Double Impact

To combat the ongoing driver shortage, Cartage Australia has taken a different approach by introducing two new A-double sets to its fleet entirely composed of Performance-Based Standards vehicles.

Quarry product transport specialist, Cartage Australia, runs over 110 rigid tippers and dogs across its 24-hour operations in Victoria.

The vehicles in the fleet can, in the main, be identified by a truck, usually a Volvo, pulling a dog trailer en route to or departing from one of its two depots.

These can be found in Truganina out west, and Devon Meadows in the southeast, where the brand is a frequent presence on the South Gippsland Highway.

The six-axle truck and dog configuration typifies a predominant specification across the fleet although it also runs five- and four-axles.

With virtually every unit approved under the Performance-Based Standards (PBS) scheme, Cartage Australia has, since the inception of PBS in 2007, when Co-Founder and Company Director Ray Cauchi participated in the pilot program, forged a reputation as a reliable and ever-improving organisation.

Fleet procurement is overseen by Ray’s son, Manager Jake Cauchi. The decision to add two high productivity A-double combinations last year, according to Jake, was prompted, in part, by the current climate of challenges being felt right across the industry.

“There’s always been a driver shortage,” he says. “It’s been an issue in our industry for as long as I’ve been in it which is now ten years. My father has been in it since 1978. It’s a problem that hasn’t gone away.”

Carrying extra capacity becomes a must when supplementary drivers are increasingly hard to find and demand for product continues to increase.

In keeping with this, the A-doubles serve to reduce gaps in personnel and supply that have plagued even the most adventurous, resourceful and innovative-minded businesses.

“In recent times with COVID we’ve also had parts shortages, truck shortages and that’s required us to become a bit more creative when carrying more capacity to assist with those challenges,” explains Jake. “Traffic on the roads, for one example, is only going to get worse. It becomes much harder to move product under these conditions.”

As a business, Cartage Australia sought to overcome the twofold challenge of rising demand and skills shortages by increasing productivity on a per combination basis. In essence it was a bimodal approach according to Jake.

Jake Cauchi.

“In one instance we help the community having taken trucks off the road and replacing them with A-doubles,” he says. “It also assists us in carrying that extra capacity to support all our customers.”

Working in close collaboration with Smedley’s Engineers, Jake and Ray met with VicRoads to consider the best options. It resulted, initially, in a half dozen different A-double designs for the purposes of moving quarry material.

Topping out at 68.5 tonnes GCM previously on the route in question, Cartage Australia determined that through the new high productivity vehicles an increase of 85.5 tonnes GCM could be achieved. An A-double tipper was soon agreed upon.

“Smedleys assisted in helping Cartage Australia go through several designs to identify the safest combination and making it as driver friendly as possible,” recalls Jake. “With Smedley’s we mapped out the level access 2a and 2b using the NHVR map and worked out every single route that we can currently get to the concrete plants that we have available.”

In collaboration with Ian Mond at VicRoads, Smedley’s helped guide how the A-double combination would ultimately work best across the available network. Design assessments evaluated tare weights and payloads at once to narrow down the asset that would conform to the easiest swept path.

After a series of long deliberations with Ian and Smedley’s, Cartage Australia devised an A-double combination it is confident will be used in future as a template across the tipper industry.

The next step, once access was confirmed in principle, was ordering the specialised equipment. Orders were placed with Hercules, who build all of Cartage Australia’s trailers and CMV Truck & Bus, who supply the majority of the fleet’s commercial vehicles.

On this occasion it was a Euro 5 540hp Volvo FM with low sleeper cab — the driver rest option upgraded by the added bunk.

“We’re Volvo born and bred. CMV Truck & Bus have got to be the best service department in Australia in our opinion,” says Jake. “They bend over backwards for us day and night to make sure everything is serviced and up to scratch. We’ve got Volvo gold contract maintenance on every asset.”

Enhanced visibility is a must when accessing quarries and concrete plants on the larger combination. The Volvo FM door line is low and the window surfaces, by design, are generous.

Every trailer also has a scheduled four-week service. Hercules offers a standard safety spec fitted across all trailers. These feature Wabco ABS/EBS systems on SAF-Holland Intradisc axles with patented Integral disc brake designs.

Cartage Australia maintains their own mechanics and workshop for minor breakdowns. Workshop Manager Danial Cauchi and Maintenance Manager Paul Charalambous work closely together to ensure all assets are serviced correctly.

For Cartage Australia preventative maintenance is applied as part of an overarching objective in which it’s not enough to only have the safest vehicles but vehicles with the highest safety standards.

It’s one thing to get the design and build right, but an A-double needs route access. As one of the most critical steps in the process it can take time.

The 29-metre A-double design was developed according to the Victorian High Performance Freight Vehicle reference to gain access to the HPFV network. Outside of that, Smedley’s had a clean slate to come up with something in a time sensitive manner that fulfilled these requirements without having to reinvent the wheel according to PBS Certifier and Consultant, Jackson Heil at Smedley’s Engineers.

“Hercules were involved to ensure it could be built as required for the networks needed,” he says. “Being dependant on bridge assessments was the other major criteria.”

The A-doubles are now running in the western suburbs on the network. Getting A-double access to Werribee, however, was incumbent on receiving Forsythe Road approval which proved a hurdle initially.

“This involved collaboration with the Department of Transport in assessing the Forsyth Road bridge which took some time however DOT greatly assisted us,” says Jake Access to both onramps and offramps can be a challenge under the current road management modelling.

Returning from quarries via the Western Ring Road requires Cartage Australia to disembark at Fitzgerald Road, a main arterial, run down it and rejoin the freeway to comply with the current bridge assessment.

It can add ten minutes to the trip, given traffic. “In peak hours it can take an extra 20 minutes,” Jake says. “It’s shorter in actual kilometres but the unit is travelling at a stop and start speed.”

Cartage Australia has plans to replicate the first two A-doubles pending driver demonstration of the vehicle. Even though it technically falls under a multi-combination (MC) licence, the different moving points on the trailers require some extra attention for new operators.

Additional roads will need to be opened up also to encourage companies involved in major haulage operations.

“The Westgate Tunnel is the next major arterial route which will get us into Dynon road,” says Jake. “Once they do that than we can look at feeding a lot of the city area for higher capacities and then we’d look at getting more combinations.”

A-doubles, in a post-COVID world, are meeting the needs of road transport operators according to Jackson.

“It is becoming a more normalised type of combination that in this instance is quite versatile with a swept path much like a 26 metre B-double,” he says. “The A-doubles are becoming the new B-double with a similar manoeuvrability but such a massive gain in freight movements.”

When factoring in truck movements and payload, this PBS combination achieves major performance and efficiency gains for the fleet.

On the standard truck and six-axle dog, Cartage Australia gets a payload of close to 48.5 tonnes total whereas the A-double improves it to 60-tonnes.

PBS-approved A-double tipper with Volvo FM 540hp.

The extra capacity has resulted in a net gain of just under 12 tonnes per trip for the A-double. Multiplied by the amount of trips it completes in a week, the A-double represents an enormous jump in productivity.

Smedley’s Engineers Managing Director, Robert Smedley notes that these units are only effective if access is granted at a reasonable mass.

“At the moment these combinations and all combinations are significantly limited when crossing the city east-west, and only getting 68.5 tonnes,” he says. “Until VicRoads opens up the network east-west to reasonable mass, the real advantage of these can’t be realised.”

As part of the VicRoads requirement the trucks were mounted with onboard mass scales on the whole asset. The trailers, otherwise, were kitted out in the Cartage Australia spec which includes V.ORLANDI open and close jack knife sensors on the rear of the semi.

Should a trailer start to jack knife on the drawbar a buzzer sounds an alarm. The tippers are also equipped with tilt sensors. If the ground underneath the asset is uneven the body won’t go up for it to be able to tip. The PTO disengages.

“That’s just the original Cartage spec that we affix to all of our vehicles,” says Jake. “From inception Directors, Wayne Vella and Ray Cauchi, made the decision that every truck and trailer bought will include every extra optional safety feature on top of the standard features. Everything Volvo can give us we have to make it the safest truck on the road.”

Drive Support Systems on the new Volvos include Forward Collision Warning with Emergency Brake, Adaptive High Beam, Lane Keeping Assist, Passenger Corner Camera, Downhill Cruise Control, Stretch Brake, Electronic Stability Control, Driver Alert Support, Distance Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control.

Also Included in Cartage Australia’s spec list are Artificial Intelligence cameras which identify distractions, dangerous driving, and mobile phone use.

These are managed by Caleb and Jed Vella who run the operational office in Devon Meadows. They receive alerts concerning any unsafe behaviour so the company can educate and retrain heavy vehicle operators in any areas needed.

The system in place is very beneficial, according to Jake, as it helps the team address any distracted or unsafe driving before an incident occurs, rather than finding out after it’s too late.

“You’ve got a driver who is going to spend 12-13 hours in a truck and trailer, we want to make sure that they’ve got the best and safest truck possible,” says Jake. “That’s what we pride ourselves on.”

The trucks are driver friendly across the whole operation for Cartage Australia. Manual tarps are long gone. To open and close tarps, and to tip off the body is now just the push of a button away.

“There’s no getting out to roll back tarps or to close tailgates,” says Jake. “It’s really become a driver’s luxury truck. The manual labour component of it is long gone”

The two Volvo FMs, paired on the A-double combinations, incidentally, came off a ship Volvo imported overseas with an estimated 500 trucks on it.

“It was one of the first times in history that they’ve done that to keep up with the demand,” says Jake. “We got both the A- and B-trailer in a matter of four weeks. Hercules have got a constant build slot with us.”

Given the critical timeline in place, delivery, however, was not the major focus of obstacles on the project.

Cartage Australia collaborate with Smedley’s Engineers and work with the Department of Transport to ensure final mile destinations with bridge assessments are approved before combinations are even operational.

That said there are always improvements that can be done to improve the PBS process according to Jackson who cites the digitisation of certain process that the NHVR is currently working on to the streamlining of bridge assessments as positive steps that are being undertaken.

“With various odd requests appearing more often to fulfil customer needs these days anything that can be streamlined is a welcome opportunity,” he says. “Internally we are working on things, externally the NHVR and the various road managers are also working away to try get everyone on the road sooner.”

The NHVR has always provided welcome technical assistance from those early, pioneering days when, Ray Cauchi, was working closely with Les Bruzsa, NHVR Chief Engineer, on the PBS pilot program, to the A-doubles of today.

In terms of its size, the Cartage Australia PBS fleet comfortably sits inside the top 10 for units in the country.

Smedley’s Engineers according to Jake, have been phenomenal for support and expertise from the outset of the latest project.

“Jackson Heil and Robert Smedley answer their phone calls and attend meetings no matter the time,” he says. “When you have a question, they are there for you. When you need help, they are there, it doesn’t matter the time, they understand the urgency.”

Send this to a friend