Sunday, July 3, 2016

SRH Milk Haulage owner Scott Harvey isn’t one to mince his words. A no-nonsense straight shooter with an eye on the future, Scott has some clear goals in mind for his company. 

Setting the wheels of his plan in motion, the company recently welcomed the addition of FM Volvo Globetrotters and Mack Superliners fitted with custom designed King bull bars. 

Based in Rutherford, an outer suburb of Maitland NSW, SRH Milk Haulage has grown from a single truck operation in the early nineties to the major mover of milk up the northeast coast of Australia and the southern region of Western Australia. Scott accepted that growth was inevitable if he wanted to provide a superior level of service to his expanding client base; however the rapid rate at which this growth occurred was something that neither he nor his original business plan were able to forecast. 

The company’s main income is derived from milk haulage, from farm pickups through to interstate bulk milk haulage in purpose-built super tankers. SRH Milk Haulage may be in a niche market, but even so, there is no escape from freight rate under-cutters. Strategically planning farm collection runs to ensure the utmost efficiency is crucial to maintaining positive cash flow and something that experience and their customised logistics software enables them to do well. 

Equipment body and trailer. Together the pair make up this month’s Top Truck feature. Mechanical specifications of the French duo are identical. 

Both run the DXi11, 11-litre Euro 5 engine producing 343kW (460hp) and 2199Nm (1622lb/ft) of torque, the Renault OptiDriver 12-speed AMT transmission, the P2191 tandem drive set rated at 21,000kg and both have leaf and twin airbag suspension. 

The deal on the trucks was done with Carl Capstick of Motor Truck Distributors. The association between the Cates and Carl goes back many years and the brothers have a great respect for their supplier. “ We have always found Carl to be fair and reasonable, stands by his word, and is always my first contact when a new truck is contemplated,” said Snow. As for the two Renaults, Snow says they go very well for 460hp. 

“ They would be the most comfortable truck I have ever driven. You hop out after 800kms at the end of your day feeling like you have just started work. Blair Snell drives our Northern Rural Haulage truck carting palm kernel, fertiliser, and metal etc and he loves it.” The Cates-branded combination is often driven by Snow himself or Dave Brocket. 

Both trucks were specified with sleeper cabs, disc brakes with automatic pad adjustment, 385/65x22.5 super single front tyres to take advantage of a standard 7.1 tonne rating, 295/80x22.5 rear tyres, a 4300mm wheelbase and rear engine mounted live drive PTO. 

In keeping with modern European spec the trucks came with high levels of electronic safety enhancements. The EBS+ includes anti-lock braking, emergency brake assist, anti-spin and hill start assist. 

Cates Brothers has many long-standing customers, such as Fulton Hogan, Broadspectrum, and Ballance Agri-Nutrients. The two Renaults with their high levels of specification and safety will help the Cates’ plans to grow these important business relationships. 

Maximising their equipment to the limit is one of their prime focuses. “I think the buzz word they use these days is ‘uptime’,” Scott smiled. “In our NSW operation we run a large number of new Volvo FM Globetrotters fitted with new King Bars bull bars. With the drought we were getting a lot of animal strikes that was causing a lot of front-end panel damage to the vehicles. This tends to cost between $15-20K to repair, plus the downtime while the vehicle was off the road.” Scott had spoken to Craig McPherson at Kingbars, who came up with a great solution providing maximum front-end protection with the added bonus of being able to perform the daily checks without dropping the bull bar. 

Understandably the ground around farms in the wetter winter months can get spongy, reducing traction for the milk tankers. “All our trucks are specced with full cross locks so they are very capable in the soft and wet going,” said Scott. “But sometimes it ’s easier on the equipment if we hook a tractor up to the truck to aid with traction and reduce damage to the farm roads. The backing plate on these King Bars is strong enough and fixed to the vehicle so we can safely pull a fully loaded tanker with the bull bar’s tow pin and that ’s something you can’t do with cheaper bars. 

“In Western Australia we specify the heavier duty Road Train King Bars for our Mack Superliners. They finish them off nicely too, with the Mack logo etched in the side.” Jamie Maher is the workshop manager for SRH Milk Haulage and he is adamant there is ‘no time for downtime’ in their organisation. 

He runs a very strict maintenance programme to ensure there are no breakdowns on the road. In their Rutherford workshop they only service and repair trailers. To monitor trailer running gear condition they use a brake roller machine and shaker, which allows them to print out reports of each vehicle’s condition and brake adjustment. “ We run every trailer over this machine on a weekly rotation,” Jamie said. 

“All our prime movers are on service maintenance contracts with the vehicle manufacturer,” Scott explained. “ That means we know exactly how much it costs to run each piece of equipment from the day we take delivery to the day we sell it. It also means we don’t have to carry a vast spare parts inventory and it puts the onus of the workmanship back on the dealership to ensure the trucks are running all the time when they should be. 

“In simple terms, we have one monthly truck payment that includes a fixed maintenance component,” Scott said. “After that, I can budget for the tyres and fuel.” Scott has firm beliefs about the role that drivers play in establishing and maintaining the image and professionalism that the transport industry portrays to clients and the community at large. The gleaming presentation of his trucks is only one part of a bigger picture. 

“I hate those coffee cups with lids,” Scott states. “I won’t use them and I don’t expect my drivers to use them. Drivers should be able to pull up and have a proper cup of coffee. It only takes five to 10 minutes.

But if there’s one thing I can’t stand though, it’s blokes who turn up to work in baggy tracksuit pants. What sort of a statement are they trying to make? To me, it simply says that they take no pride in themselves and if that ’s the case, how can they take pride in the work they do? What sort of an impression must it leave on customers?”

Quality of service and the resultant ‘word of mouth’ are aspects that Scott attributes to the continued growth and success of his operation.

“I use older experienced successful transport operators like Ian Cootes as a role model,” Scott explained. “Don’t work for nothing and give people their money ’s worth. I’m not into cutting rates, I just want to do the best possible job and be paid fairly for the work that I do.” As for tankers, Scott preferred option is Tieman over any other brand. “ Tieman are like family, they are always willing to help,” said Scott. “But it is the quality of their product and my previous experience of it that convinced me to keep choosing them over other manufacturers.” Improvements in their design have seen an increase in the legal carrying capacity. Preferred axle, suspension and brake running gear under the barrels is BPW. The components come with a three-year, 1-million-kilometre guarantee, something Scott finds reassuring. 

The pumping package and hydraulic hose reel can be remotely moved to either side of the truck, which makes life far easier for drivers when the entrance to some milking vats demands such access flexibility. As the pumping gear has now been placed further forward on the tanker, Tieman has been able to improve their pumping equipment ’s flow rate. 

“ The fact that the pumping package and hydraulic hose reel are independent of the trailers means we can swap it out for ser vicing, further improving utilisation,” said Scott. 

SRH Milk Haulage run approximately 60 Volvo and Mack trucks, but their effective fleet management procedures and work-smart policies are sure to manifest themselves in continued and long-term sustainable growth.

 Like NZ, rural Australia is covered in single lane bridges that have far outlived their shelf life.