Austrans renews partnership with Pacific National

A 10-year contract between transport and logistics company, Austrans, and rail freight operator, Pacific National, was announced earlier this month.

This deal supports their mission to decarbonise the national supply chain by moving more freight on rail and demonstrates an investment in people, equipment and technology.

“This announcement solidifies the 37-year relationship between Pacific National and Austrans,” said Austrans Managing Director, Greg O’Shea.

“Pacific National’s performance and customer-centric focus are unmatched in rail and align seamlessly with Austrans’ core values, which have been a driving force behind our business growth.

“Pacific National’s support has helped Austrans evolve from a small freight forwarder into a nationally recognised presence in Australia.

“I am thrilled about our future to grow with Pacific National and the additional benefits this collaboration will bring to our customers and the environment. Here’s to pushing boundaries for our end customers, fostering a less carbon intensive future in the national supply chain, and delivering what matters together.”

Paul Scurrah, CEO and Managing Director of Pacific National, said the contract is an excellent outcome for Austrans customers.

“Pacific National is Australia’s leading containerised rail freight provider, and it continues to invest heavily in people, rollingstock and terminal assets, and new and improved technologies,” he said.

“These investment initiatives, combined with Pacific National’s existing depth of nationwide expertise and operational capacity, provides Austrans with added scope to expand and thrive in the national supply chain. Rail freight also provides a lower emissions transport solution to both Austrans and its many end customers.

“Pacific National aims to be Australia’s most trusted and respected logistics partner by delivering what matters, and we are excited to continue transforming the intermodal containerised market with our long-term partner Austrans.”

In other news, the QuayLink Project at the Port of Devonport represents the largest investment in port infrastructure in Tasmania in more than a quarter of a century.

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Major Tasmanian port transformation takes shape

The QuayLink Project at the Port of Devonport represents the largest investment in port infrastructure in Tasmania in more than a quarter of a century.

The $240 million infrastructure at the Port of Devonport is designed to future-proof the city as a freight and tourism gateway for the next 50 years.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Michael Ferguson, said QuayLink unlocks a billion-dollar investment through shipping companies seeking to invest in larger, more efficient vessels to meet growth and demand.

“Three new vessels, commissioned to arrive in 2024, will increase Devonport’s freight capacity by 40 per cent, with an additional 160,000 passengers visiting via Devonport every year,” he said.

“This boost to tourism and trade is estimated to increase Gross State Product by $130 million.”

Through this project, TasPorts will deliver a real-time three-dimensional vessel port-monitoring system, renewable energy shore power for customers and an improved port layout.

In August last year, a Tasmanian joint venture established by Hazell Bros and Brady Marine & Civil was awarded a major works contract that forms part of Project QuayLink.

Works are well underway with 88 Tasmanian business contracted directly and generating a local spend of $61 million, above and beyond the required two-thirds of the contract’s value to be spent with Tasmanian businesses.

With the reclaim area now fully complete, TT Line will start work imminently on the new three-tiered ramp to embark and disembark the new Spirit of Tasmania vessels.

“Currently the building of the new berth pocket and wharf infrastructure are progressing well with local businesses providing the aggregate for the rock bags, concrete for the on-site pour and pre-cast for the different elements of the wharf,” Ferguson said.

TasPorts has staged the works to stimulate local supply and spend.

All but the final of 51 piles are in place and four of the 61-tonne headstocks were in place by the end of October.

TasPorts has also released its first sustainability report for QuayLink, a year-on-year assessment of sustainability measures and environmental monitoring.

The engagement work undertaken by QuayLink assisted in the EcoPorts accreditation for the Port of Devonport.

In other news, JOST Australia has joined Sustainable Choice Group as a Sustainability Tracker member.

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VIC biosecurity update

A new biosecurity strategy has been announced by the Victorian Government in a bid to strengthen biosecurity systems and prepare for future biosecurity threats.

The new strategy outlines five goals and 20 actions that will aim to safeguard the state against pests and diseases.

The Victorian Government acknowledged that climate change, increased trade and travel, and use of land change will contribute to the increased risk of biosecurity hazards.

“The prosperity and resilience of our horticulture industry and the vital contribution it makes to Victoria’s economy and environment depend on a robust biosecurity strategy,” said Biosecurity Reference Group representative, David Reid.

The Government is focused on preparing Victoria’s $20.2 billion agriculture industry against future threats.

Minister for Agriculture, Ros Spence, highlighted the importance of protecting the agricultural industry: “Victoria’s Biosecurity Strategy focuses on how we can work together to manage risks and build our resilience to emerging threats.”

The Victorian Budget 2023/24 will ensure the total investment towards the preparations against biosecurity hazards, since 2022, will reach $43 million.

In other news: this Black Friday weekend will see advocates for change in the transport industry take to the road as part of an organised truck convoy across the nation.

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JOST Australia champions sustainability

JOST Australia has joined Sustainable Choice Group as a Sustainability Tracker member.

JOST is aiming to reduce CO2 emissions from Scope 1 and 2 by 50 per cent per production hour by 2030, and according to Sustainable Choice Group, it is already making great strides to achieve this goal.

In 2022, JOST was able to reduce CO2 emissions per production hour by 15 per cent compared to 2021, and by 35.2 per cent compared to the base year 2020.

In a statement online, a JOST Australia spokesperson said sustainability is a way of life for the company.

“Together, we share a unified vision of a healthier, greener, and more sustainable world,” the spokesperson said.

“Through innovation, dedication, and a commitment to responsible practices, we are taking tangible steps to transform this vision into a living reality.”

JOST’s products are engineered with a keen focus on reducing environmental impact, lowering emissions and enhancing efficiency.

In addition, responsible practices are applied in every aspect of JOST’s operations, from sourcing materials ethically to ensuring the safety and well-being of employees.

JOST’s products and packaging are also designed with a strong emphasis on sustainability. By using materials efficiently, it is lowering the carbon footprint associated with manufacturing.

“Our products aren’t just components; they are essential contributors to improving the environmental footprint of trucks and trailers,” the spokesperson said.

“Our actions and products speak volumes about our commitment to a better world, and we are resolute in our mission to contribute to a greener, more sustainable future.”

In other news, Tuff Trailers gets the most out of fitting JOST’s TRIDEC steering systems and trailer components as standard on its builds.

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The New, New Fatigue Management Plan

The Australian trucking industry has been listening to discussions about fatigue management for a long time and now the NTC has come back with another set of proposals, the new, new fatigue management plan.

In introducing the topic of fatigue management at the Australian Trucking Association’s Trucking Australia 2023 event, Gary Mahon, CEO of the Queensland Trucking Association pointed to the 21st of November 1938, when the first fatigue law in this country were introduced.

The fatigue issue deliberations, at the moment, are all tied up with the long running and stuttering process towards reform of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), at a point 12 months after Ken Kanofski handed over his report on the HVNL reform debacle.

The original HVNL was introduced 11 years ago, with a review process beginning six years ago, which was seen to fail, prompting the report from Kanofski. At the moment we are in a situation where the jurisdictions are digesting his report, and the trucking industry waits for a new HVNL, frustrated by the extreme length of the process.

The whole area is fraught with arguments on all sides, from the fatigue experts specifying safe working behaviours, to trucking operators explaining what their customers want them to supply in terms of service and, more recently, those offering fatigue monitoring systems to bring state of the art technology solutions to further enhance safety.

The agency tasked with coming up with a possible solution, which will take the trucking industry forward while also satisfy the concerns of fatigue experts and safety advocates is the National Transport Commission. Speaking at Trucking Australia 2023, Aaron de Rosario Executive Leader of Regulatory Reform at the NTC gave the event a run down on the latest proposals.

“Let’s talk a bit of history,” said Aaron. “The journey, has been a very long lived continuing journey, to a new set of standard work and rest hours. Fatigue is an issue that was examined during the HVNL review, and transport operators made submissions and provided comments about fatigue rules during that process. I certainly know industry associations were very, very motivated to get changes in this space.

“The HVNL review transitioned into the safety and productivity program and in that safety and productivity program the NTC was asked to look at three things in relation to fatigue, simplified work and rest hours, to simplify the general schedule, and enable performance and outcomes based fatigue management options for certified operators, and simple record keeping.

“A lot of work was done under the safety and productivity program, the Minister asked Ken Kanofski to do extra consultation work and that led into some very important discussions between jurisdictions, with industry, and with the NTC about what can be achieved in changes to that general schedule.”

The NTC considered a number of options during that process. One was the provision to provide additional time for drivers to drive in specific circumstances. This would include flexibility providing additional opportunities for drivers to get home and greater flexibility around break times. The NTC examined resetting the 24 hour clock after an eight hour break, reducing administrative offences and simplifying the enforcement regime.

The NTC has settled on a two tier fatigue regime, and within the constraints of that, intending to maintain the standards of the current schedule. The limits on the maximum number of hours that can be worked and the amount of rest drivers need to take will be maintained.


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Future Product from Cummins

Looking into the crystal ball for engine maker Cummins, Andrew Booth, Manager On-Highway Business Cummins WA, was speaking at the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association event about future product from Cummins.

Cummins will also be continuing with its a joint venture with Eaton and its automated manual transmissions including the Endurant XD Pro, which appeared this year in the new Kenworth K220.

There are other internal combustion engines, using hydrogen and various gases, but also electrolysers to create hydrogen to power fuel cells, there’s also, batteries, electric motors, inverters and software. Meritor are developing e-axles for the business.

“Effectively, what does all this mean?” said Andrew. “At the end of the day we want technology to match the power we use today. We want to do that in a staged and rational manner. The best way to do that is to ensure that we do not tear up the truck design. We need minimal impact to transition us to a net zero future.

“Let’s be real, today we use internal combustion engines, and we are advancing the diesel internal combustion engine. I’m sure many people were at the Brisbane Truck Show and would have seen our recently announced, next generation X15 platform. Part of that is the X15H hydrogen combustion engine. These are the practical solutions for decarbonisation, where we can change the energy source for the engine while still having the same powertrain combined behind it.”

The implementation of these kinds of technologies can go ahead when Australia gets the kind of renewable green hydrogen fuel infrastructure the industry will need to support the number of trucks on the road the economy requires. Cummins is working towards the position where it can supply the right technology for the applications the industry needs.

The new X15 is a completely new engine from Cummins. It has been designed from the ground up as a platform for a series combustion engines using various fuels. The basic design, which features a modern sculpted block, can be fitted with a variety of different cylinder heads for different fuels. For the diesel or hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) version, the whole package is reckoned to be 225kg lighter than the current X15 we have today. The X15D, diesel version, will be available up to 660hp.

The hydrogen engine, the X15H, will use spark ignition and a renewable gas or biogas engine which is included in the new X15 family as well. These engines will be able run on various forms of gas. Depending on the feedstock used to make any of these gases, these can be capable of a 90 per cent reduction in carbon emissions. These gas engines will not be able to produce the level of horsepower available in the diesel version of the range and will probably be available at around 510hp.

“This is a next generation engine, and with the upgrade in materials and design, we’ve been able to go forward, in terms of reducing tail pipe emissions,” said Andrew. “This is not our first foray into hydrogen. We have hydrogen engines in production today. We started with the X7, and the X10 which is our new mid bore engine design, and then the X15. These are spark ignited direct injection engines.

“For hydrogen power there are two applications, one is the internal combustion engine, which fits in the same envelope as your traditional diesel engine today, mounted to an automated manual or manual transmission. We will mount the hydrogen packs on the back of the cab. The other way forward is the FCV, the fuel cell electric vehicle. This will have the hydrogen fuel cell stack in the engine bay. Then there will also be battery packs, hydrogen tanks and traction motors. We’re not going to be changing the base truck design and will be integrating the technology with a design which helps improve that transition towards zero.

“This is all about how we reach destination zero. Diesel is not dead. We expect to keep diesel technology for another 20 to 30 years to come. But we are going to be phasing into lower carbon technologies in the next five to 10 years’ time we will be advancing and driving reductions in CO2 emissions as well as NOx and particulate matter in internal combustion engines.

“Whilst we start this journey, we need the government to start investing in new technology and into the grid system. So that, if you want a battery vehicle, you’ve got more capacity in the grid to deal with charging those vehicles, and then also other renewable fuel infrastructure. There’s no point, producing hydrogen if it’s coming from fossil fuels in the first place.”


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The Right Place at the Right Time

Being in the right place at the right time can offer a life changing moment, as Charles and Jerry Nipper of Focus Machinery can attest.

Chatting one night to friends in the United States who owned a quarry which was busy during the summer months, Charles and Jerry Nipper asked what the business did during the cold season. The answer was dry hire, and the Nippers knew they had hit on a winner to bring home to Australia.

When the Nippers first went into business in 2010, the plan was to import machinery from the United States and sell it on to the Australian market. This was put to rest quickly in favour of local dry hire as international market pressure bore down on the Aussie dollar.

“It was dollar for dollar for a time there,” explains Focus Machinery Founder and Branch Manager, Charles Nipper. “Once the dollar started dropping again, it wasn’t feasible to do that, and that’s what made us really get into dry hire.”

Fit fleet

Focus Machinery has amassed quite the substantial fleet with over 500 machines available to rent. This is complemented by an arsenal of attachments, over 1,000 varieties, from loading ramps and pallet forks to augers and grinders.

Their range covers everything from large excavators and ground compactors to a keenly honed selection of medium-and light-duty Isuzu factory Tippers. Charles has been very pleased with performance across the Tipper fleet, noting customer demand as a motivator for continued purchase of the Isuzu product.

Charles says business has reached a stage where much of the work performed by the hire fleet is now on Tier One government projects such as the West Gate tunnel in Melbourne. Their equipment lockers are expanding to reflect this progression.

“We’re trying to keep up with the demand, which is always a good problem to have so we have up to 30 Isuzu Tippers across the size range and another 11 Isuzu trucks on order for 2023,” says Charles. “They’re a great vehicle for our customers on site; they’re versatile and very popular with our customers.

“In previous years, we were trying to say yes to everyone and anything that came our way, now we’re being a bit more selective with our opportunities to ensure we can cater for larger projects. It’s not just about being able to have equipment available for big projects, we also need to make sure the gear that’s going out under the Focus Machinery banner is up to spec.”

Ready to rumble

This is where the business finds sustained value in Isuzu’s tough as they come Ready-to-Work Tippers, which offer a GVM range of 4,500 kg to 8,700 kg on N Series models through to a rugged 11,000 kg or 14,000 kg GVM in the FRR and FSR model range.

With new 2023 Isuzu trucks now standard with 6-year warranty (distance dependent on model) and 3-year unlimited km body warranty, as well as a suite of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) in many N and F Series models, an Isuzu Tipper means safer conditions for drivers and decreased downtime prospects for Focus Machinery.

Their medium-duty Isuzu F Series Tippers are also specified with a GCM of either 16,000 kg or 21,000 kg, capable of handling all but the most massive towing and dumping jobs. Rope rails, tie-down points and the auto-release two-way tailgate fitted as standard help clients achieve better productivity, and this combined with Isuzu’s promise of reliability on the job is satisfying their needs.

“We understand our clients have time restraints and time-critical projects,” Charles notes. “Providing only quality equipment means we can eliminate downtime for us and our clients to the best of our ability.”

Another way in which they maintain a full client list is by treating one and all with transparency and honesty.

“We had a client who had a piece of equipment break down on site,” Charles recalls. “It was going to cost a lot of money to be idle, a lot more than the hire price. We made sure to replace this very expensive piece of equipment and have it available for him on site the following morning. Because of that speed of response, we have a customer for life.”


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Sophistication Needed in the Decades to Come

The highly sophisticated technology we fit on our trucks and trailers today has come a long way in the last twenty years, but with the need for ever more efficient and safe road transport, there is much further to go, when it comes to the level of sophistication needed in the decades to come.

“We need to be able to provide the right solutions at the right time, which are then still cost effective enough so that we can also really sell that to our customers,” says Stefan Pahl, Director Application Engineering and Technical Sales Knorr Bremse. “If we were to just simply double the braking system, it will probably also be a kind of a redundancy. It would be very good and we would make a lot of money for us, but no one would accept that.

“We need to have some kind of clever architecture in place, and it is a fascinating topic that we’re working on at the moment. Partial failure modes, and stuff like that, will be an important part of the development. If we have one critical error, there’s a red warning lamp and the driver would need to stop.

“In the future, we will have to have the possibility to switch from a primary system to a secondary system, and then the driver will not even realise that it has happened. They will get a certain notification, that they’ve gone over to the backup, but the backup system will still provide the same performance.”

If a failure occurs the system will just move on to the next layer of redundancy and the vehicle will perform as normal. The back-up will still provide the same functionality, the same performance, so the vehicle can continue on its route unhindered.

This is unlike the current situation with some electronic systems, where they simply go into limp home mode if there is an issue. The vehicle’s driver will not notice any difference as one system fails in some way, the back-up kicks in seamlessly. If the second layer of redundancy has an issue there will be a third layer to back-up any failure.

“In the second redundant layer, there will be certain performance deficiencies within the system, but the performance also be acceptable and safe,” says Stefan. “It may be like a limp home mode, but maybe, the depending on the criticality, it can just still perform a certain kind of minimal risk manoeuvre. It may be able to park the trailer in a safe spot get the vehicle combination out of the way so that it doesn’t affect the flow of traffic.”

Armed with this knowledge the team at Knorr Bremse is already building an architecture which will be able to cope with these new and expected developments. As a system is developed it already has the capacity to handle tasks and functionality which are yet to become available. When new systems come to fruition it will not necessarily be a hardware update but may be a software update.

“Changes in the future may also need additional hardware, if you if you think about the communication between truck and trailer,”says Stefan. “We will definitely need to have a different type of connection, which will also provide a certain type of redundancy, but also a much higher speed interaction.

“We’re convinced that due to certain manoeuvres that can easily happen on a day to day basis on motorways, that you also need to have some kind of real perception behind the trailer. Something like long range radar, maybe also combined with a short range radar, so that you can also detect what’s going on behind the trailer.

“Especially when you come to certain yard manoeuvring issues. When you have a certain angle between the truck and the trailer, there will be a big blind spot behind the trailer, and the environment perception of the truck alone will not be able to get a real overview.”


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A Talent for Getting the Job Done

Amy Throckmorton was awarded the Rural Transport Rising Star award at the joint Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association/Livestock and Rural Transporters of Western Australia event, after demonstrating a talent for getting the job done as an operations manager.

The Rural Transport Rising Star Award was inaugurated to shine the spotlight on and encourage the best in the young people who are working the rural trucking industry and driving it forward into the future. This is an annual initiative to celebrate and reward the young people building the rural transport industry of the future.

This year’s winner is Amy Throckmorton who works as an Operations Manager forTGR Transport in Geelong, running a fleet of company trucks and subcontractors hauling various loads around the country.

“I like the fact that the Rural Transport Rising Star award is going to highlight the fact that we’re an industry that needs new people coming through in lots of different areas ,” said Amy. “We only highlight truck drivers and you don’t see all the behind the scenes people that may handle things like scheduling. You don’t see the three am ridiculous phone calls, or any of that.

“My partner’s a diesel mechanic and even in that area now you don’t see any young guys coming through to work in that industry. People aren’t coming through as mechanics. It’s scary.

“I’m lucky I’ve got a boss who just thinks all this stuff is great and he’s happy to back all of this sort of stuff. At the end of the day you have to go with it, there’s no choice now, it’s become more and more about the people rather than about actually doing the damn job. It’s so important to remember that. It’s all of theses flexible working conditions you have to deal with and in the past they didn’t exist.”

Asked what she enjoys most about her job, Amy points to the fact that she has a million things to do every day, she’s likes the variation every day and to work towards organising the chaos that a road transport operation often is.

“It’s just pulling it together and being able to say to people this is what we’ll move, this is how many trucks, let’s get the trucks are sorted out, let’s get going,” said Amy. “You never know what you’re up against. You don’t know whether something’s going to break down, or the site will break down. I’ve come out of a background of operations at other companies, where we carted milk, and you get a phone call at 2am to get another 20 trucks, and you have to deal with it, restructure it, it’s the chaos, making it calm and making it happen. I just love being busy.”

The operation where Amy works, TGR Transport has six of its own trucks but also runs a subcontractor network involving 30 different operators’ trucks. The two largest customers are Graincorp and Cargill, the main task is simply moving grain from Ato B. The operation is also involved in carting headers and tractors around the country. A lot of the combinations run as A-doubles, requiring permits and negotiating access where needed.

“There’s a lot going on at any one time, particularly at peak times around harvest,” says Amy. “Harvest will go crazy, all of a sudden, you’ve got 50 trucks that you’re dealing with every day, compared to the 10 or so we are dealing with, when it’s quiet. So it varies every single day in every single week, and that’s probably the best part. The minute that phone rings you just you don’t know what you’re up against. It could be a happy phone call or it could be the opposite.”


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Get the Zero Emissions Ball Rolling

This week NatRoad has called for the creation of a Clean Transport Fund of $3.5 billion, which points the way towards an initiative which would see the government get the zero emissions ball rolling for road transport.

Everybody knows that the transition across to zero emission trucks is going to be expensive, but we genuinely have to make a serious start, as soon as possible, in order to meet the targets already set by the government over the next 10, 20 or 30 years.

So far there has been some funding, which has helped with the large order for a bunch of electric trucks for TeamGlobal Express. Although this is a good start, the trucking industry, which already runs on extremely tight margins is being asked to change from generic diesel trucks to the much more expensive zero emission trucks.

Very few road transport operations have a business model which could withstand the pressure created by a trebling of the capital cost of its vehicles. Okay, we could argue that once having made that capital investment, the chances are that, if the charging or refuelling infrastructure is good enough, then running costs should be lower.

However, charging and refuelling infrastructure in Australia at the moment hardly exists. The development of this infrastructure also needs an element of initial government subsidisation to give it a helping hand and in order to create the conditions under which road transport operators would feel comfortable in investing in the new equipment, which is zero carbon.

We are in one of those chicken and egg situations. When we get a few more zero emission trucks on the road, there will need to be more infrastructure developed to service it. On the other side of the coin, if there was more infrastructure on the road to refuel or charge zero carbon trucks, the road transport industry would invest in further capital equipment to make use of that recharging and refuelling infrastructure.

It has long been a tenet of Australian Governments of any colour to avoid intervening in a market, but any intervention which would take place, resulting from the development of this Clean Transport Fund proposed by NatRoad, would be an investment in developing the Australian economy and making it easier for the country, as a whole, to reach its zero carbon targets, which have already been set.

The other factor a Clean Transport Fund would demonstrate, would be buy-in from from the powers-that-be into something which most operators in the country would agree with, in principle, but do not feel they have the financial means to action in the near future.

Operators would find it difficult to transform their operations without some form of help, and an initiative which shows willing on the part of the government is always going to help people to make a change, which the government wants them to make.

It is important to get the zero emissions ball rolling. This is an opportunity to do it, and compared with some of the other capital expenditure our current government is talking about, this would be a relatively cheap option at $3.5 billion.


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