Owner-driver Phill Riseley believes it's more economical to keep his 2004 Freightliner Columbia on the road than forking out for a new truck. Peter and Di Schlenk write
Owner-driver Phill Riseley believes it’s more economical to keep his 2004 Freightliner Columbia on the road than forking out for a new truck
Phill Riseley's association with road transport goes way back to Razorback blockade in 1979. Phill, however, doesn't remember the landmark protest event at all. Just over a year old at the time, he was a passenger in the baby seat bolted down between his parents in his father's truck.
“The only reason they were allowed through was because of me and that they had run out of nappies,” Phill laughs.
His dad Jeff Riseley had a couple of trucks on the road during the late 1970s and into the `80s, namely a Bedford tray truck and an Isuzu prime mover.
The Riseleys eventually moved out of the trucking industry, operating a service station in the Victorian town of Terang. Phill, however, was still keen on trucks, especially with W.A. Molan & Sons' transport yard just down the road. “I used to watch the trucks come and go,” he recalls. “One day one of the owners asked if I wanted to jump in the truck.
“So that was it for every holiday break. I used to wag school to go in their rigs.
“John and Kevin are the two older brothers.
They are sort of retired now but John's the one who took me under his wing and taught me everything I needed to know.”
Phill, however, decided he needed something to fall back on, completing a university degree in civil engineering. However, his desire to move into trucking was temporarily placed on the backburner after he was involved in a serious car accident. He virtually had to learn how to walk again.
Recovered, he found a job at a sand washing
plant in the Queensland town of Gympie, driving a front-end loader.
He bought his first truck, a Scania T113H, operating it in a truck-and-dog configuration. He later traded it in for the Freightliner Columbia, its previous owner being Rudd Transport of Queanbeyan.
The 13-year-old Freightliner now has 1.7 million kilometres on the clock, nowadays pulling a new Barker trailer.
“It has been an unreal truck for me; it's very comfortable and rides like a car,” Phill says. “It's ideal for me as an owner-driver.”
Phill says the super single tyres on the trailer are a cost-effective way to operate.
“All my mates have super singles on their steer and when they get worn out, they give me a call. I take them and run them out on my trailer.
“I had the old trailer for seven years and I think I paid for one or two tyres,” he says.
As well as the savings on tyres, Phill says he gets better fuel economy. And he needs every advantage to stay competitive against the big fleets.
Phill sought help from CPF Detroit Specialists in Brisbane. It's paid off as, from the early days with the Freightliner and up until now, his average fuel bill is around $3500 a month or less.
“I've spent a lot on the truck to get it to be as fuel efficient as possible,” he explains. “I'm competing against companies that have a fleet of trucks, each making 2 per cent profit. I can't survive on that amount.”
In addition, Phill had Caloundra-based Torquegass fit a gas system to the Freightliner, which he says uses between 7 and 11 litres per
100km, depending on the load. “It’s been trialled and 100 per cent safe,” he adds. “It gives you a slight increase in power and sizeable increase in torque.
“But what it does do is burn all the residual diesel, so I’m getting almost 100 per cent burn. I’m burning everything I put in my tanks.”
While his previous trailer tared in at 21 tonne, Phill says the new one comes in at 18.5 tonne, which is another saving.
As far as appearances are concerned, he’s decided to keep the previous owner’s colour scheme, continuing it onto the new curtains.
“The boys at TFI [Total Fleet Imaging] did all the scrollwork and signage on the truck and the trailer,” he smiles. “It looks very smart and I added plenty of chrome and aluminium.
“It’s just easier for me overall; like having a wash and wear trailer.”
Although he regularly runs Melbourne to Adelaide, Phill calls Queensland’s Sunshine Coast home nowadays, although he says he makes it back there only once or twice a month.
He has no plans to replace the Columbia any time soon, believing it’s better to maintain and rebuild than pay out another $300,000 for something newer.
“The new trucks are meant to be better for the environment but they actually use more fossil fuel in order to be cleaner. You can’t get the same fuel economy and I would go backwards and lose my profit margin. The cab itself is alright, I’ll touch it up every couple of years,” he says.
Phill believes that if he looks after the rig, it will look after him.
“That’s what my dad instilled into me,” he says. “Grease and oil are cheap whereas repairs are expensive.”
I’ve spent a lot on the truck to get it to be as fuel efficient as possible.
Phill Risley's 2004 Freightliner pulls a new Barker trailer
Right: Phill keeps the maintenance up on the Freightliner and has no plans on selling it anytime soon