NQX focuses on the future

One just has to look at how the operations of Toll Group subsidiary, NQX Freight System, have changed in recent years to see its commitment to the freight task is number one priority, with technologies and innovations introduced and fine-tuned to best serve customer needs.

In the ongoing pursuit of excellence, NQX is constantly revising strategies throughout its business sectors, to maintain its reputation for quality service. It operates a huge range of diverse equipment and the truck fleet has been revised significantly to offer improved safety for both drivers and freight carried. Work continually goes on behind the scenes to develop new schedules, equipment specifications and transport routes. The aim is to not only meet or even exceed compliance requirements, but also to achieve high standards in its line haul efficiency, and ultimately, customer services.

NQX has implemented a series of procedures to evaluate performance in every facet of its business models. Teams of experienced people have been trained and charged with the task of continual improvement in operations across its national freight network. With 2000 line haul movements each week around Australia, it has made a massive investment in both people and equipment.

When it comes to line haul, NQX undertakes around 40 per cent of the task, with daily services from Queensland to the Northern Territory, while Toll Linehaul looks after the long distance interstate work. The NQX operations, being mainly shorter line haul runs, saw a change in equipment specifications following an intense evaluation of its trucking activities. Prime movers without sleeper cabs were put into service on some selected routes, delivering both cost and payload benefits.

Another example of evaluation resulting in benefits was the move to bonneted Sterling trucks for some of the local and short haul fleet. Cab entry and egress was deemed to be safer due to step and grab handle placement. This move immediately lowered instances of driver injury, showing cabs are a vital safety component when you consider the number of times drivers are in and out of the vehicle.

NQX keeps abreast of new technology introductions and is committed to its environmental care obligations. It recently introduced the first European trucks into the fleet mix. For many years NQX has used American type trucks almost exclusively in its operations but recently four Mercedes-Benz Actros prime movers entered the fleet, under evaluation. NQX is seeking new technology to not only meet environmental needs for the future but also its stringent safety requirements.

“The decision to put the Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks into service was made in light of new engine technology and emissions control,” says John King, National Linehaul Manager. “An increasing awareness of the need to care for the environment has seen our customers ask what steps NQX has taken to reduce emissions. As a company committed to exceeding compliance, we went straight to Euro 5 emissions standards with these trucks.”

NQX ordered four Mercedes-Benz Actros 2660 6×4 prime movers, powered by the 16-litre V8 engine rated at 600hp. Although the primary role of the trucks was haulage in B-Double configuration, there was also a requirement for two of the prime movers to ably handle road train haulage from Townsville to Mt Isa, pulling BAB combinations if needed.

According to Daniel Casey, NQX National Manager Handling, Pickup and Delivery (PUD), the other two Actros are based in Brisbane undertaking B-Double duties on more localised and short haul runs.
“The Actros trucks based in Townsville are running to Cairns as B-Doubles but are at times required to handle the scheduled road train runs to Mt Isa. Very soon after their arrival in Townsville, one was required to do the western line haul run and did the job with no issues at all. An important part of the purchase decision was the ability of Mercedes-Benz to fully back the vehicles in Townsville. As this could be done to our satisfaction the deal was done,” Daniel says.

“The two trucks in Brisbane are on high utilisation duties on local work during the day and undertake nightly short haul line haul services. To date they have performed very well, regardless of requirements.”

As mentioned, these are the first European trucks to go into service with NQX Freight System. Featuring SCR technology and using AdBlue, the new vehicles were very much in the sphere of the unknown for a freight company that prides itself on maintaining high standards across its operations.

“Obviously we looked at every aspect of running the trucks and costs, from an operational perspective, are a vital element,” says John King. “The trucks are a lot cleaner in terms of emissions and offer extended service intervals, which are both pluses; but both diesel and AdBlue consumption was not immediately known and came under close scrutiny.”
Daniel Casey says the trucks based in Townsville, which have covered around 170,000 kilometres, are returning 1.75 kilometres to the litre on B-Double line haul duties between Townsville and Cairns. The two trucks in Brisbane, operating under congested local road conditions with a mix of nightly line haul, have travelled more than 70,000 kilometres. Fuel consumption has improved from1.63 to 1.73 kilometres to the litre. AdBlue consumption is 50 litres per 1,000 kilometres, which is considered to be a good ratio in the company’s high utilisation operations.

“When you look at the fuel figures they are comparable to other trucks in the fleet, while performance is no better or worse. The high horsepower engines are delivering very usable power over some tough country. The trucks running to Cairns have to negotiate the Cardwell range on each trip and their power and torque make that climb a simple matter,” Daniel Casey says.

Safety is a vital consideration with the trucks and NQX takes significant steps to maintain high safety standards across its operations, including speed limiting vehicles to 95kmh. The company carefully considered a number of features offered by the Actros, particularly those assisting the ageing workforce within the road transport industry.

“There are not many drivers in the 21 to 30 age bracket and we know that of 126 drivers in Toll Line Haul for example, 20 are older than 61 years; in fact,ten percent of drivers in the industry are between 61 and 70.” he says.

Both Daniel Casey and John King believe all trucks need to be simpler and safer, to lessen fatigue and allow better concentration on the driving task. The Actros prime movers are a case in point and the four units have been fitted with the full Mercedes-Benz safety package.

“The safety package allows the operator to be more vigilant and features such as lane departure warning and active cruise control, do deliver tangible safety benefits. It is a complete driving package, addressing real safety issues. It has been combined with automated transmissions to offer those behind the wheel every comfort and safety option available, to enable them to do the job both safely and efficiently,” John King points out.

NQX is continually seeking safety improvements and not only for the trucks it operates. Rather, considerable effort is put into improving safety across all aspects of its business activities, and again the company strives to exceed obligations. It is initiating the use of cameras in trucks, to record any incidents that occur. The information provided will play a big role in driver training. Assessment of all recorded incidents will deliver a comprehensive range of data to further improve safety.

NQX continually monitors driving hours and fatigue in every aspect of its operations, including its subcontractor base, using data to analyse where improvements can be introduced and focussed, to enhance its known safety record.

“There has been a lot of talk about new driving hours compliance requirements that have affected not only drivers but operations people too. However, I feel this has delivered benefits to our organisation and to the industry as a whole. If you look at the falling number of incidents on the road, you can see how everybody benefits.

“Our line haul services and schedules are designed as the result of ongoing research into addressing the fatigue issue, coupled with many other components, to deliver the best and safest operations we can deliver.
“There are many things going on out there that are doing good for the industry, such as placing 1800 numbers on the rear of trucks and trailers. It is good to obtain feedback from other road users; and yes, we do receive compliments about the actions of our people on the road. This has been a very useful tool for us and all transport companies using this initiative,” John King commented.

NQX Freight System is one of Australia’s leading providers of road transport solutions, recognition of its professional standards in freight movement and commitment of people to deliver more than 2.6 million tonnes of goods annually. The company employs more than 1,100 people and operates 25 fully staffed depots around the country.

Emphasis is placed on people working for NQX. The company proudly recognises experience and innovation exhibited by those working for it and this results in a high level of dependability for customers. Training is ongoing and the company won the Training Excellence Award at the 2009 Australian Trucking Association convention on the Gold Coast. NQX Queensland was nominated for its commitment to professional development and training of staff. It has become a registered training organisation, with learning and development resources aimed at meeting the specific needs of the company.

NQX continues to look to the future, while maintaining a leading edge in transport services, surpassing customer expectations and delivering safety and dependability.

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