A hum­ble ‘get the job done’ de­fines Tas­ma­nia’s most fuel- ef­fi­cient truck driver

Australian Transport News - - Operations + Strategy - WORDS HAR­RI­SON HUNKIN

I t takes just a tick over 35 min­utes to get to De Bruyn’s Trans­port’s de­pot (Burnie) from Devon­port air­port. It’s a scenic drive along the Great Ocean Road’s spec­tac­u­larly rugged twin – the Bass high­way, a road un­doubt­edly trav­elled day-in day-out by John Bow­den, Tas­ma­nia’s fi­nal­ist in the 2018 Volvo Truck Driver’s Fuel Chal­lenge.

Haul­ing chem­i­cals with his Volvo FM 500hp (373kW), Bow­den humbly cred­its the achieve­ment to his rig.

“When I first started [at De Bruyn’s] I will ad­mit that jump­ing into a truck with a fancy dash and screen was daunt­ing,” he says.

“I’d never driven a truck like this be­fore; I kept lift­ing my left leg to change gears for the first few weeks.”

Bow­den be­lieves that the new tech­nolo­gies that come with his Volvo do make a world of dif­fer­ence, not only when it comes to fuel ef­fi­ciency but com­fort.

“I’ve been driv­ing for a while now, but this is the first truck I’ve had that’s had cruise con­trol,” Bow­den ad­mits.

“My pre­vi­ous truck was an old Mit­subishi, and I did it tough. I def­i­nitely don’t miss the old gear, maybe be­cause I’m get­ting older.

“Com­ing out of that and into this [with arm­rests and cup hold­ers] makes my day so much eas­ier,” he adds.

“Phys­i­cally, it’s just a lot bet­ter.”


De Bruyn’s is one of Tas­ma­nia’s largest truck­ing com­pa­nies, ser­vic­ing the Ap­ple Isle thanks to its 130-strong fleet.

“We run about 60 Volvos, which do well down here,” De Bruyn’s op­er­a­tional man­ager John Jnr de Bruyn says.

“Typ­i­cally, for a cab-over truck we buy Volvos, and for our bon­neted trucks we buy Macks – we also use UD trucks for the smaller stuff.”

Since tran­si­tion­ing to Volvo trucks and the use of its telem­at­ics sys­tem, Dy­nafleet, De Bruyn’s

Trans­port has seen huge im­prove­ments in driver skill and fuel sav­ings.

“We be­lieve that to be a fuel-ef­fi­cient driver you also have to be a safe driver,” de Bruyn says. “And to be good on fuel, you tend to be a proac­tive driver as op­posed to a re­ac­tive driver.

“We mon­i­tor our fleet our­selves through Dy­nafleet,” de Bruyn adds.

“We record all data [driver ef­fi­ciency rank­ings] on a weekly ba­sis which is then put up in the lunch room for all the driv­ers to see.”

De Bruyn be­lieves this com­pet­i­tive ap­proach is friendly and re­flec­tive on driver skill.

“The driv­ers do talk about it [hav­ing the data on dis­play]; there’s noth­ing like a bit of com­pe­ti­tion, espe­cially when it re­sults in driver and fuel im­prove­ments. What we mea­sure is the driver score which is mea­sured from 0-100; we typ­i­cally sit [as a fleet] at 90.

“We started on this jour­ney roughly three years ago now, and be­fore we started mea­sur­ing or hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions with driv­ers, our av­er­age fleet score was sit­ting at 60 – so we’ve gone from 60 to 90 just by hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions with driv­ers and some driver train­ing. For us to go from 60 to 90 rep­re­sents about 10 per cent sav­ings in fuel.”

When asked if it’s eas­ier to be fuel ef­fi­cient with to­day’s tech­nol­ogy, de Bruyn says: “Yes, it’s a lot eas­ier to be fuel ef­fi­cient nowa­days, but it’s also eas­ier to mea­sure.

“And I quite like the driver scor­ing setup. You do get a kick out of see­ing im­prove­ment in your driv­ers, see­ing a driver scor­ing 50s and 60s to then scor­ing high 90s af­ter some

train­ing is re­ally sat­is­fy­ing. We see it [the im­prove­ment] and so does the driver; it’s the vis­ual im­prove­ment that I like.”


While his boss might en­joy the com­pet­i­tive­ness be­tween driv­ers, Bow­den says he doesn’t see it as a com­pe­ti­tion.

“I just do my job,” Bow­den ad­mits. “I don’t try to beat any­one else; as long as I do my job and keep the truck on the road I’m happy.” A truly hum­ble truckie!

And while driver has their own tips and tricks for keep­ing ef­fi­cient, whether it be brak­ing less of­ten or tak­ing it easy on the cor­ners, it’s sim­pler than that for Bow­den.

“Just take your time and don’t rush,” he says. “Of course, you have to be a lit­tle lighter on the brakes as well as the right foot – I know this may sound funny, but you have to feel your truck.”

So how does Bow­den keep track of his day-to-day ef­fi­ciency?

“You just press that but­ton there un­der the screen and it tells you how well you’ve gone for the day,” he says.

The screen read 99 out of 100 for fuel ef­fi­ciency. The mon­i­tor even tells John what he can im­prove on. If you’re won­der­ing, he could have coasted a bit more.

Bow­den’s skills were also high­lighted by a vis­it­ing driver trainer.

“We had a bloke come out from Volvo who took me out for a drive, he just said he was im­pressed with how gen­tle I was with the throt­tle,” he says. “I do sup­pose you nat­u­rally try a lit­tle harder when un­der the eye. But I’ve told John [de Bruyn] that I haven’t changed my driv­ing prac­tices from the last job to this job.”

Bow­den says he’s look­ing for­ward to his trip to Bris­bane for the Aus­tralian Volvo Truck Driv­ers’ Fuel Chal­lenge.

“I am hon­oured that I’ve been picked but I don’t want to get too car­ried away with it; we’ll just see how we go. I try not to think about it,” Bow­den says. “Like I said to man­age­ment here: don’t count on me to win this, there are prob­a­bly 17 oth­ers bet­ter than me, there’s no doubt there are bet­ter driv­ers than me out there, I’ve just prob­a­bly been lucky.”

The win­ner of this com­pe­ti­tion will go on to com­pete in the World Fi­nal of the Volvo Trucks Driver Chal­lenge, held in Gothen­burg, Swe­den on Septem­ber 13 and 14.

Above: John Bow­den (left), Tas­ma­nia’s fi­nal­ist in the 2018 Volvo Truck Driver’s Fuel Chal­lenge, with John Jnr De Bruyn

Right: De Bruyn’s Trans­port, one of Tas­ma­nia’s largest trans­port com­pa­nies, has 130 trucks in its fleetOp­po­site be­low: John Bow­den en­joys new tech­nolo­gies and com­fort that come with the Volvo FM

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