Marathon MAN

An Australian-owned and operated company that’s been in business for more than a quarter of a century, Liberty Oil appreciates the value of a supremely comfortable and quiet cab environment in minimising the fatigue of its drivers. It’s for this reason, among others, that the company recently began upgrading some of its fleet with MAN prime movers.

Liberty oil is a fuel and oil distributor that operates around the clock to ensure petroleum products that are the lifeblood of society are available when and where they are required.

The company has a broad customer base including retail fuel stations, farmers and commercial businesses, to name a few.

All up there are about 80 trucks in the fleet covering the entire spectrum from rigids to triple-trailer roadtrain prime movers that operate all over the country.

Having acquired the first MAN TGS 540 L Cab in November 2020, another eight were added to the fleet throughout 2021.

As a company that views safety as being of utmost importance and also highly values the skills and commitment of its drivers, Liberty Oil wanted a brand of prime mover that ticked all the boxes in terms of safety, comfort and fatigue reduction measures.

It’s for this reason, says Darren Karslake, National Operations and Fleet Manager at Liberty Oil, that the company has chosen to invest in MAN power.

“My initial experience with MAN trucks was through the relationship between Shell V-Power Racing and Penske which put me in contact with Shannon Mair, Penske Australia’s Head of Fleet,” Darren says.

“Shannon showed me some of the MANs and I really liked what I saw in terms of the full-on safety and comfort features they come standard with.”

From a driver’s perspective, Darren says the MANs are hard to beat. The drivers are pleased that they are not fighting with them all day.

It means, importantly, at the end of a long shift that they’re not worn out from the experience.

“Our drivers can be on the road for up to 12 hours a day and their feedback is that the MAN trucks provide a level of comfort that is close to the same as driving their own car for the day,” Darren says.

MAN TGS 540 L Cab.

Operations require the company to deliver fuel to a wide variety of customers ranging from retail service stations, commercial businesses and rural or farming properties, to refuelling trains and boats.

Liberty aims for an old-school business approach by striving to conduct in-person meetings with customers as much as possible.

However, according to Darren, traditional business values do not prevent the team at Liberty from investing in the latest in technological advancements when it comes to the trucks that move its products.

“We purchased our first MAN from the Penske Australia national fleet team in November 2020 and we now have five in our fleet,” he says.

“We have three at our depots in Victoria and two at our Queensland depots.”

The Penske national fleet team, supported by the company’s Brisbane branch, has been very helpful and easy to work with.

“We also deal with Westar Truck Centre in Melbourne. With both organisations we have experienced all-around good communication and assistance,” Darren enthuses.

“Some of our vehicles travel hundreds of kilometres a day, while others may do less, but there is always consistent use of the pumping equipment across the board.”

Penske, in Darren’s estimation, has been proficient at specifying the right vehicles to suit the application and ensuring every detail is spot on.

“Penske offers fuel tanker setups, with the MAN trucks fitted with Liquip pumping and metering equipment to provide the most efficient management of our fuel haulage operations,” he says.

“We know we can trust Penske to provide the best equipment for our needs and the highest quality service and support.”

The relatively light tare weight of the MAN TGS 26.540 L Cab model enables a higher payload which translates to greater volume and better flexibility in the movement of product.

While Darren agrees this is an important consideration, he stresses that driver welfare always takes precedence in the company’s eyes.

“A low tare weight is always a positive when looking for the maximum payloads, however, that’s not our top priority,” he explains.

“Our business is heavily focused on the safety of our drivers. Without a constant eye on safety and the wellbeing of our drivers, we have no service to provide.” It’s a view with which Scott Prossor, Depot and Area Manager for Liberty Oil in Bowen and the Whitsundays, is in wholehearted agreeance. “Ensuring our drivers are safe at all times is far and away the highest priority in our operations,” Scott says.

“Our drivers do about 500 to 600km each day on the road and the MAN trucks’ controls and features mean safety is maintained at the highest level. For example, our drivers receive alerts when they get too close to a vehicle in front thanks to the radar and camera that are part of the automatic braking system called Electronic Brake Assist.”

Scott’s region is primarily coastal with many of the trips being from the depot to the fuel terminal and then delivering to farms in the surrounding districts which often means bumpy, off-road conditions for the trucks.

In addition to safety, the MAN fleet also has a number of inherent features that provide an extra-comfy ride including a quiet and ergonomic cab interior that helps minimise driver fatigue.

“The new MAN vehicle is like a new toy to play with here in our yard,” Scott says with a laugh.

“It’s a significant upgrade from the older truck models. The biggest talking point from our drivers has been that the new gear is much more comfortable over longer distances and smoother for off-road hauling.”

The MAN TGS 26.540 L Cab prime movers in the Liberty Oil fleet are ideally suited to local, regional and interstate operations pulling single semi-trailer and B-double tanker configurations.

Sporting a 70-tonne Gross Combination Mass (GCM) rating, they are powered by MAN’s D26 13-litre inline six-cylinder engine featuring common-rail injection and twin turbochargers with intercooling.

The engine produces 540hp (397kW) and 2,500Nm (1,850lb/ft) of torque and complies with Euro 5 emissions standards using AdBlue as part of a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system.

Feeding from the engine is a 12-speed automated manual transmission (AMT) which is said to help the trucks deliver market-leading fuel efficiency without sacrificing power or driver comfort. The L sleeper cab provides a generous berth measuring 2,240mm wide and 2,280mm long beneath in which resides a slide-out refrigerator.

On-board telematics provides a host of information including live vehicle tracking, historical location and trip data, fuel economy and driver behaviour reports.

There is also Bluetooth connection enabling hands-free phone use. Other standard driver assistance and safety features include disc brakes with electronic braking and anti-lock braking (EBS and ABS) in addition to an important accident mitigation system called Electronic Brake Assist.

EBA uses a radar and camera to constantly monitor the distance between the truck and the vehicle ahead, alerting the driver both visually and acoustically if the distance narrows, indicating the vehicle in front is slowing.

If the driver fails to react to the warning by applying the brakes, automatic emergency braking is deployed to rapidly slow the truck and thus prevent a high-speed collision. During emergency braking, an emergency stopping signal (ESS) is activated in addition to the brake lights.

The hazard light system signals the emergency situation to surrounding vehicles by an increasing flashing frequency thereby reducing the risk of a rear-end collision.

Auxiliary braking comes courtesy of MAN’s Brakematic automatically modulated engine brake which helps maintain a safe velocity on steep descents without overuse of the primary braking system.

Anti-Slip Regulator (traction control), Hill Start Aid, and Electronic Stability Program are also part of the standard package. Liberty Oil’s TGS 540s ride on a 3,875mm wheelbase and feature twin rectangular fuel tanks with a combined capacity of 1,200 litres and an 85-litre AdBlue tank.

Completing the package are polished aluminium Front Under-Run Protection System (FUPS)-compliant bullbars with LED light bars to ensure optimum night-time visibility.

As for how long the company plans to keep the MANs, Darren says they will most likely be run for eight years on constant day and night work before being moved to a less demanding role, say Monday to Friday day shift, for the following few years.

“We’ll generally keep our local and regional prime movers for ten years before we change them over while our long distance and roadtrain prime movers are usually changed out at five years after they’ve done around one million kilometres,” Darren says.

“We’re on an upgrade journey now and while we won’t be going to a single brand entirely, we expect MAN TGS 540 prime movers will make up a significant proportion of our fleet.”

Scott Prossor, Liberty Oil Area Manager Bowen & Whitsundays.
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