Mack to the future
A family business spanning four generations, De Bruyn’s Transport runs, among its wide and varied equipment range, food grade, pneumatic and chemical tankers across the state of Tasmania. Data it produces from the telemetry system in its Mack Granites remains a critical tool for delivering ongoing operational efficiencies.
The origins of De Bruyn’s Transport, a Tasmanian road transport carrier and delivery specialist, can be traced to Holland, where the ancestors of the current powerhouse family business operated small shipping vessels from Lopik in the central province of Utrecht.
It was the great grandfather of John de Bruyn, Managing Director, who ran a barge loaded with gravel and coal into the agricultural district where his family lived, circa 1910.
Eventually his sons expanded the business to carting fresh produce on trucks in the 1930s, laying the groundwork for the road transport operation that exists today.
With its head office in Burnie, which includes a 20,000-pallet cold storage complex nearby, De Bruyn’s Transport employs over 230 staff, with approximately 130 trucks according to John.
Despite its size he says the company is committed to providing its customers with the personal touch synonymous with smaller family businesses.
“Customer service has always been at the forefront of our outlook and we’ve long had a focus on retaining our can-do attitude,” John says.
“We see ourselves as solution finders. If a client has got a need we find a solution to that need. That’s been at the heart of the business since day dot.”
On 1 April, 1965, Dutch émigrés, who, having arrived in the country the decade prior, formed West Coast Transport and planted the seeds for the local incarnation of the business.
John’s own father and uncle joined them in 1978, two years after having sold a road transport business of 16 trucks owned in joint partnership with their brothers in the Netherlands.
John and his brother Dirk and cousin, also named John, bought the business back in 1995, starting out with 20 trucks. These days they run a sizeable tanker fleet moving grain, stockfeed and dry powder like lime.
The fleet is green with red and white trim, a tribute to the colours of the original boat their great grandfather piloted at the start of the last century.
In the early days the tankers would carry 16 tonnes. Now De Bruyn’s Transport is hauling 37 tonne loads in B-double application using Mack Granites.
The company provides transport and logistics services for every operational mine in the state. This covers all the base metals – tin, copper, iron ore, gold and zinc. John acknowledges his diverse operation requires drivers to adapt to many changing conditions from the rugged environment of the West Coast to grinding linehaul work between Hobart and Launceston to farm deliveries in the backcountry.
Roads can be affected by snow and ice in winter and the terrain might involve steep grades, winding mountain passes and highways of varying quality.
Gross concessional mass (GCM) starts at anything from 46 tonnes upwards. The Mack Granite tippers have been purposed to pull five axle dog trailers.
De Bruyn’s Transport has standardised its fleet across the Volvo Group range, dedicating the different brands for specific task. The Macks, according to John, have an advantage in tare weight.
“When you’re doing tanker work an extra 100 kilos can make all the difference,” he says. “All of our newer Macks proudly display the Golden Bulldog. The trucks feature a full Mack driveline, suspension and axles. We prefer to have proprietary drivetrain.”
The Mack Granites operate on an automatic transmission and run the Mack Telematics system. Over 70 vehicles in the fleet use it. John recalls there was some initial apprehension surrounding telematics from his drivers.
“We told the drivers it wasn’t a tool to smack them on the wrist for things they had done wrong,” he says. “It was actually a tool to help them become better drivers and a way for us to be able to give them feedback.”
Initially, De Bruyn’s Transport ran on different telemetry systems in the days before Mack Telematics.
Many of those trucks have since been retrofitted with it. Weekly reports are produced which go on the table in the lunchroom.
“They help form a little competitiveness among the drivers to see who can perform the highest score,” John says.
“They’ve also got the Mack Telematics app on their phone so they can see what they have done.”
Average scores, John explains, are up around 90 with 100 being the highest possible score. When the drivers first started using it they were in the mid 60s.
“At the time we couldn’t work out what we needed to do to see it improve. We did quite a bit of driver training and read up on it considerably,” he says.
It was the act of seeking insight from a former coach driver, who was consistently outscoring everyone else that proved a turning point for John and the fleet managers.
“He told us driving a coach means you’ve got to think ahead. When you approach a red light you need to think about the passengers,” he says.
“You let the coach coast instead of keeping the foot on it and brake at the last minute. My cousin took one of the trucks on a particular run that we were doing and he drove the way we should be driving and he used 50 litres less on that trip than the best driver. That really started us on a journey of driver training and from that turning point we were able to get our scores up to 90 to 91.”
“We’ve improved our fuel consumption by around 10 per cent as a result,” he says.
“Some people are negative about telemetry systems but it really makes business sense. Why wouldn’t you have it? The key is you really have got to take an interest in it and then work at it. A telemetry system doesn’t take care of itself. You need to be looking at it.”
One of the biggest discoveries for John was learning the demonstrable traits of an efficient driver are the same as those of a safe driver.
“It’s difficult to ask someone to be a safe driver,” he says. “Those same qualities are shared between an efficient driver and a safe driver. Not braking at the last minute, slowing down earlier, the behaviours align.”
De Bruyn’s Transport incorporated the Mack driver trainers extensively, to the point of exhausting the available knowledge.
In each one of their branches they have since put at least one driver through a Certificate 4 in driving assessments. The plan is for these drivers to become driver trainers according to John.
“They’re going to be spending some time with the other drivers and helping them be better drivers,” he says. “The training, over time, does leak. You need to reinforce it. We have to put the vision out there of what we’re trying to achieve.”
Being able to give drivers instant feedback is more than useful. One driver, according to John, was struggling with his scores despite doing all he could to upskill his technique.
“We were able to look at what he was doing and he took on board the suggestions we made and now he’s getting close to 100 on the Mack Telematics system score,” he says.
“Continual feedback helps them strive to improve. It’s a phenomenal business tool.”
The philosophy of De Bruyn’s Transport is geared around commonality.
Just as they use Mack trucks for tippers and pneumatic tankers and some Mack Tridents on 19-metre B-double operations, UD Trucks are employed for local deliveries while Volvos are responsible for linehaul, B-double towing and underground assignments.
John says the local dealer Webster Trucks keeps some consignment stock in store to help ensure they are able to get trucks back on the road efficiently and more cost effectively.
Having a broad customer range in which they cart “anything from a loaf of bread to class 1 explosives,” per John, drastically alters the daily considerations required of the business.
He adds, “To safely carry out the diverse task there’s a huge amount of training that needs to have taken place these days.”
Commonality across vehicles, among other resource factors, has allowed De Bruyn’s Transport to control its own maintenance.
Nine people currently staff the workshop where they will complete engine rebuilds, repair gearboxes and diffs as well as perform general service work and modifications in-house.
“Having that Group commonality allows us to be much more efficient in the overall maintenance task. Our fitters have a huge amount of experience with the product which means they don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to trouble shoot it,” John explains.
“We’ve built up a lot of capacity in the workshop and a good knowledge space with the product and it allows us to be much more efficient. We have the Group program so a lot of the fault codes and calibrations we can do ourselves with that.”
The telemetry system is also being use for incidents in speeding. According to John the company has been able to reduce these rare instances to a minimal number. He says a speed limit of 95 km/h applies across the fleet.
“We think from a safety perspective and a fuel consumption perspective it makes sense and it doesn’t add too much to the trip times,” he says. “So we’ve been able to manage risk and improve efficiency.”
High productivity vehicles and Performance-Based-Standards (PBS) equipment continue to open up new possibilities and it excites John.
So too does the fact a next generation of sons, from his own family and that of his brother and cousin, are now part of the business, which has a legacy to uphold and innovative customer solutions to deliver.
“We’ve grown with existing clients. We pride ourselves on trying to do things a little bit smarter.” he says. “Trucks and transport is what my family does.”