There’s a necessary factor that’s fundamental to any business, large or small, across the entire economy – profit. Without it, there’s little point even having a business.
In simple terms, the quality and consistency of goods or services provided by any business needs to be deemed by the consumer as worthy of the asking price. The resultant competition between providers to best supply the needs of consumers results in keen pricing in the marketplace.
This factor also has multiple layers, whereby the provider of a service such as a plant hire company needs to acquire capital equipment including trucks that enable it to deliver its services at a high standard and cost effectively.
From this it can be deduced that the most cost-effective trucks are those that will deliver the goods in terms of working day-in, day-out for a quantifiable period of time with minimal downtime, while also retaining a healthy residual value when the time comes to upgrade. In short, the whole-of-life cost of the vehicle from purchase to disposal has to stack up.
Another important element to many businesses, again using truck operation as an example, is the obligation of being a good corporate citizen by engaging equipment that is as safe as possible for both the operator and the community at large.
All these thoughts and more were coursing through the mind of Chris West, the Managing Director of Fleet Plant Hire, during the lead-up to the purchase of the company’s first fleet of tipper and three-axle dog combinations.
The company was established in 1996 to help supply the equipment needs of civil construction and earthworks companies across greater Melbourne.
Chris has been at the helm since 1998. In that time projects have included basement excavations, removal of spoil from where railway level crossings were replaced with flyovers at Blackburn, Heatherdale and St Albans, as well as tunnel spoil removal from the Melbourne Metro project, to name a few.
Prior to buying the fleet of Hino trucks, contractors with their own equipment were engaged to do all the work. However, as Chris explains, the company reasoned the burgeoning and ongoing construction boom in Melbourne warranted a change of tack.
“Considering the boom Melbourne is currently experiencing and our projected workload, we decided to implement a longer-term strategy to augment our operation which was previously 100 per cent contractor based,” Chris says. “We knew there was going to be a chronic shortage of vehicles for the task, and we also knew some of our competitors were buying their own trucks to supplement their contractor fleets.”
The company does a lot of work in and around the city where there are many vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. Each of the Hino trucks is fitted with a collision avoidance system called Mobileye to minimise the possibility of collisions.
In addition to pedestrian collision warning up to 2.0 seconds ahead and forward collision warning up to 2.7 seconds ahead, the system also includes lane departure warning and headway monitoring with tailgating warning. After going through the process of comparing a variety of truck brands, Chris says Hino stood out in a number of different ways.
“From a value-for-money perspective we felt that Hino stood out and they were able to offer us the special safety equipment we needed to ensure we were competitive and meeting the obligations of our contracts,” he says.
The afterhours servicing of the vehicles offered by Prestige Hino was also of significant benefit for Fleet Plant Hire according to Chris.
“Our aim was to have the vehicles on the road potentially 24/7,” Chris says. “That they service the vehicles at night and they have a ute available for the drivers to take home while their trucks are being serviced makes things a lot easier for everyone.”
Initial contact with Hino ensued after a friend of Chris’, also in the civil construction industry, met Prestige Hino General Sales Manager Danny Timewell, at an industry event.
Danny then made contact with Chris. The process from that initial meeting until the sales order was signed was itself a two year undertaking.
“We started communicating and Danny as well as Prestige Hino Dealer Principal, Angelo Valerio, came up with a pretty good scenario for us,” Chris says. “The whole process took a while, but we got there in the end.”
According to Danny Timewell, finding out exactly what the customer requires for their particular application is the most important aspect of any truck sale.
“We pride ourselves on being a one-stop-shop and making the process of buying a truck as painless as possible,” Danny says. “Chris went with our financing option as well so the whole process was as straightforward as it could be.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Angelo Valerio, who reiterates that it took close to two years of engagement with Chris and the team at Fleet Plant Hire before the deal was done.
“It’s one of the longest relationship-building exercises I’ve been on for a while,” Angelo says with a smile. “It was all about helping Chris to understand where our product fitted within the competitor range and, above all, ensuring he got the right truck for the task. To us, selling a solution and assisting the customer by tailoring the solution to their individual needs is the most important part of selling trucks. We’ve proven this by being awarded Australian Hino Dealer of the Year for five years running.”
As previously alluded to, the ten Hino trucks that recently went into service for Fleet Plant Hire are highly specified to not only perform their duties at the highest capacity, but also to ensure the safety of their drivers and the general public – particularly pedestrians and cyclists – within the urban environment in which they largely operate.
The trucks are 700 Series FS 2848 tandem drive units with 480hp (353kW) of power matched with 2,157Nm (1,591lbft) of torque. This feeds into a 16-speed ZF automated manual transmission (AMT) featuring the brake-saving Intarder auxiliary braking system.
On the steer axle the suspension uses parabolic leaf springs while the tandem drive assembly relies on air suspension with a capacity rating of 21 tonnes.
Both drive axles feature cross locks that are combined with the inter-axle differential lock and give these vehicles formidable traction on the often muddy job sites they negotiate on a daily basis.
Alloy rims and a dress kit provide a striking appearance while a Groeneveld auto-greasing system ensures vital moving parts are adequately lubricated at all times while the vehicles are working.
Safety features abound including not one but two reversing cameras, a park brake alarm that sounds the horn if the driver opens the door without engaging the park brake, a reverse ‘squawker’, two roof-mounted LED beacon lights and a lane change assist kit. There’s also the previously mentioned Mobileye Advanced Driver Assistance System mounted at the front exterior corner of each truck that is linked to the vehicle’s GPS for added safety and convenience.
The truck tipper bodies and three-axle dog trailers were built and installed by Kilsyth-based Hercules Engineering and the combinations delivered ready to work by Prestige Hino. A comprehensive five-year/ 800,000km warranty was also furnished on the new commercial vehicles.
Every safety requirement of his company, according to Chris West, was met by Danny and Angelo at Prestige Hino whose pursuit of excellence was unrelenting.
“We wanted to be recognised as having vehicles that exceeded industry requirements in terms of safety,” Chris said. “We decided to go with Hino because they clearly demonstrated the ability to supply everything we needed in a cost-effective package.
“This combined with the outstanding warranty and after-hours servicing regime gave us confidence that we would receive a good return on our investment, with the assurance of ultimate uptime for the next three to five years of operation.”