Steely resolve

Hornby Transport Services (HTS) is owned and managed by Bob Hornby, his son Adam Hornby and Robbie Miners, who joined the company in 2006. Transporting scrap metal is the major function of the HTS operation and the company is quite probably the largest of its type in Australia. Scrap steel ranging from old washing machines to crushed car bodies is first taken from various supply points to Hexham, near Newcastle, to be shredded and have contaminants such as rubber and plastics removed. The current, strong demand for scrap steel has resulted in large quantities being trucked-in from Queensland and even shipped on coastal vessels from other states.

The shredded steel material is then transported to the steelworks at Rooty Hill in Western Sydney or to Port Kembla, where is it is used in the production of new steel to make products such as reinforcing rod for the construction industry.

Scrap steel isn’t all that HTS carries and this is also reflected in equipment choices. Transporting scrap can be hard on the trailers particularly as the excavator-type machines doing the loading pound the various pieces down in order to crush them to reduce the volume and maximise the payload.

“When we design a trailer it has to be capable of multi-tasking,” says Adam. “We look at our various customers’ requirements and come up with the appropriate solution.”

An example of this are B-double tipping trailer sets with the rear trailer being a drop deck to increase cubic capacity when carrying coking coal out of Whyalla in South Australia to the steel mill at Rooty Hill which uses the coal in the production of steel. Waste from the steel production process is taken from Rooty Hill to Port Pirie with the same truck returning with the less dense coking coal.

The set-up of alloy trailers capable of carrying scrap costs more and comes with some payload reduction compared with standard alloy construction but the benefits are that it makes the trailers’ applications more flexible and increases the overall efficiency of the fleet. The additional investment results in a payload still higher than steel tippers, which can benefit HTS and its customers’ bottom lines.

Occasionally the HTS trucks will carry loads of grain from the western districts of NSW as a return load following the delivery from Newcastle of grinding media to the gold mines located in the region. The grinding media consists of various sizes of high tensile steel balls similar to cannon balls, which are used in a tumbler to break dirt away from the gold. B-double tippers loaded with these balls can travel as far as the Tanami Desert or Mt Isa, several times a month. These trips are popular with the drivers as they can get some experience away from the monotony of the main highways and consequently the opportunities are rotated.

In addition to the scrap destined for use, in the manufacture of steel, HTS also transports new steel products and are currently trialling using tippers rather than its flatbed trailers to transport steel coils. What may seem to be a break from tradition is actually how similar products are regularly transported in the United States, and HTS is working towards getting the specialised load restraint requirements addressed and approved.

Enter the cab of one of the Western Stars and Bob Hornby’s interest and background in technology is immediately evident. The trucks are equipped with the latest in electronic driver support systems including telematics systems from Teletrac Navman. Touch screen tablets are used for functions such as pre-start checks, IAP declarations, mass management, sign-on glass proof of deliveries and drivers’ trip planning and work diaries.

“With IAP (Intelligent Access Program) work we have two tracking boxes in each cab,” says Bob. “We have a digital speedo as a function of the tablet mounted just above the driver’s eye level which is connected to the IAP control box and we have the speed limiter set at 100 kph with new tyres and the engine brake is automatically applied if the speed goes to 101 when on cruise control.”

“Everything is password protected,” says Robbie. “No one can tamper with our Cummins ECUs (engine control units), not even us”.

“We do everything we can to keep our drivers compliant,” says Adam. “Other than drive the trucks ourselves. We aim to manage their fatigue using electronic work diaries and in-cab support systems like the Seeing Machines. We’ve had great acceptance from our drivers because they recognise that these systems are there to keep them alive.”

HTS is currently moving towards Advanced Fatigue Management status for some drivers on certain routes purely to enable a driver who has experienced delays to at least get home or to a depot rather than be forced to park at a roadside rest area for an extended time when perhaps all they needed was another 30 minutes of driving to reach a location where they can have a decent long break. The company policy of all trucks being off the road between midnight and 4.00am means that the drivers and the management can sleep easy during that acknowledged period of higher risk.

Other safety technology include retro-fitting WABCO ABS/EBS trailer braking systems to all trailers within the HTS fleet, which also allows management to check axle weights on a mobile phone or tablet.

“We’ve assisted with supplying trucks to NSW Roads and Maritime Services, and the NHVR and Queensland Roads over the past couple of years on the roller brake testing project,” says Adam.

HTS is aware of its place in the community as an employer and also embraces recycling of waste such as oils and tyres from its own operations. The well-equipped workshop and its staff, which includes three boilermakers, provides onsite maintenance and engineering expertise that can include complete rebuilds and upgrades of trailers.

HTS runs an eclectic fleet of trucks with a number of brands represented and was an early adopter of Cat Trucks when they were fitted with Cat C15 ACERT engines. The brand they keep coming back to is Western Star and HTS recently took delivery of six new Western Star prime movers from Hartwigs in Wagga Wagga. Fitted with 600hp X15 Cummins engines, the SCR technology of these latest engines is already contributing to improvements in fuel efficiency over the previous EGR models and reliability has not been an issue.

Adam says that the decision to obtain the latest Western Stars is based on three areas of importance – driver safety and comfort, vehicle reliability and fuel efficiency.

“The Western Star cab is ideal for our drivers who are away from home for extended periods,” Adam says. “Some of our people live in places like Wagga and Port Macquarie so they can have the opportunity to be home mid-trip but our aim is to make the trucks a decent stay when on the road.”

The Western Stars are equipped with everything possible to make life on the road comfortable including fridge/freezers, microwave ovens and DVD/televisions. Icepack air conditioning keeps the sleeper cabs comfortable when the engine is turned off.

Scheduling means that all of the new Western Stars are away from the HTS home base so the photo session for this article focusses on a 600hp Cummins Signature powered 4900FXT with its Stratosphere sleeper. Despite not being ‘brand new’ the Western Star is in typical HTS pristine condition both outside and inside. Driver Leigh is about to set off to Perth and reinforces his bosses’ enthusiasm for the Western Star brand and the one-truck, one-driver policy.

The digital readout for the on-board weighing system indicates that the combination is loaded to perfection and allows for an extra tonne of fuel to be added just prior to setting off on the journey across the country.
Problems facing the industry at large also affect operators like HTS and the team has some enlightened opinions.

“Distracted driving is a major problem, not just for our people but other motorists as well,” says Robbie. “Especially texting. And there needs to be better facilities for showers and meals when on the road particularly for female drivers.”

Adam is also concerned about motorists driving uninsured cars and suggests that compulsory third party property insurance should be a factor for registration just as green slip insurance is for personal injury.

“I’ve always had the philosophy that you can’t keep doing things the same way,” says Adam. “If you keep doing the same thing day-in and day-out someone will overtake you because they might have a better idea and beat you to it. It’s up to us to keep coming up with better and safer ways to do our jobs.”

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