Organic Growth

Compost processing business Purearth has taken delivery of a new MAN TGS. It’s one of the first day cabs built on the new truck platform in the country to be deployed as a tipper quad dog.
MAN TGS truck and dog in Perth.

In Australia 7.3 million tonnes of recyclable organic waste go into landfill, where it decomposes and creates methane. Methane is considered 26 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

To divert organic waste from landfill into a valuable resource, the FOGO initiative co-ordinated by the Federal Government through local councils, allows for composting on a commercial scale in which organics derived from food and garden are recycled so that they can be used to make nutrient-rich garden products.

Alongside his brother Sean, Paul Curtis runs a retail landscape supply business, Little Loads, that has been in their family since 1979.

An expansion into manufacturing and processing informed a decision in 2003 to commence Purearth.

Under government licence they operate a composting facility just over 30 kilometres east of where the business is based at High Wycombe, not far from the Perth Airport.

That facility receives organic feedstock from businesses in the form of food processing and green waste, grease trap waste, brewery waste and residual animal waste.

Commercial facilities use a range of technologies to aerate the material, from tractor-drawn and self-propelled windrow turners to sophisticated aerated systems with automated controls such as the one Purearth uses.

The aerated static pile composting system relies on perforated piping at the bottom of the pile to oxygenate the material before it is processed by control equipment.

Then that environmental information runs back through a programmable logic controller to office computers to ensure temperatures, moisture and oxygen are organised to accelerate the composting.

Paul Curtis.
Paul Curtis, Purearth Co-Founder.

“We generally pasteurise material in a couple of weeks and hold it for another two weeks before it comes off there and is stored until such time that it gets screened and processed for sale and further use,” says Paul.

“It’s a minus 8mm compost product that’s the black gold and that then goes into landscape products that are used widely across the landscape industry.”

This includes the Little Loads yard they own and another 15 landscape businesses Purearth delivers to.

The company also supplies to the agriculture sector for crop growing.

Trucks are naturally needed to move the material from the facility and back to Perth every day and from farms to the many outlets across the metropolitan area.

The six trucks in the fleet are company-owned with provision for sub-contractors who are also used when required. These trucks are evenly allocated between the retail business and bulk division.

The compost facility, the first to be awarded a contract by the government in the state, is undergoing a site expansion currently.

That will allow Purearth to process up to 100,000 tonnes of organics a year. It’s currently doing half that. There’s also a 358-acre farm the facility has licence on. Given the facility footprint is 12 hectares there’s great room to expand.

“We’ve organically grown the business in recent years and we’re about to take another big step,” says Paul.

Habits formed, explicitly when applied to the bettering of operational integrity of a business, soon become infectious.

This will, more than likely, impress upon resources the need for new trucks.

The tipper bins are manufacturered by Vintrans Motor Body Building and Transport Engineering.

As so happens, Purearth have taken delivery of a new generation MAN TGS.2654 rigid tipper.

It pulls a four-axle dog trailer — another milestone for the business as it is the first MAN TGS NN day cab delivered into this application. The unit runs at 56 tonnes GCM.

Though capable of 90 tonnes with its 540hp 12.4-litre Euro 5 engine, Purearth have spec’d the unit at 70 tonnes given it has ample power output for the jobs being asked of it.

“Being a new model the extra horsepower was a distinct advantage and we were very happy about that,” Paul says. “We’ve already got an older model MAN 2016 model and that’s been very good for us.”

The new truck comes with good references. A recent Winner of the IAA Truck of the Year, Paul said when he was shown the vehicle initially by Scott Hall from Penske Australia in Perth, there was an immediate attraction.

New safety systems featured on the truck certainly have helped. The MAN TGS comes with emergency braking, lane guard, adaptive cruise control, and MAN BrakeMatic, which incorporates a three-stage engine valve brake.

In such qualities lies the reason Purearth invested in the new prime mover.

“The modernised 12-speed automated manual transmission is more efficient,” says Paul. “It’s a pleasure to drive. Of course, setting it up on the road has been fun.”

The MAN TipMatic 12-speed AMT is highly advanced. Intelligent software calculates the optimum gearshift speed using data such as the accelerator position, the vehicle mass and the calculated driving resistance.

MAN TGS.2654 truck and dog in eastern Perth.

On inclines, momentum of the vehicle is maintained by fast downshifts to keep fuel consumption as low as possible.

In the Perth metropolitan area, where the MAN TGS plies its trade, the driver can manoeuvre the truck precisely or easily go with the slow-moving traffic flow thanks to idle speed enhancements.

After moving off, the vehicle travels at a low idling speed of around 600rpm, without the driver having to press the accelerator.

If the engine torque is insufficient at idling speed, the MAN TipMatic will shift down. The truck is fitted with eight-bag ECAS suspension, and hypoid diffs with power divider and cross lock.

“The driver commented that he’s not tired at the end of the day,” says Paul. “He’s got good energy.”

The MAN TGS comes in 2.5 tonnes lighter across the entire unit than the bonneted truck it replaces.

Notwithstanding the additional payload it frees up, there’s now an extra 5 cubic metres volume capacity as well.

“It’s paying for itself on that alone in the savings of payload and extra volume we can get in it,” says Paul. “The truck and trailer can hold about 45m3, so we get really good return there as well.”

The body was built by Michael Vinci of Vintrans Motor Body Building and Transport Engineering. The two companies share a prevailing partnership over many years.

“Michael has done work for us over a long period of time,” says Paul. “He’s excelled at this one. The body on the unit is outstanding.”

Coming under 19-metres in length the entire unit can travel just about anywhere. Paul is pleased with how they have maximised their volumes and the inherent versatility of the truck and dog.

“Our preference was to go to cabover again in that application for versatility in the landscape yards that we have to supply to,” he says. “Turning circle and manoeuvrability are crucial to the daily activities of our bulk trucks.”

The MAN TGS attends all 15 of the landscaping supply sites in the Purearth network. Paul anticipates the new truck will cover up to 90,000 kilometres in a year.

“The kilometres aren’t huge but it’s enough,” says Paul. “We keep it pretty busy. It’s booked out all the time.”

The 2016 MAN pulls a walking floor tri-axle trailer. It’s got a capacity of 100m3.

That unit carts bulk mulch products for Purearth’s use and also for its customers who will have noted the formidable growth of their supplier.

The roll out of FOGO in Western Australia is putting additional pressures on the organic industry.

This has resulted in the landscaping industry seeing the immediate flow on effects from commercial scale composting according to Paul.

“The primary driver behind FOGO is the Federal Government as it pushes to reduce landfills,” he says.

“There’s processors like ourselves and others who will eventually do more of it given the current focus and that will flow on back into the domestic and rural markets.”

That certainly makes new, technologically sophisticated prime movers like the MAN TGS comprehensible as a medium-term investment in a company whose horizons seemingly keep stretching.

“The industry is still growing and we’re growing within it,” says Paul.

Easy access to the radiator for administering coolant under the new grille.
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