Every drop counts
Motorists and professional drivers expect, as a minimum, to be able to fill their fuel tanks whenever a service station is open. The long distances between centres of civilisation in some parts of Australia of course present a challenge for the distribution of fuel – a challenge willingly taken up by Hunts Fuel in South Australia.
David Hunt is a second-generation fuel distributor having started work for his parents Kevan and Ann in 1978 – originally with BP, then Ampol, and eventually Caltex following the two oil companies’ merger in 1995.
In 1982 he became part owner and the Company KS & CA Hunt & Son Pty Ltd, trading as Hunts Fuel was formed. David is joined in the business by his wife Patricia, sons Jamie, Damien and Daniel and mother Ann.
A proud Caltex Franchise Distributor, with its Head Office located in Jamestown, Hunts Fuel delivers bulk fuel to its network of retail service stations as well as to small and large businesses including primary producers, transport operators, civil works, mines, marine and rail, and local government entities.
To keep the trucks busy for 12 months of the year, Hunts Fuel endeavour to have an even balance between retail and wholesale operations.
More recently, in 2017, Hunts Fuel expanded to the Eyre Peninsula region following the acquisition of a number of Caltex equity operations which have since been absorbed into the business.
With depots located in Jamestown, Kadina, Maitland, Port Augusta, Port Lincoln and Wudinna, Hunts Fuel now employs more than 30 staff.
Fuel in Port Lincoln on the West Coast, where it was previously delivered to the local terminal by ship, now arrives by road from the Pelicon Point Terminal in Adelaide or Port Bonython Terminal in Whyalla by roadtrain.
Hunts Fuel’s marketing area across the state includes the Mid North, North East, Yorke and Eyre Peninsula Regions and extends from Adelaide to Coober Pedy in the north and now Penong, Ceduna and Fowlers Bay to the west.
Fuel trucks have progressed significantly since the second hand Bedford that Kevan Hunt received as a component of the package when he purchased his first fuel distributorship. At present, the tanker fleet consists of 12 Scania prime movers and one rigid tanker.
The relationship between Hunts Fuel and the Scania brand extends back to the mid-1980s when a second-hand Super 80 which had previously worked as a car carrier was converted to become a rigid tanker.
This was later followed by a new twin steer, bogie drive Scania 112H which David recalls having 1.2 million kilometres on its odometer when it was finally replaced.
“That was a magnificent truck which was actually someone else’s cancelled order,” David says.
“I was able to do a deal with Diesel Motors in Adelaide and the rest is history. It was one of the first intercooled models with 330 horsepower and we had an incredible run with it with no engine or even turbo problems while we had it.”
The company delivers fuel with roadtrain combinations and single tri-axle tankers.
“The trailers cost a lot to set up but can have a working life of 15 to 20 years if the maintenance is kept up and as long as the barrels don’t fatigue or crack” says David.
“A new rigid tanker may take two months to be fitted up with the necessary pumps and other equipment at substantial cost, compared to purchasing an additional prime mover and immediately connecting this to an existing trailer or combination.”
To this day Hunts Fuel continues to purchase Scania trucks and presently has Euro 5 and Euro 6 models. “Scania vehicles are comfortable, quiet, reliable, fuel efficient and cost effective,” says David. “They’re a good product, good to drive and environmentally friendly.”
Impressed by Scania’s driver assistance and scoring systems, David recognises they help the drivers contribute to the overall efficiency and safety of the trucks.
Most of the Scania’s are now on Scania Repair and Maintenance contracts which David regards as an advantage as there are no arguments over repair bills. Other than greasing the tail shafts and keeping a general eye on the mechanical condition of the trucks all other repairs and maintenance is left up to the service centre.
“Our trucks are fitted with the Scania Retarder,” says Jamie Hunt. “They are so effective that I can’t remember ever replacing the brake pads on a Scania.”
Broad acre farming demands a lot of diesel particularly during peak seasons of seeding and harvesting.
Over the years farming equipment has developed to become much larger pieces of machinery and landholders consequently require larger deliveries.
Where once a rigid tanker performed the farm deliveries, semi-trailers and even roadtrains can access the same properties today.
Most of Hunt’s trailers are configured with six separate compartments and each truck is fitted with pumps and metering kits to accurately measure petrol and diesel deliveries.
As a function of the mass management scheme in which Hunts Fuel operates, the scheduler creates a load profile for each driver who receives it via a tablet in the cab.
The profile takes into account the various densities of different fuels so the truck can be loaded with confidence.
David explains that to ensure compliance Hunts Fuel obtain the fuel densities daily and calculate the load weights, but to be safe periodical weighbridge checks are also performed to ensure compliance with the axle load limits.
The expansion of Hunts Fuel, more recently, has created some opportunities to improve efficiency by taking advantage of the additional terminals and depots which they now have access to and sometimes are able to carry some fuel on return legs.
However, the long distances between supply and delivery points can present a special set of logistics challenges and it’s vital to properly plan for some of the ‘local’ deliveries out of the more remote depots as a seemingly simple two hour job can jeopardise an entire shift and strand a driver under the fatigue regulations.
Due to the remoteness of many of the areas in which they operate it is important that each truck is tracked by satellite.
All of Hunts Fuel Mass, Maintenance and Fatigue management programme is coordinated via the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme.
“The NHVR is efficient and informative,” says David. “For our needs the required permits are accessed through the NHVR portal with ease.”
In today’s business world, David spends more time at his desk than out in the field, although he still enjoys occasionally getting out in a fuel tanker himself.
He misses the one on one customer contact that he experienced in his early years as a driver, and he is particularly appreciative of the hospitality of people living on remote stations for whom the fuel tanker driver may be the only ‘outsider’ they see in days.
Another change David acknowledges is that the rural areas are suffering from the drift of young people to the cities or to the mines.
“We’re fortunate to have mature and experienced drivers but I don’t see many young ones coming through and few are choosing the transport industry as a profession” he says.
“Adapting to change can be hard in business. The natural instinct is to do things as you used to. We’ve learned to accept and embrace change because in this industry if you don’t change you don’t survive.”
He adds, “Education is not just about learning; the process of learning is about the ability to learn”.
David Hunt says he has thoroughly enjoyed his 40 years in business and is proud of where Hunts Fuel is today.
He has a very strong commitment to the Caltex brand and hopes to continue to grow the future of Hunts Fuel and recognises his customers for their ongoing support.
“The fuel business is in my blood and I can’t see myself doing anything else,” he says.