UD Delivers Blue Lightning a Streak Of Success and Prosperity
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 | Print
An innovative and highly successful Perth based transport company which has built a strong reputation for servicing the urgent transport needs of the booming mining industry says it owes its success to UD trucks.
Blue Lightning Freight has been using UD since it was established by Steve Eaton in Perth in 1998, when he purchased a UD MK245 to launch operations servicing the mining industry.
That original UD clocked more than 1.6 million kilometres and Steve Eaton says he would not have stayed in business and prospered if he had not used UD Trucks.
"If it wasn't for UD I would not be in business today," said Steve Eaton.
"I can't say enough in praise of UD trucks, the reliability and cost effectiveness trucks has meant we have been able to build a reputation in the mining industry as dependable and reliable," said Steve Eaton.
"They just run and run, there is nothing you need to do to them, they are simple and easy to work on and it is really easy to check the vitals without having to lift the cabs which is important for our drivers when they are travelling vast distances and virtually living in the cabs.
"We are in a time critical business delivering vital componentry to multi-million mining ventures and any delays cost the clients a lot of money and would potentially cost us a client," he added.
According to Steve Eaton he has tried other brands but none have been able to measure up to the UDs over the past 11 years.
"We can only get about 350,000 km out of the other brands but most of our UDs log around one million kilometres without a hassle," says Steve.
"The fact is other trucks have let me down and if I didn't have trucks I could rely on my business would have gone down the drain," he added.
Blue Lightning's core business is catering to the needs of mining companies with the philosophy of ensuring consignments are delivered as quickly as possible no matter where that is in Australia.
"We just sent an MK and a PK across the continent to Queensland to pick up consignments, we often send empty trucks over to pick up loads," says Steve.
While some might see this as being inefficient Steve Eaton says the secret is sending a truck that is the right size for the job and not waiting till you have a load both ways.
"Time is money in the mining industry and while it might cost a little more to send a truck empty one way it will cost a lot more if a piece of vital equipment is out of service for days on end waiting for the transport company to pick up a load both ways," he adds.
"Often other transport companies might only have semis and have to send a truck and trailer to deliver a four tonne parts consigment, we send properly equipped rigids that are targeted to the job, if there is a four tonne load we send an MK, use less fuel and average better times as well," he says.
Steve came up with the idea for Blue Lightning while working on off shore oil rigs when he realised production could be held up for days by delays in shipping vital equipment.
"I realised there would be a market for a specialist hot shot transport company on the mainland servicing the major mining operations around the country and I was right," said Steve.
"I started providing urgent express freight door to door for a couple of mining companies and we always on time with the UDs and pretty quickly I started to get calls from other mining companies who had heard about our service.
"Things just snowballed from there when they saw we could provide a reliable, urgent service particularly when millions of dollars are at stake and the mining companies wanted to minimise the risk of further costly delays," he added.
The company handles everything from a pallet of vital spare parts thorough to transporting oversize machinery which is hauled by the fleet of prime movers, semis and road trains Blue Lightning operates including a new GW470 and an older CW445.
All of the company's trucks are modified to meet mine and wharf accreditation with first aid kits, fire extinguishers while each truck is fitted with a fridge and satellite communications for the long trips across the outback.
"That is another reason why we favour the UDs, they are equipped with a proper accredited sleeping bunk which is really important when we are running two up on a urgent run across the country," says Steve.
Blue Lightning remove the centre seat area and fit an 32 inch fridge so the crews can have cold food and refreshments on board for the trip.
"Our drivers have to live in the truck on an urgent run but when they get there and the delivery is complete we book them into a hotel so they can get away from the truck and freshen up," Steve emphasised.
"Fatigue management is important for us and we do everything by the book, we can't afford mishaps and problems as a result of overtired drivers," he said.
The fleet is monitored by GPS tracking from its base in Perth's eastern suburbs while the system also features a communications function which allows base to send text messages to the truck and receive answers back from the crew no matter where they are across the country. The system also has an emergency component allowing crews to instantly alert base of any problems that may befall them on the road. The Blue Lightning system also allows customers to track the progress of consignments on line.
Currently Blue Lightning employs a staff of 32 including two mechanics operating a truck fleet of 26, of which 15 are UDs, including seven MK models, six PKs, a CW445 and the new GW470. The fleet includes two latest spec MK6s and one PK9.
"The kilometres we have covered in our UDs is amazing, we have one that has covered 1.6 million kilometres which we have just retired but I reckon it could have gone two million, we also have an MK240 up in Queensland at the moment with 1.4 million on the clock and all we've done to it is replace the clutch plate and there is a PK265 with 940,000 on the clock and nothing has been touched apart from routine maintenance, it is extraordinary," he exclaimed.
"We hired our own mechanics so that we can service trucks when they arrive back from runs when it suits our schedule, it gives us more flexibility and ensures our trucks are always in tip top condition.
"You have to re-invest in the business and while we have rebuilt the older trucks we are now buying more newer models to cope with the increase in business," said Steve.
"The drivers love the new trucks even more, there is room to stretch out, the sleeper is bigger and they are generally more comfortable which means they stay alert longer," he adds.
"We budget 56 hours for a truck from Perth to Mt Isa so it is important our drivers are comfortable and the trucks totally dependable," he said.
"The trucks have to travel a lot of gravel roads into mine sites so they have to stand up to a lot of hard work and because the UDs are so tough they stand up to it better, they have stronger chassis and never suffer in the Aussie outback, we have proved that with the high mileages we have covered.
"We have different drivers in trucks all the time, with different techniques and levels of skill but that doesn't seem to worry the UDs, we get great reliability all the time", he added.