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t's a beautifully sunny filly day

17th October 2002
Page 44
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Page 44, 17th October 2002 — t's a beautifully sunny filly day
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

the middle of winter. Australian

ter that is. Commercial Motor is vis iting John Pierce Transport, aka JLP, in Girraween, a suburb of Sydney. Being a Saturday morning things are pretty quiet, although there's still some activity in the workshops and a few trucks are rolling out.

With more than 70 trucks to its name J LP is one of New South Wales' bigger line-haul (general freight) and bulk tanker fleet operators. In fact, the word "big" features strongly in general manager John S Pierce's description of the company: "We believe we're good with big trucks, with big engines, doing big jobs, across big distances."

Pierce is a third-generation member of the family business that was started, or to be more accurate, incorporated by his grandfather John L Pierce back in 1949. The second generation—his father David and Uncle Richard—each own 5o% of the business and are joint managing directors who are still "very hands on", says John S. Completing the family team, hi brother Phillip is national operations mana r.

As in many a family business each eneration has had to prove its worth, as J hn S explains with a wry smile: "I started ere around 18 years ago and did three ot our years in local operations. I thought ew verything, and told my dad I though I knew where he was going wrong too!" Not altogether surprisingly, his fath D vid suggested it might be a good idea' John S developed his talents elsewhere. There followed a six-year stint with major

contitolled-tempera tu re ialist Refrigerated Roa ways before

he returned the firm. "The general manager of over 25 was r tiring so I moved up to the top c and g t involved with admin and qu manag ent," John S recalls. "By then] the 'sm. rtness knocked out of me! they tell e I've got to be here anotlu years-1 .n't know what kind of warranty they' get on me..." %

Like ma y 'traditional' operators, J has develop -d a niche busin ss outside 0 of its general haulage base. Phillip Pierce in particular has played a major part in the increase in JLP's tank work. "He came out of the workshop and really took a shine to tankers," John S explains. "At the time we were only doing four or five chemical/nonhazardous trucks, but he has really developed the growth of the bulk tanker side."

Today J LP is a major bulk fuel distributor, delivering into local depots and service stations under contract for the likes of Shell, Mobil and Caltex. To get a taste of the kind of kit run in the J LP tanker fleet we wander around the yard with Mark Carter, LP's workshop supervisor and former native of Handsworth, Birmingham. Wherever you go in Australia sooner or later in haulage you'll inevitably bump into a pommie.

Carter emigrated to Australia 15 years ago, having served his time with the old West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive. "That's where I did my apprenticeship, on Gardner LXBs," says Carter, pointing to !LP's venerable Gardner-powered shunter. "That's why I like that thing... it's the only thing that starts in the morning!"

J LP runs a mixed fleet of top-weight tractors including Kenworths, Macks, Freightliners, Western Stars and, more recently, Iveco EuroTechs and PowerStars (a locally made bonneted version).

—17 Closer examination it , ,ertainly n,1 itard , . EuroTechs sitting amongst the US tractors in the yard, although on closer examination they are subtly different to European models. For a start they are specced for "B-Double" (twin-trailer) work and feature a set-forward front axle to take account of local weight regs (a mere six tonnes gross is allowable on a steer axle in Australia) along with a Hendrickson air-suspended Mentor double-drive back bogie.

In place of the UK-standard Iveco Cursor diesels the EuroTechs (or IVIP4700s as they're called Down Under) rely on 15-litre Cumrnins ISX or 12.7-litre Detroit Diesel Go Series engines rated at 475-5oohp, driving through Fuller i8-speed crash boxes.

Likewise, the four "long-nose" PowerStars, also specced up for B-Double work, have Cat C12. or Detroit Diesel engines.

One of JLP's EuroTech/ Marshall Lethlean B-Double tanker outfits grosses at around 50-55 tonnes with the short 'A' trailer at the front carrying 25,800 litres, while the second 'B' trailer hauls 32,000 litres. The 'A' trailer is attached to the 'B' trailer via a conventional second fifthwheel coupling over its bogie.

With the cabover EuroTech up front, the rig measures 19m long; with a bonneted PowerStar that stretches to 25m. On some routes the "short" B-Double tanker can go anywhere a semi-trailer can go.

Driver acceptability

I LP previously ran International S-Line artics (the predecessor to the PowerStar Down Under) but has only been running Ivecos 'proper' for some 16 months. What's been Carter's experience of the marque to date? With the EuroTech he says: "They're getting there.' In terms of driver acceptability the Ivecos score highly against their American rivals.

"We had problems with them, but then we had problems with Kenworth too," says Carter. "But the Ivecos are liked by the drivers for their comfort and manoeuvrability. The noise levels in them are good too... when you talk to a driver on a mobile you can hear him!"

Having the local Iveco dealership (Sydney Truck Sales) only eight minutes away ensures good back-up. "Their service is second to none," says Carter. "If I have a problem they say: 'When can you get it in?' Spares back-up is also good. It's never a problem. If you can't get a spare part it makes my life a misery but they're no problem."

As workshop supervisor Carter is ultimately responsible for 62, prime movers at Girraween. "We've got safety inspections every 20,000-25,000km on trucks, although that can be less, as well as looking after trailers," he reports. ;LP also runs to tractors from a base in Toowoomba in Queensland "We catch up with them every io,000km," says Carter.

If the EuroTechs are a familiar sight amid all the American models in JLP's yard, so too are the distinctive square-section Australian THOMAS tank trailers (the name is an acronym: Tank Having Optimum Mass and Stability).

A number of THOMAS tankers have long been running in the UK on TDG Linkman and supermarket fuel contracts.

"We've had them for years," says Carter. "One of them is an eight-year-old we got in 1994. They're very stable. Originally the suspension was a bit too soft but they've since had upgraded springs."

By Australian standards J LP has a very young fleet. "The average age of trucks in our line-haul fleet is two and a half years while in the tanker division it's even younger," says John S. "The bulk of our equipment is all under warranty; with Cummins we get a million kilometres."

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