According to a recent report from NSW Ports, almost half (42 per cent) of all goods found in a typical Sydney household are imported via shipping containers through the facilities at Port Botany.
In its position as the state’s main container terminal, Port Botany handles 99.6 per cent of the state’s container movements, totalling around 2.7 million during the 2021 financial year, which represented a growth of 11 per cent on the previous year.
Australia is a nation of consumers and even the COVID-19 situation hasn’t caused much disruption to the level of imports as during lockdowns more Australians simply switched to purchasing goods online rather than via traditional “bricks and mortar” retail premises.
The benefits provided by shipping containers, for both imports and exports, requires a system of land side transport with a similar level of efficiency in order to quickly move goods between the docks and the distribution warehouses.
Provision is also required for the return of containers once they have been emptied of their contents.
Jason Clenton’s father Greg operated a transport business handling airfreight to and from Sydney airport for 40 years and when he retired in 2015 he sold his single truck operation to Jason who set about examining different business opportunities.
Jason quickly recognised the looming potential for the road transport of shipping containers, not just to and from the local suburbs around his base, but also for the greater Sydney region.
Prime movers and skel trailers quickly followed as the Clenton fleet kept pace with its rapidly growing enterprise. “I only ever wanted five trucks,” says Jason whose fleet has now expanded to 12 prime movers and a variety of trailers including Hammar side loaders.
Jason was an early adopter of the benefits offered by high productivity combinations under the umbrella of the Performance-Based Standards (PBS) scheme and his interest in wanting to operate high-productivity freight vehicles led to the NHVR granting the route approval for 85 tonne GCM 30-metre A-doubles operating from Port Botany to the Clenton Transport facility at Smeaton Grange, a distance of about 60km.
This was the first such approval in New South Wales and has opened the road corridor from the port precinct to the growing industrial area of south-western Sydney.
In an engineering sense, another first on that initial Freighter A-double combination was the inclusion of a rigid drawbar dolly which improves the tracking of the overall trailer set, reduces the ‘whip’ at the rear of the second trailer and improves stability when braking.
The trailer fleet currently includes four Freighter A-doubles from MaxiTRANS which have the flexibility to carry two 40-foot containers or four 20-foot containers which provides a significant reduction in truck movements.
“We wanted to be part of something new and fresh that hasn’t been done before and we’re definitely reaping the benefits from the investment”, said Jason at the time of putting the first PBS vehicle into action.
A recent development in the Clenton’s Transport fleet has been the acquisition of four new DAF prime movers including a Super Space Cab XF and three CF models, all loaded with the latest suites of active and passive safety systems and powered by 13-litre PACCAR MX-13 engines developing 530hp and 2,600Nm.
To complement the new truck’s appearance Jason had Armoury Group at Penrith add some subtle customisation items including bullbars fitted with integral LED light bars, stainless steel deck plates and wrapped fuel tanks which require no polishing, and some pin-striping to enhance his company’s corporate graphics.
The initial decision to move to the DAF brand was essentially decided by the ready availability of DAFs with the necessary specifications and with short delivery times. Jason was quite impressed with the XF, as is the driver who mainly performs trailer work around Sydney.
“He’s a big boy and spends twelve to fourteen hours a day in it and loves the comfort and quietness,” says Jason. “He’s not getting bounced all around the cab.”
The success of the DAF XF has led to the acquisition of the CFs which mostly work in the sideloader division. Jason has also taken advantage of the maintenance and service agreements available through the local PACCAR dealer Gilbert and Roach.
“The DAF CFs offer a great level of visibility and they’ve got a back window which my guys say is important,” he explains. “It seems to ride low to the ground which is a perfect combination for our side loader division and two of the three are on sideloader work.”
The third DAF CF is involved in a relatively new situation for a client based in Melbourne who has Clenton’s Transport performing its Sydney operations with a specialised tipping skel trailer equipped with an on-board diesel powered blower which is used to empty resin products from within a 20-foot container locked onto the trailer via the container pins.
“We wanted to have a new vehicle dedicated to that work so we put our best foot forward with the new equipment. They supply the trailer and we provide the truck,” explains Jason.
“A major part of the reason they came to us was their previous operator’s yard was bumpy and potholed with water and mud and when their trailer left the yard it would be covered in mud. We’re carting food grade resin so you can’t be showing up to a client where your trailer is absolutely filthy. We can offer them something that’s better than that.”
Demand planning is a major factor in the Clenton’s Transport operation in order to satisfy customers’ needs and comply with the mostly inflexible requirements of the port operators.
An integrated allocation system combined with Teletrac Navman tablets in each of the trucks ensures efficiency and compliance. Each driver also uses the tablet at the start of each shift to declare they are fit for work as well as perform a full pre-work check of the truck and trailers.
The implementation of the Freight Tracker management system keeps tabs on vehicle movements and availabilities, and is also capable of tracking individual containers.
Not every business premise has the capacity to store containers, so clients are able to take advantage of the opportunity to store containers on either short- and long-term basis at the Clenton’s Transport premises which also has 24/7 security.
Client costs such as demurrage fees are kept to a minimum due to the rapid return of empty containers to the allocated parks at the port. Clenton’s Transport has built a reputation as not just a good place to do business, but also a good company to work for.
There is a widely acknowledged shortage of good truck drivers in Australia, yet as Jason’s company has expanded and required additional drivers, he has yet to find much difficulty in recruiting new people.
“We actually get good people come in here wanting to work for us,” he says. Ask most operator’s about their main challenges and the almost universal answer is “drivers.”
That is certainly not the case according to Jason who has recruited a great team of dedicated professionals. Instead, as challenges, Jason points to the ever escalating port fees and road tolls and the sustained upwards creep of fuel costs in recent times.
Jason considers the relationship between his business and his clients as being a mutual partnership and Jason, along with his entire team, are always striving for the ‘win-win’ balance.
“We’ve progressed to the point where we are certainly now big enough to get the job done quickly, but small enough to still treat them like a partner rather than a number,” he says. “We continue to focus on the principles that helped us expand past our first truck and still hold each individual job as the most important part of our day, focusing on safety as the underpinning of everything we do.”