Thursday, August 17, 2017
Everyday the inner city kitchens along the east coast of Australia are looking to be filled with fresh produce from the paddocks in and around Stanthorpe. Among the trucks that run the routes daily, are two UD Quons – two of the most reliable trucks in the eyes of Shane Wilkins, the Manager of Stanthorpe depot.
The Stanthorpe depot of Lindsay Transport is located in the middle of the Granite Belt – running across the New South Wales-Queensland border. It marks the southern boundary of the Darling Downs — one of Australia’s most productive food bowls. Thanks for its local climate, the area grows piles of fresh produce. If you can think of it, it’s likely grown in and around Stanthorpe, whether its fruits or vegetables.
Nowadays, consumers want everything, they want it fresh and they want it now. This is the problem Shane Wilkins and his depot solves, every single day.
The word is at the center of everything Lindsay Transport’s Stanthorpe depot does. Wilkins summarizes operations by comparing it to a farming cooperative. “We help growers with their pick-ups, their transfers, their crate deliveries, their rural supplies, everything they want on that side of it,” he says. “We then consolidate everyone’s freight. The only thing we don’t do is the selling of the produce. Otherwise, we’re involved from the paddock to the plate, almost.”
Across a day that starts at 6:30am and finishes at 11pm, Lindsay runs local vehicles to growers for pick-up before grouping produce together along parameters such as temperature, compatibility and freight load, and dispatching larger rigid body trucks and prime movers south and north to markets and supermarkets. “In the morning, we’re shifting produce for delivery to Newcastle and Sydney,” Wilkins says. “Then in the afternoon, we switch to our northern freight — Brisbane, Townsville and such. So we’ll start the whole process of pick-ups again for the top end.”
Shane Wilkins, Manager of Stanthorpe depot
It can add up to a whopping 500 pallets of fresh produce a day. “It’s still all consolidated freight, even though it’s fresh produce,” Wilkins says. “That’s the challenge for us.”
The challenge is heightened by stricter quality controls and ever-tighter delivery times, to ensure maximum freshness. “Temperatures are checked regularly from pick-up to delivery,” Wilkins says. “Everything is time dated. Everything has stamps on it. There’s nowhere to hide. We have guarantees in place with producers and customers. That’s where we’ve built our name for reliability.”
This is the other word that comes up again and again when chatting to Wilkins about the success of Lindsay Transport’s Stanthorpe operations. Reliability in its business models. Reliability in customer service. And perhaps most of all, reliability in its equipment.
It’s the reason two new rigid body Quon CW 26 380 refrigerated trucks sit outside the depot, distinct from the rest of the Lindsay fleet despite the iconic cherry-red paintwork. The first unit arrived as a trial in November and was put to work on a daily 500-kilometer run to and from Brisbane. So impressed with it were Wilkins and his drivers, that when a second run was added earlier this year, Lindsay immediately opted for a second Quon.
Daniel Gunnlaugsson drives one of the two Quons at Stanthorpe depot
Daniel Gunnlaugsson counts himself as a fan of Lindsay Transport’s newly purchased Quons. Working in operations at the Stanthorpe depot, he’s one of just a handful outside of the regular drivers who has made the daily run to Brisbane in the trucks. “They’re really good,” he says. “Comfortable. Smooth. Very good on fuel.”
Gunnlaugsson’s favourite aspect? The Escot automated manual transmission. “Automatic gearboxes are good these days and the UDs do them really well,” he says. “You’ve got so much more concentration in the city when you’re not having to change gears all the time. It’s just like a car — you get in and you go.”
Taming the Cunningham
The Cunningham Highway is a notoriously tough ribbon of road. It twists and turns from the coastal plains near Brisbane all the way up to Warwick, 500 meters above sea level, before Lindsay’s trucks climb even higher along the final 60km stretch of New England Highway to Stanthorpe.
All that elevation adds up to a lot of fuel, but thankfully not so much in Lindsay’s new Quons. “They save us nearly 50 liters a day, per truck,” Wilkins says. “So that’s 15,000 liters a year, roughly. It’s huge.”
The lines of commercial traffic mean the Cunningham’s blacktop is often bent out of shape, making it a wild ride at times. “It’s not known as the best road in Queensland,” Wilkins laughs. “With previous trucks, we might have to put airbags under the front axle. But with the UD it’s leaps and bounds ahead. It came from the factory exactly as we needed it.”
Looking after drivers
Truck driving isn’t what it used to be. In Australia the industry was once dictated to by its deadlines, drivers under pressure to do whatever it takes to deliver on time.
But in the face of a tightening labor market and more stringently enforced government regulations, companies such as Lindsay Transport are pushing back against bleeding their drivers dry.
“You need to look after your drivers,” Wilkins says. “I would never ask a driver to do something I wouldn’t do myself. The trucks used to be all about being dressed up and looking flash. Now, with the UDs, they’re about comfort and making sure drivers can do their job. You need to address those fatigue levels and if we can take a bit of burden from them, great.”
The result? “At the end of the day, the drivers jump out of the trucks rather than fall out,” Wilkins laughs.
“These Quons do up to 4,000km a week so reliability is absolutely the number one priority. That’s what we were looking at with the first truck, followed by fuel savings,” he says. “And it delivered.
"I think UD have kept up with where the market needs to go,” Wilkins continues. “Instead of fitting in with the competition, they took it to the next level where the market should be. They took into account driver comfort and the servicing side of things.”
Ultimately, transport is a personality game, Wilkins says. You need to be able to relate to the people you come into contact with in order to maximize your business. Growers. Suppliers. Mechanics. And that’s where UD sets itself apart — it shows an interest in Lindsay Transport and the people who work within the company.
“I think UD as a whole want to grow with our business,” Wilkins says. “They want to be a part of your business. Every step of the way, they’ve been working with us, never against us.”