Prime Mover Magazine

Civil action

Civil action

Commercial and industrial property are valuable assets and proximity to resources, customers, workforces and transport hubs is vital. The repurposing of this real estate is an important function in the development of the national economy and begins with the decommissioning and demolition of existing structures. A leader in this field is McMahon Services based in Adelaide.

The efficient and safe preparation of areas varying from urban renewal projects to remediation of mining sites requires a special range of equipment and expertise and the ability to perform these important functions in locations as diverse as high traffic flow city centres or remote outback mines. The ability to source and mobilise the necessary equipment to project sites wherever they may be is a key factor in the McMahon Services offering to the industries it serves.

Glen McMahon started his demolition company in Adelaide 60 years ago and his sons Andrew and David took over the management in 1990. The business has since grown from an Adelaide-based operation into an award winning national contractor. By 2019 McMahon Services had grown to employ 700 people across Australia, and the family group’s other businesses take the current total to more than 1,100 people.

Modern demolition techniques involve far more than just a ‘knock it down’ approach and safety and environmental considerations are integral in the planning and execution of every project.

McMahon Services has developed an industry leading reputation for the safe removal of asbestos and other hazardous materials. The rigorous approach to safety on decontamination projects is paralleled throughout the entire business including the in-house road transport operations which are accredited with the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS). McMahon Services’ strong commitment to delivering outstanding safety, quality and environmental outcomes has resulted it the company being the recipient of many state, national and even international awards.

This level of commitment extends through every facet of the organisation and David McMahon is passionate about each piece of equipment being presentable at all times, regardless of whether its age is ten years or two days. The company has around $80 million worth of equipment which includes 300 Toyota HiLux utes and an incredible array of civil construction and earthmoving machinery.

The available services have grown from demolishing structures and remediating sites and now includes the preparation of sites for their next phase of development including piling and major earthworks. McMahon Services has been expanding its civil construction capabilities and has acquired many appropriate assets including bulldozers up to the size of the massive Caterpillar D9 as well as huge land planes. More than 98 per cent of the materials removed from demolition sites is recycled and McMahon Services operates its own scrap metal reclamation operation.

It has been important to invest in the right equipment to stay ahead of the competition. Only a few years ago the biggest machine was a 45 tonne excavator yet today there are 450 tonne excavators and some of the contracted jobs are worth tens of millions of dollars.

The extensive suite of machinery includes lifting equipment ranging from 45 tonne Franna cranes to 250 tonne Liebherr mobile cranes, as well as a new Kobelco 250 tonne crawler crane which was recently imported from Germany. There are also many specialised precision demolition attachments for short and long reach excavators.

The various pieces of heavy equipment keep the McMahon Services low loader fleet occupied with moving the company-owned plant items from local site to site or across the country. The main intention is to transport the equipment to and from project locations, but there can be occasional backloads. A recent job involved eight floats carrying McMahon Services equipment to Port Hedland in Western Australia and then bringing back used crushing plants and hoppers from a decommissioned mine.

“To maintain efficiency we do the long distance work ourselves with our own trucks,” says Rhys Parasiers, one of McMahon Services lead drivers. “That’s where we save money and maintain control of the entire operation.”

The McMahon Services truck fleet includes tippers and hook lifts and the larger loads require a range of trailers including two 408 Drake ‘8 rows of 8’ low loaders with clip-on platforms, an ’11 rows of 8’ float, numerous spread decks, drop decks, and drop decks with ramps.

McMahon Services took delivery of its first Volvo Globetrotter 700 horsepower FH16 in 2011. That original Volvo is still operating well and has since been joined by another 12 FH models, with several of them equipped with hub reduction drive axles combined with an I-Shift transmission fitted with super crawler gears.

“We choose Volvo for the aftersales service, reliability, and driver comfort,” says Brenton Vogelsang, who is the Operations Manager of the Demolition and Decommissioning division. “We have also found we have reduced driver fatigue with the Volvo prime movers.”

Rhys Parasiers epitomises the development opportunities provided within the organisation. Commencing as a labourer, Rhys progressed to become a loader driver and then went on to the crucial role of driving one of the company’s Volvo prime movers transporting OSOM loads. All of the Volvo drivers have email-enabled phones and when working out of mobile phone range use satellite phones to call or text Head Office at least every night to check in and report they are safe. Rhys spends around 200 nights per year away from home in his truck so he appreciates the comfort afforded by the Volvo he drives.

The FH16 Volvo which Rhys operates was delivered in April last year and has already covered more than 130,000 kilometres which is relatively high for a prime mover performing heavy haulage tasks. Most of the other Volvo’s in the fleet cover 100-120 thousand per year, although that can vary depending upon the work pattern.

There has been very little down time with the Volvo’s and timely servicing is especially vital for these heavy haulage vehicles as access permits may have been organised months previously, and a truck cannot be off the road for a week having repairs done and miss the time window specified in a permit.

On the subject of permits, Brenton considers that the application process through the NHVR has improved since the early days of the Regulator yet there is still need for improvement.

“Obtaining permits can still be a bit and hit and miss. Sometimes it can take two days, sometimes two weeks for the same load on the same road,” Brenton says. “Prior to the NHVR, operators used to engage local councils directly and some understandably may still have a small town mentality and want to communicate face to face rather than getting an impersonal email from the Regulator.”

The Volvo crawler gear innovation has proved ideal for the type of heavy haulage tasks performed by McMahon Services.

“It takes very little effort to get them going especially with the new gearing,” says Rhys. “That’s where older models were lacking a bit and we’d pull out of the Adelaide depot with a machine weighing 115 tonnes on the float and we’d almost be stalling getting out the front gate. The latest models, with the crawler gears, just whistle through and as soon as the drag of the load starts to impact they just power through it. With the crawler gears as long as you’ve got weight up to assist traction and get the power to the ground you can get going from just about anywhere.”

The specifying of the crawler gears also has had a beneficial impact on fuel consumption given a more fuel economical ratio can be used in the differentials.

“On a recent trip to Perth I was grossing 88 tonnes yet still managed to achieve around 1.4 kilometres per litre which is impressive considering the air resistance of the 3.5 metre load plus the added drag of the trailer and dolly,” says Rhys. “With the Volvos, once we get them up to speed they just roll along.”

Brenton Vogelsang says the drivers of the McMahon services heavy haulage combinations require some extra skills that, say, a linehaul operator doesn’t need.

“They have to understand the hydraulics and how trailer steering works which is part of our driver training,” says Brenton. “It depends how you drive it as well,” adds Rhys. “McMahon Services has a one driver, one truck policy so we treat them as if they are our own.”

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