SCT Logistics: Time critical service

SCT Logistics commenced the NSW Sugar Co-operative contract in 2005, operating 33 Kenworth T401s and the same number of purpose built Hamelex-White multi-lift trailers. At the time it was SCT Logistics’ largest single bulk transport contract and a move by the company to diversify from its mainly linehaul and rail fleet operations.
The movement of sugar cane from farms in northern New South Wales to the mills at Broadwater, Condong and Harwood is big job in all senses of the word, with 2.5 million tonnes transported annually by SCT Logistics in an around the clock operation at peak harvest times in what is a finely-tuned operation.

So exacting is the supply of sugar cane to the mill that all truck movements are carefully scheduled in a GPS tracked operation, ensuring a continuous tonnage rate of cane enabling the milling process to be undertaken at peak efficiency. In order to maintain delivery flow, all vehicles are strategically despatched to pickup points, eliminating delays through a highly sophisticated reporting system specifically developed for the haulage task. 

Productivity is the keyword in the sugar growing areas, and while the season finished at the end of December, there is little time for rest. SCT Logistics is continually developing cost effective transport strategies for the dedicated haulage operation that has put into place major productivity benefits for its client. Where time can be saved, it equates to profitability.

A continuous data flow is vital and every tonne of cane, pickup date and time, bin number, mill delivery time, truck number and net cane weight is closely monitored and recorded in what is a seamless haulage operation. SCT closely monitors every facet of truck movement and updates its services and, obviously, efficiencies. Data is continually analysed to investigate ways in which services can be improved and SCT works closely with the mills to ensure ongoing improvement right across the operation.

“As the 2010 sugar cane season approached, we entered the second phase of our contract,” Bob Briggs, SCT Logistics Manager for the NSW Sugar Contract explains. “From the beginning of the contract it was envisaged that with the Kenworth T401’s demanding workload they would be replaced after five years – hence the reference to the second phase of the contract.  When it came to equipment selection, a rigorous elimination process involving some of Australia’s leading truck manufacturers was undertaken.

“We were more than pleased with the first T401s, however over the past five years we’ve refined the specification to further improve operating efficiencies,” Bob adds. “To Kenworth’s credit, they’ve taken onboard our suggestions and applied these modifications to an additional five T401s that went into service in 2007.”

Most of the recommended changes came from SCT Logistics’ Broadwater head mechanic, Mark Anderson and several have been incorporated into the truck’s standard specification. However, as SCT had not looked closely at other truck suppliers for this application, the company decided to run its selection process and requested trial vehicles from a number of potential suppliers.

The trials were held during the 2009 sugar cane season, which stretched from June to December where the vehicles were put through their paces on a run from the region’s cane farms transporting sugar cane billets to the NSW Sugar Co-operative sugar mills for crushing. For the six months of the year, harvest season truck engines never get cold as the transport operation runs cane around the clock, with approximately 50 percent of the kilometres covered being off road.

It’s a specialised operation and SCT Logistics set up an exhaustive list of criteria to assess truck suitability to the application. Not only did the company look at points such as specifications, availability of parts, cost of parts, build time of new trucks, back up service, tare weights, fuel efficiency, cost of smash repairs and pricing, to name a few, they also took the time to have as many of their drivers as possible drive the trial vehicles and fill out a ‘score sheet’.

“Some drivers are like Ford and Holden supporters on race day,” Bob said of the process. “But once the emotion had been eliminated, we found some very interesting comments which we shared with the suppliers.”

The SCT drivers scored the trucks on ease of completing daily checks, cab access, cab comfort, seating positions, cab noise, position of controls, ease of operation, gear change, rearward visibility and general visibility.

“While a final decision could only involve one winner, who would receive an order for 28 new trucks, the decision was long and hard,” Bob explains. “All the vehicles had their pros and cons and there’s no such thing as the perfect truck. Each supplier could see what SCT Logistics saw as their trucks’ suitability to the application and hopefully this information will help the manufacturers get a lot closer to supplying the perfect truck.”

So, what truck got closest to perfection? It was Kenworth’s hard working T402 powered by Cummins proven ISX EGR rated 450hp.

The T402 combines Kenworth’s renowned reliability, durability and productivity with class leading standards for comfort and performance. The T402 was developed as a purpose-built solution for intrastate and interstate distribution in single trailer, some vocational 19m B-double and rigid applications.

The T402 offers a Cummins ISX engine rated at 450hp with 1650lb/ft of torque, and a spacious and comfortable cab with wrap around dash. Optimised bumper-to-back-of-cab dimensions and set back front axle also offers additional payload advantages in an aerodynamic package.
The large one-piece curved windscreen offers a commanding view of the road ahead with excellent all round visibility. Daylite doors with drop-down glass sections deliver added sideways vision and safety. Two-piece windscreens are available as an option for those that prefer the traditional look.

SCT Logistics T402s incorporate several unique changes, including moving the air conditioning condenser out from under the bonnet and mounting it on the roof.

“This reduced the amount of dirt and dust,” Bob explains. “Kenworth re-engineered the roof air scoop to fit the condenser in a cut-out section where it will get fresh, clean air to operate with maximum efficiency.

“We believe Kenworth will be offering this feature as an option on all its off-road trucks. Congratulations to Kenworth for an excellent product, the T402.”

Rail to road, dry freight or refrigerated, SCT Logistics provides one of Australia’s most efficient and independent freight services. Established in Melbourne in 1974, SCT Logistics was a pioneer in the development of nationwide multi-modal transport and logistics transport solutions. From its early days as an east/west rail operator, SCT has grown to have branches throughout Australia. There are SCT Logistics offices and depots in all capital cities, as well as regional locations in Queensland and NSW.

The haulage of sugar cane in the northern New South Wales region has been carefully structured to embody the very best in service for growers and the NSW Sugar Cooperative alike. All sugar mills use the latest in technology for the milling process and SCT Logistics has tailored its truck and trailer fleet to aid the entire process.

It has also developed systems to provide the mills with unequalled service in the highly demanding operation, ensuring mills are kept operational with absolutely no delays in deliveries. The trucks work with a series of drivers and, as mentioned, never stop (apart from receiving service and maintenance) during the entire season.

Much of the operation is carried out on farms. Rural roads conditions are less than ideal, requiring both trucks and trailers to deliver high reliability during the season.

The last season suffered in terms of tonnages due to the fact drought and then floods impacted on the region, however it remains a huge haulage task requiring professional and dedicated service across the farm and road network.

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