The road feeder

Melbourne-based JTE is a classic “road feeder” service for the global air cargo industry. The idea behind road feeding is simple – companies like JTE assist the airline industry in moving freight to and from airfreight terminals by road, allowing an airline to expand its service network on demand. As a result, the client only has to commit to one single contract for transportation and handling, which can simplify both rate structure and international business processes, and only has one point of contact.

“We are the road extension of an airline,” explains JTE’s newly promoted National Manager, Rod Braganza. “For example, if you have international airfreight coming into Sydney and it has to be sent to Perth, but the cargo is too big to fit onto a standard passenger aircraft, we simply move it by road on our specialised trailers. Some such services are even allocated a regular airline flight number.”

Recently, JTE transported cargo on behalf of an airline customer for the World Superbike Championship, carting the sensitive equipment from Sydney down to Melbourne and back up to New South Wales’ capital to be flown out of the country after the event. “What we do is no everyday job,” says Rod. “It’s a whole new level of road transportation because it has to take into account international standards and work according to a very strict schedule.”

To ensure that the world’s airfreight does not stay grounded once a plane has landed somewhere in Australia, JTE’s national network – covering Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Coolangatta, Perth and Adelaide – operates around the clock, seven days a week. Hence downtime is not an option, says Rod. “You need to have the best people and equipment to make sure the supply chain won’t be interrupted.”

Established in 1989 and purchased by Qantas Freight Enterprises in May 2008, JTE can boast a fleet of 35 uniquely specced trailers, mostly built by Vawdrey or Krueger.  On the truck side, the brand has decided on Kenworth. Currently operating “anything between a 604 and the new K200 cab-over”, JTE management has already decided that the K200 will be the company’s prime mover of choice in the future.

The latest in a long line of top-selling models, the road train rated K200 is easily recognisable through the new oval radiator grille that ensures sufficient cooling for the engine, which has been moved backwards compared to the old K100 model.

“Based on a maximum turnaround time of five years, we plan on adding three new K200s in 2012, all fitted with the latest electronic safety technology available from Kenworth, the EBSS. Incorporating electronic braking, active cruise control and stability control, this system will help us maintain our leading position in the road feeding game,” says Rod, who is a strong advocate of sticking to a single brand to simplify maintenance. “We outsource the entire servicing to Kenworth because we like the idea of having a single point of contact that we trust in.”

To actively influence driver fatigue, Rod opted for a manual gearbox as standard. “Especially the more traditional truck drivers find the automatic gearbox a bit alien, and we think it is a viable tool to keep the concentration level up and engage the driver more actively,” he says, pointing out that the gear lever in the K200 can be folded away to give more walk-through access to the sleeper area. “We are all convinced that the Kenworth is the right truck for the job, not just in terms of exhaust emission and power available, but also in terms of driver comfort and space as well as meeting ever higher safety standards – especially as a B-double prime mover.”

Specialised in carrying Unit Load Devices (ULDs), which are the common measure in the airfreight game, JTE is about to make the B-double configuration a national standard. To handle everything from ULDs to loose freight, JTE relies on roller bed conveyors that are typically fitted to the rear trailer in a B-double combination. According to Rod, the trailer fleet is also equipped with air ride suspension, lockable rear doors and retractable lift decks as standard.

The latest addition to the all-white fleet are two curtain-sided drop deck A-trailers, custom-built by Dandenong-based trailer expert Vawdrey and equipped with the brand’s latest automatic mezzanine deck system. While most A-trailers that bear the JTE logo come in a straight deck layout, the new 12-pallet drop deck design is anything but standard.

“In the past, JTE simply used a straight deck roll back design, but the mezzanine solution has added a whole new dimension to the mix. Now we are able to combine the roller bed B-trailer with a mezzanine deck lead trailer to create the most versatile B-double in the industry,” says Rod. “The automatic drive allows the driver to raise or lower the mezzanine deck via the touch of a button – eliminating the risk of climbing onto the platform to relocate the corner saddles whilst a forklift balances the deck in mid-air.”

In a highly contested market, such details can make all the difference, says Rod. “Most companies will not manually lift decks at the venue anymore. We have experienced numerous occasions where a B-double is unloaded, but the driver has to leave the yard and get the decks adjusted before the trailer will be loaded again. By the time he returns, he has not only lost an hour or two – he is also back waiting in the queue to be loaded.”

In addition, the new Vawdrey design also has bungee straps fixed to the roof, eliminating the need to throw straps over the cargo or climb on top of the cargo to manually secure the load. “We didn’t hesitate to implement such a feature,” says Rod. “If a new technology is able to both improve OH&S and also raise operational efficiency, we will look into it.”

According to Rod, JTE’s number one priority is to integrate safety, security and quality into every element of the business. “We are committed to ensuring that all of our activities are conducted in accordance with the highest government regulations and industry standards,” he says. “That’s why we use the Kenworth K series. It is safe to say that it has become Australia’s standard truck in the last few years, and questions are asked of this truck more than they are of any of its competitors. As an end user, we can only benefit from that experience.”

In that sense, Kenworth has become a viable cornerstone of JTE’s ambitious future plan. “All of this is within the big picture of becoming the leading force in both efficiency and safety,” says Rod. “In the future, we want to continually increase the number of B-doubles in our fleet. Traditionally we only used them on the west coast, particularly on the Melbourne to Perth route, but now we’ll have more of them on the Melbourne to Sydney and Sydney to Brisbane/Coolangatta leg too.”

On that account, Vawdrey’s new mezzanine floor A-trailer has the potential to boost JTE’s flexibility. “Due to the nature of our business we will always have a need for roller-operated floors on our B-trailers because we transport a mixture of ULDs and loose cargo, but there is a real opportunity for the mezzanine solution to be used all around the country. Now we can carry loose cargo on the A-trailer and aircraft units on the rear to service the airfreight industry – the K200 should be able to handle that with ease.”

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