Prime Mover Magazine

Not by accident

Not by accident

With one of the largest transport networks in the country, Australia Post, must lead with a safety first philosophy. To spread its public safety campaign ‘Stay Alert!’ signage has been added to its trucks, trailers and vans to help raise awareness of other road users given three posties are injured every day at work on Australian roads.

When it comes to safety, achieving the highest levels possible is a non-negotiable for Australia Post. As the company operates 20,500 delivery vehicles on the road every day it’s a priority that all return home safely, making it vital that it reinforces the message of its current campaign ‘Stay Alert! There’s a Life Riding on it’.

The average age of the Australia Post transport fleet is around five and a half years. It’s young by most world standards. Vehicles in the company, Australia’s largest parcel and bulk mail carrier, are prone to high turnover as it continues its pursuit of the latest offerings in technology from its transport manufacturing partners. It selects commercial vehicles, according to Terry Bickerton, Australia Post National Fleet Manager, based on its vehicle safety minimum requirements. These include lane departure, anti-lock-braking systems (ABS), among others, subject to availability. From there they work backwards through the subsequent considerations.

“There are a lot of things that come into play, not only do we need to move freight and keep our people safe but we’ve also got to provide an efficient and reliable service for our customers,” he said. “Safety is our priority and we look closely at ergonomics, environmental factors, capacity and compatibility with our network.”

Australia Post operates the largest fleet of Fuso trucks in the country. The company, according to Terry, has chosen Fuso for its large support network, efficiency and suitability, balancing weight capacity and horsepower, for navigating suburban settings.

“Fuso meets our requirements when it comes to safety, reliability, price and sustainability,” he says. “It also has service intervals of 30,000 kilometres meaning it affords us better productivity as the vehicle is off the road less.”

The 6x4 drive configuration of the Fuso FV series is equipped with a transom window in the passenger door making it ideal for a daily regime of deliveries and pickups.

“We have a great relationship with both Mercedes-Benz and Fuso for our medium and heavy rigid fleet as well as our van fleet,” says Terry.

The size of its national operations make it necessary for Australia Post to tender for new vehicles every 12 months. In the final mile van fleet, Australia Post has partnered with Mercedes-Benz Vans. With Sprinter and Vito models already in wide use, the company is keenly awaiting the new VS30 Mercedes-Benz due to arrive in 2019. The vans will be fitted with key safety features such as collision prevention assist, brake-disc for wet conditions, adaptive electronic stability and full automatic transmission according to James Dixon, Australia Post, General Manager Transport and Aviation.

“When purchasing vans we look at those that offer the highest level of safety and efficiency. This is key in reducing driver fatigue and assisting our drivers to navigate through peak hour congestion and suburban streets,” he said. “Our delivery vehicles travel significant kilometres each year, so we work closely with manufacturers to provide a complete maintenance package which includes high levels of on the road time.”

Australia Post uses telematics systems to provide depth data on acceleration and breaking patterns, distanced travelled, roads traversed and driver behaviour. Data is then used proactively to analyse the fleet.

Renewing the fleet requires capital expenditure in the tens of millions of dollars according to Terry, who says it ultimately safeguards the vehicles.
“We do high kilometres so we try and keep the prime movers refreshed. Part of that is working closely with the manufacturer to manage what the ideal exit point is for that vehicle to give us the best return on the sale of the asset,” he says. “That way we’ve spent the least amount of money on repair and maintenance and it’s provided us the best reliability.”

Even though the fleet purchases up to 100 Rigid trucks a year, Australia Post will sell between 25 to 40 prime movers annually and another 50 to 60 trailers simply to keep the network refreshed.

“That sweet spot is what we aim for across the board. We do the same thing with Rigid trucks and we do the same thing with trailers,” Terry says. “Our axle providers support the axles and guarantee and warranty it for us to one million kilometres.”

At 1 million kilometres, explains Terry, each axle set is refreshed and worked through to 2 million or 2.5 million kilometres, which is the equivalent to around 10 to 15 years depending on its individual cycle.
Trailers are run in various configurations from drop decks, mezzanine floor drop decks, curtainsiders, Pantechs, A-doubles, B-doubles, singles, skels, dog trailers and Performance-Based-Standards (PBS)-approved trailers. PBS combinations, explains Terry, are on the increase within the fleet.

“We keep exploring the limits for high capacity vehicles but obviously some of the PBS schedules need to fit within our operational requirements,” he says. “Sometimes they’re a match and sometimes they’re not. We use those which are a match.”

Not long ago Australia Post put to work a series of 26-pallet single trailers in Victoria. In early 2018 they started running A-doubles between its main facilities. They’re currently in ongoing discussions with the likes of Roads and Maritime Services, VicRoads and the Australian Technology Network (ATN) to increase its usage of A-double combinations. Terry pores over SAP, the intensive data source he uses for a comprehensive analysis of the vehicles. Economics, from an emissions performance, such as fuel economy, represent along with safety and reliability, the chief pillars of the fleet’s operational requirements.

Plans for the national mail carrier to transition into electric vehicles are already in effect. With a commitment to reduce their carbon emissions 25 per cent by 2020, Australia Post is investing in safe and sustainable alternatives to the traditional delivery methods.

Currently it has 2000 electric bicycles and 150 three-wheeled electric delivery vehicles (eDVs) on the road making Australia Post the largest user of electric vehicles in the country. The company will hit a milestone as it plans on having a further 1000 eDVs operational in 2019.

Referred to affectionately as Evees by the posties, the three-wheeled vehicles plug into a single-phase outlet. As Australia Post has solar panels at many of its facilities, the company is in talks with several global companies to determine how best to use solar power to charge the new vehicles.

“The addition of the 1000 EDVs next year means we’ll be able to remove a large number of motorcycles from the roads,” said Terry. “The rounds for these will be chosen based on the suitability of the eDV.”

Volume of Parcels, according to Terry, is also another key determinant.
“The eDV can carry up to a 100 small parcels, and deliver the greatest benefit for our people and our customers. We want these vehicles delivering in regions where volume is high.

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