The Right Mix

Third generation, family-owned company, Eureka Concrete, puts serious hours on its trucks in Ballarat. It chooses TRP as its local parts retailer and Cummins Meritor as its preferred supplier of drive axles and differentials.
Kenworth T360 with lift axle.

The story of Eureka Concrete, a regional Victorian business begins in La Trobe Street, Ballarat in 1972.

For more than 50 years the business, founded by Graeme Beaston and now run by his four sons Jason, Troy, Luke and Dominic Beaston, has processed and delivered concrete for the Central Highlands region where it has steadily forged a reputation for reliability and quality service.

In addition to the multiple sites it operates in Ballarat, Eureka Concrete also has plants in Avoca, Beaufort, Ballan and Maryborough.

The company employs 60 full time staff with another 15 sub-contractors. General Manager Troy Beaston believes Eureka creates a competitive environment in the market because its opposition is dominated by multi-national businesses.

“Being a family orientated business, we can give that personal advice and trust to our clients,” he says. “What differs us from our competitors is we provide backup service and support.”

Eureka Concrete runs several models in the vocational space including T360s, T358s and T359s from Kenworth for its 8×4 agitators, larger tri-axle 10x4s and some tipper trucks, which are the most recent additions to the fleet.

There are 45 company owned heavy vehicles before factoring in subbies.

Despite dealing with limited access on most sites the newer tri-axle trucks are delivering more payload and that outweighs any issues of manoeuvrability.

The 9-metre barrel (up to 8.2 cubic metres) improves on the 7.2-metre capacity on the 8x4s, making them ideal for the bigger jobs on commercial projects and industrial sheds.

These Kenworth T360s have reversed the placement of the lift-axle which is commonplace at the rear of most trucks of this type.

Eureka Concrete has moved the lift-axle to the front to counter its high frequency for having to back into sites while it also increases power to the drive.

“With the lift-axle in front of the drive axle it works a lot better to accommodate that extra reversing required of drivers at many sites,” says Will Beaston, who is Head of the Workshop and the grandson of the now retired company founder.

“The way to do it is to have the tandem drive wheels at the back doing all the driving and the lift axle floating around. That’s the way we have set it up.”

Will Beaston, Eureka Concrete Workshop Manager.

While Kenworth is the main brand of choice Eureka does have a few UDs, Macks and Mercedes-Benz trucks. Meritor’s 14x tandem drive axle is standard gear in a lot of vocational segments.

Eureka Cement spec it widely on their Kenworth and Mack vehicles.

“It comes down to reliability,” says Will. “We’ve never had any problems with that product ever.”

The 14X tandem drive axle have succeeded Meritor’s longstanding 140/145 series, but conveniently feature the same axle housings, brakes, hubs and drums as the predecessor.

A major difference is the larger main differential bearings in the forward rear axles that improve durability. The robust inter-axle differential is also 20 per cent larger to comfortably handle today’s higher torque engines.

The Eureka Concrete workshop employs a specialist who services all the differentials in the fleet. Oils in the diffs are changed between 100,000 and 150,000kms.

The trucks receive a service every three months or between 300 to 500 hours, depending on what comes first. This involves changing engine oil filters, fuel filters and air filters.

During this process the brakes and suspension also get a general check over. Most of the repairs and servicing on the Kenworth product takes place in the workshop.

When it comes to the condition and durability of the equipment Will is at the coalface.

“Meritor’s braking system is pretty good,” he says. “Because our agitators aren’t doing much highway work the brakes are nearly always in great condition. We work on the brake drums, brake shoes, slack adjusters and seals. When the wear is there, we will tend to those accordingly.”

The business has had to keep pace with the recent housing boom and ongoing demand for commercial and civil infrastructure.

Going the extra mile for the customer, no matter if they are only at the prospective stage, is inherent in the business. Even when at capacity for scheduled jobs, Eureka Concrete will take on more work should a customer need it.

A steady stream of residential jobs offsets the civil works like kerbed roads and footpaths while lucrative windfarm projects have become a growing source of revenue in recent years.

Bases for wind turbines involve significant concrete pours like the one Eureka did at the Skipton Wind Farm. They now operate a Con-E-Co batch plant for projects of this scale.

“The mobile plant we can put anywhere we want at any location and distribute concrete from there,” says Will. “It can go anywhere in Victoria or Australia for that matter.”

The faster, mobile plant relies on a bin system. In the legacy plants they normally load by weights with front end loaders. With the bin system a bucket is poured directly into the hopper and from there that hopper will pivot and distribute it into the belt.

With so many jobs, big and small, in the offing, Eureka Concrete can’t afford to have vehicles parked up waiting on parts.

A major diff problem, after all, can immobilise the truck.

“We’ve had one diff in my time, which is seven years, malfunction,” says Will. “That’s not a bad record and that is going back five years. Meritor is a very good product.”

A simplicity of design helps. Tapered dowels for the differential carrier to axle housing installation on the forward rear axles are in only four locations. This helps reduce stress points.

The parts support is also excellent according to Will despite the fleet being based in a regional town.

“TRP do a really good job in supporting Eureka Concrete,” he says. “I need the parts inside a couple of days and TRP probably do the best service in Ballarat. They rarely don’t have something in stock for us and since Supervisor Andrew Davidson took over it has improved dramatically.”

Offering reliability to a business that values it so much to the point it underpins its very ethos, goes a long way in fortifying the relationship.

Three Eureka Concrete 8x4 agitators.
A sample of Eureka Concrete’s mixed fleet in Ballarat.

“There’s no need to be looking elsewhere,” says Will. “If something is not broken, we’re not going to change it.”

Service routines throughout the mobile assets are tracked via a Fleetware product. It helps to ascertain hours of use on the trucks for scheduling. Drivers are also a big help.

The vast majority have been designated their own truck and often understand the nuances of the vehicles, day-in and day-out, better than anyone according to Will.

“They do a prestart check every day where they jot down their hours, kilometres and note anything that might be off with the truck that morning,” he says.

“That will be generated as a message and get sent out to me. I will book in the truck for a service and the repair that needs to be done for that truck that’s had the prestart check.”

Across the fleet the Cummins ISL 8.9-litre engine is the most prevalent power plant with an ISC 8.3-litre engine specified for the tip trucks. Very few of the engines have thrown a piston to Will’s memory.

“That’s very good given the engine hours are up well over 24,000 hours of operation,” he says. “That’s a decent record. Some of the trucks have gone more with no issues at all.”

The memo for Eureka is not to treat its concreters and customers as just numbers. Delivering personalised service and great product reliably stems from that.

“Graeme Beaston before he retired used to run around pies and pasties and drinks for the concreters and customers,” recalls Will.

“He was giving back as much as he can. As a family business our reputation is important and word-of-mouth in the local areas, we work is something we rely on. We treat all customers with respect.”

In the immediate community the company presence is palpable.

Eureka Concrete supports many organisations in Ballarat and the surrounding district by advertising, sponsoring and spending within the local towns.

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