JOST in Time for Easter

A desire to keep ahead of the game by engaging the latest turntable technology has led prominent Brisbane-based haulier KS Easter to first trial and now standardise on JOST JSK37CXW greaseless fifth wheels fitted with the Sensor Coupling option on its new prime movers.

Haulage company KS Easter was founded in Newcastle 45 years ago by Managing Director Ken Easter, who started out as a single truck owner-operator.

Over the next decade the business grew quickly and Ken made the decision in 1988 to up stumps and move to Brisbane.

As much of the work was linehaul between Melbourne and Brisbane, it made sense to be based at one end or the other.

Since then the business has continued to grow and today a number of family members have joined Ken in helping run the company. Ken’s eldest son Kenny is General Manager and his younger son Matthew is Paymaster, while Kenny’s wife Karlie is in charge of Compliance.

Speaking with KS Easter General Manager Kenny Easter, who has been involved with the business since he left school in 1991, it’s easy to appreciate that the company places an extremely high emphasis on the safety and wellbeing of its drivers and the general public, which is exemplified by the decision to standardise on JOST JSK37CXW fifth wheels with the sensor option that alerts the driver if a miscouple has occurred.

“We always try to keep abreast of the latest technology that’s available on the market to make the job easier and safer for our drivers and everyone around them,” says Kenny. “We were approached by JOST to try its new JSK37CXW with Sensor Coupling technology and we decided to give it a go.”

Like every large transport company, KS Easter have to deal with infrequent incidents every year where trailers unintentionally become detached from prime movers.

The consequences can vary from minor damage and inconvenience to catastrophic. One difficulty associated with tackling the problem of miscoupled trailers – and what makes this such a critical issue – is the huge variety of causes that can lead to a trailer being miscoupled and when or how a miscoupled trailer actually becomes separated from the prime mover.

In the best-case scenario, the driver will notice a miscoupled trailer when he or she follows best-practice procedures and visually inspects the coupling to ensure the kingpin is secure in the lock jaw and the safety mechanism is in place, prior to performing a tug test after coupling.

If the check is not made on the kingpin in the jaw, then a miscoupled trailer can separate from the fifth wheel during the tug test or when manouevering in the yard, which can cause damage to the truck or trailer and delay deliveries. However, the weight of a loaded trailer sometimes puts enough force onto the fifth wheel that it can pass a hasty tug test and give the driver a false impression that the trailer is securely connected.

This can lead to a potentially far more dangerous situation if the trailer separates from the prime mover when travelling at speed on the road.

JOST’s solution to this major safety factor is its Sensor Coupling System which gives the driver a visual and audible warning if it detects that any one of the skid plate, kingpin or safety latch are not in the correct position for a secure connection. This system has the potential to avert disaster if the abovementioned scenario should ever occur.

“We believe that JOST’s Sensor Coupling system will help reduce the incidents that happen due to drivers cutting corners and not physically checking that the fifth wheel jaw and locking bar are fully engaged,” Kenny says.

“In our view the extra investment is well worthwhile because it will reduce our damage bill and the time and cost involved with filling out incident reports and paperwork that must be done every time a trailer is dropped.”

JOST JSK37CW greaseless fifth wheel.

He also mentions that the frustration of customers when events happen has a negative impact on the business and must be avoided as much as possible.

Interestingly, Kenny explains that there’s an appreciable difference in the skillsets of drivers across the board, particularly in the current climate where driver shortages and the need to keep trucks moving has tended to lower the experience and skill levels, on average.

He cites the example of another initiative the company has taken to help drivers ensure correct coupling on every hookup – an LED light mounted on the rear of the prime mover chassis that shines into the lock jaw area so the driver can easily confirm correct coupling – even in the middle of the night.

“Of course, that only helps if drivers use it, but we’ve had feedback from many of our drivers who have thanked us for installing the lights and helping them in their jobs,” says Kenny.

He adds that it comes down to the old ‘drivers versus drovers’ issue.

“Some of them carry torches, some don’t. Some carry toolboxes, some don’t,” he says. “It’s a changing world and a changing game so if we can do something positive like this to help reduce incidents and make things safer, we’re all for it.”

The fact that most drivers now own a smartphone with an LED flashlight incorporated means the excuse of not having a torch to check if the turntable jaws are locked correctly is hardly valid anymore.

Having put one of JOST’s JSK37CXW fifth wheels with Sensor Coupling on trial for several months, both the driver and management at KS Easter were pleased with the results.

“There were a few very minor teething issues, but these basically centred around housekeeping — ensuring the sensors are kept clean so they can do their work properly,” he says. “Other than that, there were no issues at all, so the last new truck we bought we had the standard turntable replaced with the new JOST unit and that will now be the standard fit for any new trucks we buy.”

In fact, so happy is Kenny with the outcome that he is already speaking to JOST about the possibility of developing sensor systems for fifth wheels on the A-trailers of the company’s B-doubles.

“That’s something we’re working on but it probably will be a while down the track,” he says.

Kenny mentions that every vehicle in the KS Easter fleet, including all A-trailers, now have low maintenance non-greasable fifth wheels as the company takes a lot of pride in its fleet presentation and not having grease floating around in the turntable area. It makes prime movers and trailers a lot easier to keep shiny.

“It took us a couple of years to change them all over, but it was the direction we wanted to take and now each time a truck comes into the washbay or workshop it is much quicker and easier to clean them,” he says. “We also have auto greasing systems on all the trucks which are hooked up to the turntable jaws so the drivers and mechanics don’t have that extra task – which can easily be overlooked.”

KS Easter has been using JOST turntables and landing legs since Ken first started the business and today the entire fleet is now equipped.

The JOST JSK37CXW comes with in-cab Sensor Coupling option.

Nowadays the company runs over 100 prime movers and more than 250 trailers, along with eight heavy rigid Volvo and Mercedes-Benz trucks that are used for ultra-time sensitive intra- and interstate premium air freight.

The prime mover mix consists of Volvo, Western Star and Kenworth vehicles which pull drop-deck B-double and B-triple curtainsiders and dry freight vans on linehaul runs predominately between Brisbane and Sydney. The company also services Adelaide and North Queensland as required. Time sensitive overnight freight and bulk palletised goods are the predominate loads and the company has Concessional Mass Loading (CML) which enables a gross combination mass (GCM) on the drop-deck curtainside B-doubles of 64.5 tonnes.

Kenny has spent 15 years managing the operations side of the business and prior to this he was driving trucks doing local and some interstate work. Growing up within the business has imbued in him a deep understanding of what’s required in all aspects of the operation to keep ensuring success.

The decision to exclusively use JOST equipment, and now even more so with the addition of the Sensor Coupling technology, is an important element in this ongoing strategy.

According to Kenny, the products are bulletproof and rarely if ever have any issues.

“We’re very happy with the JOST low maintenance greaseless turntables,” he says. “They’re very reliable and they do the job well.”

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