Cold Chain specialist duels Mirrorless Mercedes Actros against new Kenworth

Brisbane cold carrier, JD Refrigerated Transport, will pit its two newest heavy vehicles against each other hauling recently built B-doubles into north Queensland.

A newly spec'd Kenworth, the first ever used in the operation, is to be matched with a brand new Mirrorless Mercedes-Benz Actros 2663 on the 1000-kilometre linehaul task.

From Bowen, the vehicles will carry fresh produce to the Brisbane Markets at Rocklea, where JD Refrigerated Transport maintains a storage facility and depot.

Administrative headquarters are located not far away in New Farm.

The B-doubles designed and built by FTE Trailers will be loaded with equipment on the return leg.

Most of the JD Refrigerated Transport fleet consists, to date, of Actros 2653s pulling single trailers.

For the longer trip JD Refrigerated Transport Managing Director Joe Joseph has invested in more raw power.

“I'd always wanted a Kenworth and I thought if we're ever going to do it with one of their trucks then the time is now,” he said.

The Kenworth 610SAR marks the first bonneted American truck purchased by the business and in a subtle change of branding, reverses the company colour scheme in a unique blue livery provided by Fleet Imaging.

“Ever since it arrived the feedback has been fantastic,” said Joseph. “Our best  form of advertising is a well maintained fleet and our team of passionate drivers. They take great pride in keeping the fleet looking sharp. They’re our greatest billboard.”

With that said Joseph has high hopes for the new Mirrorless Actros 2663. It makes the sixth Mercedes-Benz in his operation.

“The entire team at Daimler Brisbane went out of their way in the early days to support our business as we grew,” he said. “In fact, they’ve  done such a good job,  five prime movers later and I'm  about to buy my sixth Mercedes.”

Next week he plans on putting them against each other on the same job.

“We'll be running both vehicles doing the exact same thing to assess their operational efficiency, driver satisfaction, safety, fuel economy and we'll be able to line up all of these different operational parameters like for like,” he said.

“The time for talk is over. I’ve listened to the sales guys and I’ve heard it all in theory. Now I get to line the trucks up side by side and make up my own mind based upon real world conditions.”

According to Joseph, the contract will dovetail nicely into another season for the remaining five months of the year servicing a client in Glen Innes and regional Northern New South Wales.

“Those trucks will be working all year round. I'm super proud of the new B-doubles. They're high cube trailers which carry 34 spaces each of produce,” he says. “FTE delivered a terrific final product. I couldn't be happier with the outcome.”

Joseph started out in 2011 with some three-pallet trucks made by Fuso servicing home deliveries. That soon morphed into a 14-pallet vehicle and was all the proof he needed to show they could consolidate freight.

Since then operations have gone to another level with ten trucks currently on the road and more in the pipeline.

“There's a hell of a lot of work that has gone into those new trucks both behind the scenes and throughout the growth of the business,” Joseph says.

As a member of the Queensland Trucking Association, JD Refrigerated Transport recently signed up to the Eyes on Fatigue project. At present the company has two trucks evaluating the Guardian fatigue management technology from Seeing Machines.

“If they work out for us then we’ll roll them out across the entire fleet,” he said.

“These trucks have an outward forward-facing camera, they've got sideview cameras and they've got rear cameras. Apart from the obvious safety and insurance benefits, we can monitor the trucks at the point of delivery. For instance, in a supermarket DC, if we don't know exactly where it is then we pull up one of the cameras and watch the vehicle backing onto the dock,” said Joseph.

JD Refrigerated Transport tracks and monitors its trailers via satellite and uses wireless probes to report core temperature of the produce for the entire journey. They also have handheld computers in every truck which scan signed Proof of Delivery paperwork and upload them onto their client portal in real time. “Our customers love this capability.”

Prior to the new contract most of the work for the rising business was confined to southeast Queensland and parts of northern NSW.

Recent events, namely the extra demand on essential food delivery businesses eventuating from changes coronavirus has made to consumer buying behaviour, has seen the company up its freight task by nearly ten per cent.

The sector, however, is limited to how much it can scale up despite surges in demand, given the nature of planting and harvesting.

As part of COVID-19 risk mitigation, JD Refrigerated Transport put into place exclusion zones so drivers weren’t crossing paths and scheduled staggered start times.

Personal handovers of manifests are also prohibited.

The first week operating under new conditions caused by the pandemic were daunting according to Joseph not knowing what to expect. By the second week the team, who were proud to be providing an essential service, hit their stride.

“Our team really stepped up and the management team stayed close. We were on the frontlines so to speak and I think they appreciated that as well,” he said. “Some of the practices that we've been forced through necessity to mandate across the business will stay with us for some time.”

As a result of the current and changing economic and social climate, the dynamics of the industry are changing.

For home delivery services it’s somewhat of a perfect storm, as both companies and consumers once reticent to try their hand at it have done so or are about to explained Joseph.

“You've got wholesalers, where it was taboo to bypass the retailer and go direct to the consumer, that are now doing it,” he said. “I don't know a wholesale business that isn't trying a direct into the home service right now. Life as we knew it has changed.”

Wholesale businesses that would traditionally supply pubs, clubs, hotels, cruise ships and restaurants, that have lost upwards of 70 per cent of their business are looking elsewhere.

They’ve had to according to Joseph, who points to prepared boxes of fruit and veg that are going from wholesale outfits straight into the home.

The model is changing and with it the rulebook has gone out the window he said.

“Necessity, they say, is the mother of all invention. If you take 70 per cent of someone's business away overnight you are forcing them to look at these other avenues just to survive.” Joseph said.

“These new Routes to market and other innovative new business channels won’t just disappear and will undoubtedly change the landscape post CoVID-19. If you want to look for a silver lining in this situation that might be it.”

Joseph points to the recent exponential growth in the export sector which has been hit hardest by freight embargoes and travel restrictions.

“I feel for a lot of businesses that have been putting big effort into this area,” he said. “The loss of momentum will make it harder for them to bounce back as quickly. For some of our clients cruise ships were a major source of income. They've now copped a brand tarnishing during this as well. It's hard to know what will happen.

“I've been saying this for the last 15 years. Size is no longer what predicates your ability to survive in business. It's actually your agility which is more important in this day and age. Whether it be the advancement in technology, our changing environment or the evolution of our global marketplace, disruption is rife. The ability to turn on a dime is crucial. You have got to be able to react.”

(Image: Mercedes-Benz Actros 2653).

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