Setting up Camp
Kwik Logistics specialises in the relocation of mining camps in Western Australia. The crane and heavy haulage company partners with Penske Power Systems whose Western Star trucks it utilises to meet its epic challenges.
Moving a mining camp is an operational feat requiring the orchestration of proven logistics systems, oversized cargo and manoeuvrable heavy vehicles. Add to that the punishing environs of remote Western Australia where a now booming resource industry is setting up camp – or camps such is the growing ubiquity of its growth this year – and you’re some way to understanding the scale of operations the Perth-based company, which has its head office in High Wycombe on the foothills of Perth, is accustomed.
The origins of the family-owned business begin in the 1980s when it focused on crane hire. In 2016 Kwik Logistics acquired Jonesway Transport, retaining the majority of the fleet, which now supports its haulage business – including the modular buildings it relocates from pre-existing mine sites and the manufacturing plants where they are constructed in Perth.
More than a decade prior to that, back in 2004, following its purchase by the Smith-Gander family, Kwik Logistics developed a metropolitan taxi crane hire and transportation business through the early mining and residential construction boom then being experienced across the state.
The crane business was also its first link to Penske Power Systems, who, for many years contracted Kwik Logistics to lift and transport many of its large engines and power equipment. It’s only natural the partnership has since progressed with Penske now supplying trucks to Kwik Logistics.
Earlier this year it took delivery of four Western Star 4800 FBX prime movers. According to Gordon Smith-Gander, Kwik Logistics Operations Manager, the new trucks have proven worthy additions and equal to the task of moving oversize loads into remote areas.
“Specialised modular transport makes for unique demands on commercial vehicles,” Gordon says. “For our requirements we need a truck that can handle huge sized loads with robust agility and perform on-highway and off road in locations that are taxing on trucks.”
BHP is currently in the process of relocating its camp from the mine in Yandi, which is expected to be exhausted in the next five years, to its $4.8 billion operation at South Flank. Established as part of its Area C hub in the Pilbara, South Flank, 130 kilometres northwest of Newman, will have an overland conveyor and rail spur and house 3000 workers at the new Mulla Mulla camp to make it the biggest iron ore operation in Australia.
“It’s a massive project and BHP have invested heavily in the site which is one of biggest open cut iron ore mines in the world. It requires a lot of infrastructure and includes an expansive accommodation village to attract workers from all over the country.”
The prefabrication housing modules are separated into sections and craned onto the trucks or alternatively by use of specialised hydraulic jacking systems, before the journey, with benefit of a traffic-managed escort, takes them to the red realm of the Pilbara.
The Western Star trucks, which Kwik Logistics regularly operates in a double road train application, are also loaded up with structural steel for construction of the mining camp and the mine itself. The job can involve up to 200 movements per week. Installations are often required in condensed windows to minimise costs and, as a result, heighten the logistical challenges.
Gordon says the superior turning circle and handling of the Western Star, powered by a Detroit 475 horsepower engine, has already demonstrated its prowess negotiating the narrow roads and sometimes tricky angles required of delivering the modules into sites.
In less than six months Gordon says he has seen major gains in fuel efficiency. With long-haul resource assignments, it’s not unusual for the drivers to spend up to four weeks away. The enormous cab, Gordon acknowledges, is the other major advantage for the drivers who are responsible for the Western Star 4800FBX. Each has a spacious interior, with standing room for the driver and includes as standard a 52-inch bunk, fridge and microwave.
“It’s crucial that our drivers are comfortable given how long they are away from home. It was an important consideration for us knowing the trucks we needed to use for this kind of remote work are something like a home away from home. The drivers are essentially, for the week or two weeks they are away, living out of the truck and the Western Star cab, with its space and comforts definitely meets our expectations.”
The task of transporting modular housing requires Kwik Logistics to employ specialist drivers. Gordon notes they also service remote communities through the transportation of modular homes across Australia. In 2018 Kwik Logistics has so far assisted in the upgrading of homes and facilities at the remote Tjuntjuntjara Community in the Great Victoria Desert near the border of South Australia. Kwik Logistics has also been involved in all of the largest modular installations across Western Australia. Of which, Gordon notes, South Hedland’s Osprey Village involved the en masse transportation and installation of 120 double and triple concrete-based buildings built in Perth.
Chevron’s permanent workers accommodation in Onslow for the Wheatstone Project was another massive project, this time involving 50 residential houses, effectively creating a new suburb in Onslow for workers to avoid the confines of camp conditions. For employees it also provided a more permanent housing solution in the local community.
A 52 per cent decrease in the residential building market has since seen the emergence of an alternative industry in Perth. A dramatic change to the residential hire business, according to Gordon, has created an opportunity in second storey pods – a cheaper and faster alternative for families that want to expand the home with an additional prefabricated level.
“The prefab segments are built off site and craned directly onto the dwelling,” he says. “For a lot of people it’s a convenient solution as they reduce time on site and some of the other associated costs such as hiring a bricklayer. These pods are starting to change the market.”
As a multi-pronged logistics company, the crane operation and transport management for heavy haulage have proven complementary for Kwik Logistics, as it tries to keep pace with the rapid changes in established and additional Western Australian industries. Kwik Logistics currently employs about 110 staff and maintains four depots in Mandurah, Two Rocks and two additional facilities in the Perth metro area.
Running the company with his father Craig, who originally helped build the crane hire side of the business, Gordon says Kwik Logistics operates 25 prime movers with about 80 trailers. Additional trucks are going to be coming off line from Penske in the near term.
For the transport division, as it stands, he prefers to use a mix of short-term rental, long-term lease and outright purchases offered through Penske. The rental option, according to Gordon, is a real solution in that it allows the business to keep up with market demand and allows for flexibility should supply decline on their contracts.
“The transport market tightened up tremendously with the WA economic downturn. In the last six months it has bounced back and we have seen a vast improvement,” he says. “The additional trucks on order from Penske are all Western Stars and we are extremely happy with the selection. The eventual plan is to make the entire long-haul fleet Western Star prime movers.”