Integrated transport, logistics and rural supply company, Lindsay Australia, has a relationship with driveline specialist, Meritor, that stretches back many years.
The partnership is grounded by rock-solid reliability of the components and aftersales support that Meritor provides.
Among a fleet numbering close to 300, Lindsay’s transport division has around 180 Kenworths fitted with Meritor drivelines which encompass the rear tandem drive assemblies including axles, suspension, brakes, driveshafts and universal joints. Lindsay Transport, which has served Australia for more than 60 years, recognises the value of partnering with other companies that manufacture or assemble products locally. Rob Dummer, General Manager of Operations, says Meritor components in the Kenworths are reliable and durable, generally for the life of the truck.
“As a rule we just don’t have diff problems,” he says. “As a fleet manager the diffs are probably the furthest thing from my mind because nothing ever really happens to them – you just don’t need to think about them.”
Lindsay Transport regularly services the diffs by changing the oil at the specified intervals and the oil is also tested in a laboratory to provide an early warning of any abnormalities.
“If there is excessive bearing metal detected in the oil we will then change out the diff before it does any damage or causes a catastrophic failure,” Rob says, adding that the quality and durability of the Meritor products combined with the thorough servicing regime of Lindsay Transport, carried out in its own workshops, mean the diffs are largely a set-and-forget component.
Meritor, Rob says, has gone above and beyond the call of duty in assisting Lindsay Transport with its drive axle needs, particularly during a recent down-speeding exercise when a change in ratio from 4.3:1 to 4.11:1 of its Euro 5 trucks required a mass changeout of diff centres.
“In our Euro 5 fleet we changed to 4.11 diffs in the middle of 2017 and with our Euro 6 fleet we have standardised on the 3.73 ratio,” he says.
As fuel is widely regarded as the biggest expense in operating trucks, fleet managers constantly seek to improve fuel efficiency. Rob says that just 0.1km/litre of fuel economy improvement in a B-double travelling 300,000km per year equates to about $10,000 a year in fuel savings.
“In the current business environment, it is more about what money you can save than what you can make,” Rob says. “We used about 39 million litres last year. Saving one per cent of that is a lot of money back in the bank.”
In a bid to push the boundaries of fuel economy the company trialled 3.58 ratio diffs in a linehaul B-double travelling between Brisbane and Hay but found this was just too tall and actually led to increased fuel consumption compared to 3.73 ratio equipped units.
“This truck was running on Higher Mass Limits at 66- to 68 tonnes gross combination mass (GCM) both ways on a tough route which was why the 3.58 ratio didn’t suit,” Rob says. “If you had a B-double doing an express run averaging 55 tonnes GCM between Sydney and Brisbane it would be a different story.
“The beauty of Meritor is that I can play around with diff ratios without needing to have a dozen diffs sitting on the shelf, simply because we don’t have issues with them. We just put them in and forget about them.”
Meritor is celebrating 50 years of operation in Australia this year, which according to Rob, is a great accomplishment and one that has been made possible by the company’s excellent products and outstanding customer service.
“You can always get hold of someone there, not that I have to very often because I buy the trucks through Brown and Hurley and they usually sort out any issues for us,” he says. “Meritor helped us out when we needed to change the 3.58 ratio that wasn’t suitable for our application, they really want their customers to be satisfied with the products and services they provide.”
According to Rob, Kenworth trucks fitted with Meritor axles predominate in the linehaul fleet. He is also pleased that PACCAR’s DAF trucks, which also have a large presence in the fleet, are now being assembled at the company’s Bayswater facility.
“Meritor and PACCAR have great products which work well for us and at the end of the day if they can produce these exceptional products by employing Aussie workers then it’s a win-win for everyone,” Rob says. Having product commonality, as far as possible, across the fleet is for him an important goal.
“Meritor and Kenworth are American-based and our mechanics are experienced with American-based gear so it makes sense for us to standardise on these products in order to maintain maximum product familiarity among our workshop staff,” he says.
Rob acknowledges that the Meritor original equipment (OE) parts such as brake shoe kits, brake drums, universal joints and driveshafts are a cut above compared with aftermarket components.
“We have trialled other brands of parts, but we’ve returned to the OE parts because they offer the extra degree of quality that makes them the best choice in the long run,” he says.
“It’s the old story: ‘you get what you pay for’. It’s false economy if the cheaper part doesn’t last as long or provide the same level of performance as OE parts. You also have to factor in the extra time a vehicle spends in the workshop to replace parts sooner instead of being out on the road earning money. We also run greaseless drivelines which again means less time in the workshop. The old days of having universal joints fail are long gone. It just doesn’t happen anymore. Which brings us back to my opening statement about the Meritor products – we just don’t have any issues – I can’t fault them.”