot more companies, they have seen the opportunity to invest in specific gear, tailored to the application.”

Some of these contracts are from the likes of Toll, Mainfreight, Direct Freight Express and CEVA Logistics, no less. SGGS handles, for the main part, dangerous goods.

These loads can vary depending on the trailer load. For the most part, the fleet is moving chemicals, regular oil, Araldite adhesives and glues.

The customer primarily dictates this through the supplier. Route topography on the Actros 2663 can be optimised through the operation of the automatic transmission via Predictive Powertrain Control.

The system integrates a driving style according to 3D maps which factors in uphill and downhill gradients.

Fuel efficiencies are generated on the basis of this data, as shift points, gear steps and the settings of the cruise control speed are modified in real-time to avoid using unnecessary acceleration or braking.

The coasting function, even on very slight gradients, is where the new Actros can deliver, cumulatively, the most fuel saving for the operator.

“Assets are acquired in co-ordination with the customer contract. A broker and finance advisor take any guesswork out of this process,” says Adam. “There’s been no issue with finance.”

While equipment has always been purchased based on customer requirements, the initial approach, as is the case with most neophyte companies, was initially somewhat ad hoc compared to what it is today.

That came to an end in 2016 when an internal decision instigated a change in policy as far as how the company invested in its equipment.

The decision pertained directly to its purchasing orders and more specifically prime movers, which thereupon, would need to be brand new, going forward.

The fleet up until 2020 had been largely mixed. After analysing the onboard data of the vehicles, Rajbeer and his team made a commitment that would narrow down the brands it would support to Mercedes-Benz and Kenworth.

“For us they were more reliable,” says Rajbeer. “The old trucks in the fleet are gradually being replaced over time hence the new colossal order which is part of fleet replenishment and demand driven by new work.”

Up to 90 per cent of the work involves running from the east coast of Australia to Perth on B-double Titeliners.

Trucks also trek as far north as Darwin with additional, less consistent work serviced in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. SGGS currently operates 355 pieces of moving equipment.

Of these just over 100 are prime movers with approximately 130 B-double sets that are interchangeable.

Before 2022, six months was generally enough time to turn around an order for utilisation of the vehicles made ready in accordance with OEM specifications.

The ordering process has been simplified with a default Vawdrey specification adopted since SGGS’s first purchase from the Melbourne trailer manufacture in 2018.

Working with Mainfreight or Toll will sometimes necessitate substituting curtains when it comes to branding. Vawdrey, whose mezzanine floors and stock control, set them apart according to Adam, are also very good in this department.

As the entire fleet is aligned with one trailing equipment supplier, it gives operations the ability to drop a trailer, if needed, to accommodate customers while retaining compatible instruments of delivery.

“A lot of our customers have different requirements,” says Adam. “Some might want B-doubles, some might want triples, some might not have enough freight and want to drop something which allows another customer to have it. We have an advantage in being able to change stuff around, on the fly if need be.”

That kind of flexibility is hardwired into the sales program of the business.

Adam, who has been with the company since March last year after coming across from Toll where he was working in operations, acknowledges customer service is entwined with its ability to always offer an adroit response depending on time and demand.

“For companies that lock in the same unit over and over again if it’s after Christmas and the freight dies in the backend, they don’t want to pay full price,” he explains.

“That might mean they can only load a B-double instead of a triple and another company might have an ongoing contract that they need an extra trailer for. We can supply that and help them out and the original company is not financially impacted.”

For its trailers, SGGS maintains and services them in workshops it operates in Melbourne and Brisbane.

These are staffed by five technicians. Brisbane, where head office is situated on Ipswich Road, also has a washbay.

They use third party for R&M where required.

“The in-house workshop guys service the trailers which originate with Vawdrey who does the first service to obviously honour warranty,” says Adam. “The same with the trucks through Kenworth and Daimler Trucks.”

Gautam at Daimler Trucks Laverton, similarly to Nick Gesovski at Kenworth, builds the trucks per SGGS specs so that every unit can be listed on the same permit.

It’s up to SGGS to get route approval. All the new gear is PBS-approved. Several permits are currently pending.

One of the most recent PBS applications certified is for a B-triple from Epping to Perth.

“When you’re running east to west it can be very limited in repairs across the area of the Nullarbor and Southern Cross,” explains Adam.

“In having a higher number of units of the same truck it allows us to facilitate easier maintenance supplies. Daimler works well with us. Their after-hours support is better. They carry more equipment because they know of the work that we do in that area.”

Recovery is hastened this way in the event of a breakdown or parts can be taken from a vehicle that has been sidelined and put onto another to get that one up and going.

“It’s just a matter of trouble shooting each day,” Adam says. “There’s never a day the same. But there’s always challenges and solutions to those challenges.”

Some of these solutions come in the form of expanding business infrastructure and resources.

SGGS is awaiting the response to an offer it has put down on a block of land in Adelaide for a proposed new workshop site.

At present, the business is discussing bringing Perth on board as well.

The plan is, by Q4 of this year, to have both Adelaide and Perth up and running with staff.

As the company grows and shifts into new, unchartered waters, Raj draws upon experiences from back home in India where he hails. His father runs a successful truck business in Dera Bassi, a satellite city of Chandigarh in the state of Punjab, servicing clients all over the country.

“He’s been doing that for over 40 years and that’s a system I have learned a lot from but many of the similarities end there,” he says. “The condition of the roads, for one, make it a very different experience.”

For the moment, the outlook looks bright for SGGS. As for the fleet and operational side, the business should continue to grow over the next few years before a period of consolidation.

“Hopefully we are a bit bigger than where we are now and then, with good planning, we can maintain what we’ve got,” Rajbeer says.

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