Asphalt carting business, Petrob, has introduced a new DAF CF450 10×4 into its Sunshine Coast operations.
The unit features a custom-made bin designed and built in conjunction with the business’s regular boilermaker.
Petrob does most of its work for Main Roads, Downer and Boral complemented by ongoing jobs for the Sunshine Coast Council for whom it carts asphalt primarily for overlay programs.
The business continues to work across different sections of the Bruce Highway upgrades including Forest Glen and the Gympie Bypass.
“I started the Gympie Bypass and I’m destined to finish it,” said James Borthwick, Petrob Director.
“It started in 2007 with our first DAF CF85 and I’m hoping to finish it with it. I’m trying to get the last load to the job which would be a nice way to bookend the project for us.
“It’s been put through the ringer and it still drives like a beautiful truck.”
Petrob, including the latest addition, operates six DAF trucks now – all CFs. There are nine trucks in total working in the business.
“Certainly, the DAFs are the superior product and the way to go in our business,” said Borthwick.
Borthwick purchased the business from its previous owner in 2002. He had an IVECO 210 ACCO which he inherited as part of the buyout.
Eventually tired of working on old trucks, he took on ownership of a new DAF CF85 8×4, his first, in 2005.
“From that moment we never looked back. The fleet and business, not surprisingly, grew from there,” he told Prime Mover.
That first DAF was purchased from Brown and Hurley Darra.
The small fleet works along the seam of the Glasshouse Mountains from Gympie down to the north side of Brisbane. On occasion the trucks will travel as far as Kingaroy.
Petrob carts out of a facility in Bli Bli, the Allen’s Asphalt plant in Caboolture and another plant located in Brendale.
Head office is at Chevallum an inland district of the Sunshine Coast.
The new Euro 6 DAF CF450 is a big step up from the first DAF CF85 according to Borthwick.
“We’d have been disappointed if they hadn’t improved anything,” he joked.
“They’re good in that you can trust the vehicle. We do a lot of hill work up in the ranges and you can sit back and let them drive themselves up.”
The new Euro 6 DAF CF450 exhibits, according to Borthwick, all the hallmarks of a truck manufacturer that has thought long and hard about the driver, their operating environment and optimising comfort.
“In the trucks I started out on your back would get sore sitting in the thing,” he said.
“Your legs are sore from climbing in and out of the truck. At the end of the day, you don’t feel like you’ve done a million miles.”
“I’ve got a couple of guys who work for me who were adamant Kenworth drivers and all they wanted was a gearstick and I said take them and see how you go.
“And now I can’t get them out of them.”
The fleet has gradually transitioned away from manual vehicles to the automated manual transmission of the ZF 12-speed TraXon.
“To have this kind of manoeuvrability on the profiling and overlay work we do for local councils is a real advantage for us,” said Borthwick.
“The turning ability of the DAF is outstanding and in the construction industry it’s proving time and again more versatile in our experience than a bonneted truck.
“The load is not all up the front. My 8x4s have got tippers on them. The weight in your bin is balanced out a lot better compared to a bonneted truck.
“When you’re putting bins in the air all the weight is at the back of the bin. Even though you’re still lifting the same weight, having the weight more to the back than to the front is better.”
The new 10×4 configuration was chosen to help with this process.
It’s not the first 10×4 in the fleet. There is another which features a walking floor.
“The only reason the new DAF ended up having a bin on it was because of COVID blowout times which were 19 months for a bin to be built,” said Borthwick.
While the 10×4 prime mover is an imposing bit of kit, the gains in productivity have been huge for the business according to Borthwick.
As he’s now carrying more weight with the vehicle, the payload, which has increased to 19 tonnes, is now 3-tonnes more than it was — that’s without any mass management.
Karen Borthwick, James’ wife, said the backup and support the business has received from Brown and Hurley Caboolture has been of immense help.
“They have been very good to us over the years and we certainly can’t complain about their service,” she said.
“If you go to any of the asphalt sites on the coast now nearly half the trucks in attendance would be DAFs and that’s just through word-of-mouth from the drivers,” said Karen Borthwick.
“The drivers when they’re waiting for their loads all talk on site amongst one and other. For fuel economy and comfort there’s no better than DAF. ”
The trucks haven’t hurt with driver retention and recruitment, either.
“It makes it a little bit more alluring for us to attract drivers because they’ve got that comfort. It’s by no means easy to get drivers but knowing that they’ve got something fairly new, as we’ve got quite a new fleet now, you can always seem to find someone.”
DAF is fast proving itself as a go-to brand in asphalt conveyance in Australia.
Borthwick said the cost benefits are fast adding up for his business.
“Being so economical to run on the local work we are doing it’s a no-brainer for your wallet,” he said.
“DAF is ultimately an affordable truck that still fits within that luxury range.”
With most of the moving parts on the DAF CF450 being non-greasable, DAF is making maintenance very easy for an owner-driver, according to Borthwick, with respect to their maintenance programs.
“The greasing intervals are extended. On the truck you’ve only got the kingpins for the greasing points.
“All of your tailshafts are non-greasable and I run disk brakes all round. Once again, for the maintenance side of it there is less greasing, you’ve still got to check them but it just keeps the maintenance down and keeps you on the road.
“My time is just as important as work time.”
Speaking of time, the 19-month waiting period for a livebottom trailer was simply unfeasible economically and practically for a business of Petrob’s nature.
Borthwick decided to get creative.
“I spoke to my boilermaker, Shane Beal here on the coast who does all of our maintenance and he’s been building steel and aluminium bins for a long time,” he said.
“I said ‘what do you reckon?’ He said ‘why don’t we have a go at doing it ourselves?’ So we had a crack.”
Borthwick started hunting around.
He soon found the manufacturer for the hoists. He opted for BT Hydraulics in nearby Kunda Park. They supplied the tanks and helped set up the hydraulics system.
The hydraulic ram was sourced from Tasmania. An external Delta hoist was added to the front.
Retractable Tarps in Brendale produced the asphalt canvas tarp.
For extra strength to mitigate against wear and tear and to better hold in the heat an 8mm floor was chosen over the more customary 6mm floor.
“Heat retention is important. You don’t want to be driving to the job or sitting on the job and losing heat from the bin,” said Borthwick.
“Basically, the whole truck was kept local.”
Engineer Steve Walters at Truck Repairs in Rocklea added the third axle at the rear.
It has been equipped with a pusher axle given all trucks in the application need to have stability control and so do the trailers.
“The back pusher allows you to protect your stability control that’s on the truck,” explained Borthwick.
“Because we get pushed around by pavers and buggies doing the asphalt, the machines we back up to, the stability control hangs out the back and can get bent up or broken so the way around it and, for me to keep using the DAF product, we put a pusher on it and that enables us to carry more weight.”
To take on a project like this can become all-consuming especially when it is not the main function of the business.
“As it’s something you don’t normally do you have to find out all about it to make it happen, so a lot of things need to be put on hold in order to make it happen,” said Karen Borthwick.
Livebottom trailers, in line with industry practice, will be favoured in the application going forward.
“In future we won’t put another new truck on the road without it being a livebottom — that’s just the way the industry is now,” she said.
“It’s worked out well thanks to a great amount of effort from James but it’s not something we will jump into again.
“He was determined that it was going to happen, and he did get it done.”
With resale value always in mind, Borthwick thought better of using an interior hoist which would take up too much room inside while also making it harder for cleaning given the asphalt can get caught up in the corners with an internal hoist roll.
“The reason we did an external hoist was if you want to sell the bin or use the truck for machinery you’ve got no hoist inside so you can fit two machines in it like a bobcat and an excavator if you needed to,” he said.
The cut on the chassis by the boilermaker, was made with this in mind to allow for a livebottom floor in future.
“If we have to convert to the livebottom floor at a later date we can,” said Borthwick.
He expects livebottom floors, especially in the wake of recent accidents involving hoisted tippers, will become standard industry practice in the next few years.
“I think from a distribution point we’ll eventually look to non-tipping bodies and how we do that efficiently,” Borthwick said.
“But the problem you’ve also got is the safer you go the heavier they get. The less your payload will result in having to increase your rates to justify the safety mechanisms. Whereas there shouldn’t be any justification for safety.
“I’m always told there’s no chequebook big enough for safety but there has to be. You can only spend so much. But that’s the way the industry is going.”