dou­ble ACT

Vic­to­rian tip­per op­er­a­tor Steve Tyquin takes great pride in all his gear but per­haps none more than a new A-dou­ble com­bi­na­tion op­er­at­ing un­der Per­for­mance-Based Stan­dards. It’s an im­pres­sive out­fit with big ben­e­fits but as Steve Brooks re­ports, he won­ders

Deals on Wheels - - Trailer Review -

At a quick glance, there’s a lot to make you think life has been very good for Steve Tyquin for a very long time.

The metic­u­lously re­stored homestead on rolling farm­land, the small but per­fectly pre­served col­lec­tion of iconic Aussie cars, and the im­mac­u­late trucks and trail­ers. It’s all might­ily im­pres­sive and there’s no ques­tion, pride per­vades. Even the work­shop and driver’s room are more mu­seum than truckie’s hang­out.

Meet this big, burly bloke for the first time though and it’s soon ap­par­ent that the show­pieces of suc­cess have not come with­out long labour or harsh lessons in the raw re­al­i­ties of com­mer­cial life. There are no sil­ver spoons in this story.

In fact, it’s an abrupt Steve Tyquin who con­cedes that the im­pacts of ‘the re­ces­sion we had to have’ in the early ’90s saw the small but am­bi­tious Tyquin tip­per busi­ness sud­denly teeter close to the point of no re­turn.

“We were just start­ing to grow a bit but in what seemed like a heart­beat we went from three trucks back to one and I wasn’t even sure we would end up keep­ing one,” Steve says bluntly. “It was a close thing.

“But you learn a lot if you get to sur­vive things like that. In my case it def­i­nitely made me smarter and more care­ful, es­pe­cially about bor­row­ing money and the need to main­tain good cash flow.

“It also teaches you to put money away, just in case,” he adds with a shrewd grin.

These days he splits his time be­tween a home of­fice in Keilor East on Mel­bourne’s north­west­ern fringe and the 12-hectare prop­erty and truck de­pot lit­tle more than a stone’s throw off the Calder High­way near Sun­bury. Typ­i­cally, the mo­bile phone is both con­stant com­pan­ion and busi­ness life­line, and the calls are in­ces­sant as cus­tomers, driv­ers and any one of eight full-time sub­bies dial in. Fi­nally, he hands it over to a trusted off-sider and quickly set­tles back to talk trucks and trail­ers.

Only mem­ory and ex­pe­ri­ence now bear the scars of those tougher times and sur­rounded by the suc­cess of sev­eral decades of dogged per­se­ver­ance and care­fully con­sid­ered ini­tia­tive, the com­pany known as S. & S. Tyquin Bulk Haulage boasts one of the best-pre­sented tip­per fleets you’re likely to find any­where.

And for good rea­son. The way Steve puts it, the trucks and trail­ers are the front-line of the busi­ness and pre­sen­ta­tion is ev­ery­thing. “If it

The costs were scary and the whole process was daunt­ing.

looks good, peo­ple will see us in a pos­i­tive way whether they’re into trucks or not,” he re­marks.

More than any­thing else though, you get the dis­tinct im­pres­sion that what­ever it is, he just likes his gear to look good. “Sure,” he shrugs. “Good gear at­tracts good driv­ers who’ll take pride in the equip­ment, so it pays off all-round.”

There are 12 com­pany-owned trucks in the busi­ness to­day rang­ing from wa­ter trucks and a cou­ple of Isuzu 4x2 rigid tip­pers through to a Ken­worth T359 eight-wheeler and a mix of Ken­worth T909 and K200 body trucks hooked to three and four-axle dog trail­ers, plus a pair of K200 prime movers tow­ing semi-tip­per com­bi­na­tions.

One of the prime movers is the lat­est mem­ber of the Tyquin team, a new K200 ‘Big Cab’ haul­ing an equally new Her­cules A-dou­ble tip­per set which, like al­most ev­ery other truck and trailer com­bi­na­tion in the out­fit, ob­vi­ously op­er­ates with PBS com­pli­ance. It is also said to be the first A-dou­ble to op­er­ate within the 26-me­tre over­all length limit of B-dou­bles.

We’ll get to the specifics of the A-dou­ble shortly. Mean­time, it’s bla­tantly ap­par­ent Steve Tyquin has a strong pref­er­ence for Ken­worth, say­ing sim­ply, “They stand up to the job and their re­sale is bet­ter than any­thing else.” Like­wise, strong re­la­tion­ships based on prod­uct qual­ity and ser­vice have de­vel­oped with tip­per builders Her­cules En­gi­neer­ing and Chris’s Body Builders.

There is, how­ever, one other truck in the oper­a­tion that sits out­side the square yet holds a par­tic­u­larly spe­cial place for Steve and long-time friend and work­mate Steve ‘Chooka’ Thom­son.

“It’s ba­si­cally Chooka’s truck,” Steve says of the stun­ningly re­fur­bished Mack Su­per-Liner V8 which earns its keep at­tached to a three-axle dog trailer. “He did all the hard work re­build­ing it and he keeps it in top con­di­tion. It’s a real credit to him and the thing goes like a train. “They just don’t make trucks like that any­more.” In­deed they don’t!

GI­ANT STEPS

With a broad smile, it’s a re­flec­tive Steve Tyquin who ad­mits that 40 years ago when he went to South Aus­tralia as a 16 year-old with a cou­ple of mates to ac­quire a rigid truck li­cence – “Back then you could get a li­cence in South Aus­tralia younger than you could in Vic­to­ria” – the thought of one day own­ing a pin-up fleet of trucks wasn’t any­where on the agenda.

“My father had a cou­ple of trucks car­ry­ing hay and milk, and I just reck­oned I could make more money driv­ing trucks than any­thing else at the time,” he ex­plains. “It was re­ally as sim­ple as that.”

Back home, he even­tu­ally bought his own tip­per and started sub­bie work with lo­cal quar­ries. As is of­ten the case, one thing led to an­other and with the op­por­tu­nity to sell quarry prod­ucts di­rect to end users, the fu­ture started to take shape. Ad­mit­tedly, the bal­ance be­tween po­ten­tial and profit had its fair share of chal­lenges but with the lessons well learned, the Tyquin oper­a­tion now bears all the mark­ings of a suc­cess­ful en­ter­prise in what Steve ad­mits is a tough busi­ness where com­pe­ti­tion is never too far from the door.

He keeps the de­tails close to his chest but lists quarry prod­ucts, gyp­sum, lime, com­post, fire­wood and wood­chip as the main loads in trucks that av­er­age around 100,000km a year.

“It’s not big mileage com­pared to some but that’s prob­a­bly due to the fact that we don’t haul grain,” Steve com­ments. “There’s enough com­pe­ti­tion in that work with­out me adding to it.”

Iron­i­cally, or per­haps for­tu­itously, it was the thought of en­croach­ing com­pe­ti­tion that first caused Steve Tyquin to give se­ri­ous thought to a new reg­u­la­tory and in­dus­try ini­tia­tive called Per­for­mance-Based Stan­dards, PBS. At that

point he was largely run­ning 19-me­tre truck and quad dog com­bi­na­tions gross­ing up to 50.5 tonnes. How­ever, the prospect of PBS com­pli­ance pro­vid­ing a jump on the com­pe­ti­tion by al­low­ing a gross weight of 57.5 tonnes on the same num­ber of axles was too good to ig­nore.

HOOPS AND HUR­DLES

The tim­ing wasn’t per­fect though. It was

2007 and not only was PBS in its in­fancy, with com­pli­ance sure to de­mand any num­ber of bu­reau­cratic checks and bal­ances, but the Global Fi­nan­cial Cri­sis had kicked in and any in­vest­ment had to be care­fully con­sid­ered.

Still, the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits ul­ti­mately drove him head­first and alone into the cost and con­fu­sion of the PBS process, sin­gle­hand­edly work­ing his way through the seem­ingly end­less hoops and hur­dles of VicRoads and the Na­tional Trans­port Com­mis­sion.

“It was a bloody stress­ful night­mare,” he says with cold con­vic­tion. “The costs were scary and the whole process was daunt­ing to say the least. Many times it got to the point where I won­dered if the whole thing would be worth­while.

“There was up­wards of $20,000 in just get­ting the as­sess­ment and de­sign mod­el­ling done, and most of that was spent with ARRB (Aus­tralian Road Re­search Board). So there were all those costs on top of a new truck and trailer built for PBS com­pli­ance, and I can tell you they didn’t come cheap.”

To put sour ic­ing on an al­ready bit­terly ex­pen­sive cake, Steve ex­plained that even when the truck and trailer were built, ap­proved and ready to start work, it took three more months to ac­tu­ally re­ceive an ac­cess per­mit to op­er­ate.

Here was a new pur­pose-built Ken­worth

T908 and Her­cules En­gi­neer­ing four-axle dog com­bi­na­tion built to op­er­ate within a 20-me­tre over­all length at a PBS-ap­proved gross weight of 57.5 tonnes, spend­ing sev­eral months wait­ing for a per­mit to op­er­ate. “It was bloody ridicu­lous,” he said sharply.

“It was over 19 me­tres long so of­fi­cially it needed a per­mit, oth­er­wise it’d be op­er­at­ing over-length.

“Like I said, bloody ridicu­lous, es­pe­cially when it’s sit­ting here with full PBS com­pli­ance, do­ing noth­ing for three months while I’m pay­ing for it. “I can tell you, it hurt.”

There was, how­ever, one bright note. It was around this time he first met Ken Cow­ell, a highly qual­i­fied and much re­spected con­sult­ing engi­neer who firmly be­lieves in the pro­duc­tiv­ity ben­e­fits of PBS but also holds the view that the com­pli­ance process is un­nec­es­sar­ily com­plex and too of­ten stymied by var­i­ous bu­reau­cra­cies. It was a meet­ing that would forge a strong re­la­tion­ship over fol­low­ing years as the two worked to max­imise the po­ten­tial of PBS com­bi­na­tions.

Any­way, the ‘over-length’ per­mit fi­nally ar­rived and in 2008 his first PBS-com­pli­ant com­bi­na­tion went on the road. Best of all, the com­mer­cial at­tributes of a truck and quad dog com­bi­na­tion able to carry seven tonnes more pay­load were quickly re­alised and it’s an adamant Tyquin who main­tains the costs of com­pli­ance were re­couped in a mat­ter of months.

In fact, so prompt was the pay­back that 12 months later he went through the whole ex­er­cise again, ad­mit­tedly a tad wiser, to put an iden­ti­cal unit on the road. “The process was lit­tle bet­ter but at least I knew what I’d get out of it,” he says with stoic ac­cep­tance.

Yet de­spite all the prob­lems and in­con­sis­ten­cies in achiev­ing com­pli­ance, there’s no ques­tion PBS has had any­thing other than a hugely pos­i­tive ef­fect on the Tyquin oper­a­tion since that first unit went to work. PBS has, in fact, be­come the norm for all his front-line truck and trailer

It was over 19 me­tres long so of­fi­cially it needed a per­mit, oth­er­wise it’d be op­er­at­ing over­length.

com­bi­na­tions, just as disc brakes have also be­come the stan­dard stop­ping force.

“The process is a still a pain in the arse and it’s cer­tainly not a cheap ex­er­cise but for what we do, PBS pays off,” a res­o­lute Steve Tyquin con­firms.

PRO­DUC­TIV­ITY POS­SI­BIL­I­TIES

It was per­haps in­evitable that when three like­minded in­di­vid­u­als such as Steve Tyquin, Ken Cow­ell and Her­cules En­gi­neer­ing sales man­ager Kevin Wright gath­ered early this year for a steak and a cou­ple of bot­tles of ‘grape juice’, talk would soon enough turn to trucks, trail­ers and the pos­si­bil­i­ties pro­vided by PBS for even higher lev­els of pro­duc­tiv­ity.

As the story goes, the con­ver­sa­tion re­volved around a com­bi­na­tion able to de­liver in­her­ently high lev­els of ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity, op­er­a­tional flex­i­bil­ity, and of course, max­i­mum pay­load po­ten­tial. Suit­ably primed, the rough out­line of a nine-axle A-dou­ble lay­out started to emerge on a ta­ble nap­kin.

How­ever, un­like A-dou­bles al­ready op­er­at­ing on lim­ited routes at over­all lengths out to 30 me­tres and gross weights of al­most 80 tonnes on tri-axle trailer groups, the ‘din­ner de­sign’ ran on tan­dem axle trailer and dolly sets. What’s more, all three knew that to gain ac­cess to B-dou­ble routes, over­all length of the com­bi­na­tion would need to be within 26 me­tres and that would make this A-dou­ble the first of its type.

Quickly agree­ing to pur­sue the plan, de­sign work on the trail­ers and dolly started al­most im­me­di­ately while Steve wasted no time or­der­ing a new K200 ‘Big Cab’ with a Cum­mins 620hp engine and Ea­ton 18-speed over­drive trans­mis­sion feed­ing into Mer­i­tor diffs mounted on Ken­worth’s Air­glide sus­pen­sion.

It’s not cer­tain who paid for din­ner but a smil­ing Steve Tyquin is quick to men­tion, “I know it ended up cost­ing me a lot more than a steak and a bot­tle of red.”

Four months passed from the time of the ini­tial de­sign through to the PBS ap­pli­ca­tion and as­sess­ment process, build time for the truck and trail­ers, and fi­nal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and ap­proval. Then, just when ev­ery­thing ap­peared ready for the Tyquin A-dou­ble to start work, there was a de­lay in re­ceiv­ing the fi­nal road ac­cess per­mit from the Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle Reg­u­la­tor (NHVR).

Grate­fully, VicRoads helped re­solve the last of the red tape and on the day I vis­ited the Tyquin de­pot the stun­ning new out­fit was fi­nally ready to haul its first load.

From a dis­tance or up close, it is a hugely im­pres­sive com­bi­na­tion and typ­i­fy­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion of all his equip­ment, Steve Tyquin has spared noth­ing in mak­ing the A-dou­ble a flag­ship of the fleet.

It is, how­ever, pro­duc­tiv­ity which stands as the key to the com­bi­na­tion’s true com­mer­cial merit.

Over­all length is a tad over 25.8 me­tres with each 8.8-me­tre long alu­minium trailer hav­ing a load ca­pac­ity of 40 cu­bic me­tres and de­pend­ing on the roads it’s op­er­at­ing on, the com­bi­na­tion is able to run at gross weights up to 74.5 tonnes.

“It’s close to a 50-tonne pay­load so there’s noth­ing to com­plain about as far as earn­ing ca­pac­ity goes,” Steve says earnestly.

He is, how­ever, quick to con­cede the com­bi­na­tion car­ries plenty of ‘ex­tras’ which con­trib­ute to a hefty to­tal tare weight of al­most 25 tonnes. It would, Steve agrees, be rel­a­tively easy to pull a tonne or so out of the tare to fur­ther in­crease pay­load but given his ob­vi­ous sat­is­fac­tion with the com­plete unit, that’s un­likely to hap­pen.

ES­SEN­TIAL EX­TRA

One ‘ex­tra’ he def­i­nitely wouldn’t be with­out are the slip­pery quick-flow bin lin­ers which he

de­scribes as huge as­sets for both safety and ef­fi­ciency.

“They stop prod­uct from hang­ing up in the cor­ners of the bin and it’s amaz­ing how much quicker the prod­uct comes out. The load’s gone long be­fore the hoist is at full height,” he en­thuses. “The amount of time it saves over a day is in­cred­i­ble.

“The liner ma­te­rial def­i­nitely isn’t cheap and it prob­a­bly adds a fair bit of weight but it eas­ily pays for it­self. The amount of wear it saves on the alu­minium bins is huge.”

There’s no ques­tion that over the past seven or eight years PBS com­pli­ance has come with many frus­tra­tions and dif­fi­cul­ties for Steve Tyquin.

But like­wise, there’s no ques­tion PBS has paid off hand­somely for his par­tic­u­lar oper­a­tion. On the A-dou­ble specif­i­cally, the added ver­sa­til­ity of be­ing able to op­er­ate as two sin­gle semi-tip­pers or with the sec­ond trailer used as a quad-dog is an ex­tra bonus.

As he can­didly states, “There’s no way I would’ve in­vested so much on this com­bi­na­tion if I wasn’t ab­so­lutely sure of a good pay­back. Be­lieve me, there’s a lot of money tied up in this truck and trail­ers.”

On the PBS ap­proval process for the A-dou­ble, he’s quiet for a mo­ment be­fore com­ment­ing, “I sup­pose be­ing first with an A-dou­ble op­er­at­ing within the 26-me­tre B-dou­ble length was al­ways go­ing to come with a few has­sles and hold-ups.

“The au­thor­i­ties aren’t big on any­thing that’s a bit dif­fer­ent but the way I see it, it’s a lot eas­ier now to get PBS ap­proval on a truck and dog than it was when I first tried.

“So maybe it’ll be the same with the A-dou­ble and three or four years from now get­ting ap­proval for a unit like this will be a lot eas­ier and less com­plex.

“At least, you’d like to think it will be,” he con­cludes with a wry grin.

1 & 2. Clas­sic: Su­perbly re­stored Mack Su­per-Liner V8 is the ex­cep­tion to the rule in a Ken­worth­dom­i­nated fleet.

3. Steve Tyquin and the new A-dou­ble. Op­er­at­ing within 26 me­tres, it’s the first of its kind.

4. Truck ‘n’ quad dog.

PBS com­pli­ance has had more than its fair share of frus­tra­tions but the ben­e­fits make the has­sles worth­while.

3

5&6. Ap­pear­ance is ev­ery­thing: “If it looks good, peo­ple will see us in a pos­i­tive way whether they’re into trucks or not,” Steve Tyquin says. 5

6

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