MAN for all seasons
G1 Logistics provides a national network for the linehaul transportation of Food, wine and beverages. As a mass accredited road transport business it asks the most of its commercial vehicles and its new fleet of MAN TGX D38s have not disappointed.
Located on the fringes of a desert in the tristate corner where the Murray River crowns its northern edge, Mildura, boasts the distinction of having been the nation’s first irrigated settlement. In 1887 a pair of Canadian brothers using steam-driven pumps channelled water from the river into a basin of which the many citrus orchards and vineyards the region has long been associated were first cultivated. Skyduster palm trees, now scattered across the town, look at home in the semi-arid climate. The numbered streets, a throwback to the California heritage of its initial town planning, have survived. So too has one of its renown freight operations. In fact it has thrived.
G1 Logistics, as part of the GTS Freight Group, has been headquartered in Mildura since 1980 when Don Matthews established a business to service local wineries on the back of a lone semi-trailer. Nearly 40 years later, it now runs B-double linehaul fleet services across the country, vectoring from its strategic location goods west to Adelaide, south to Melbourne and east to Sydney and further north to Brisbane. Don’s son Damien Matthews is now the Managing Director and sole shareholder.
With another depot based in Adelaide, the group employs a fulltime equivalent staff of 300 across its facilities. This includes site employees, tow operators and contractors. The GTS Freight Group, according to Damien, is continuing to grow. It added a refrigeration arm as recently as January 2019 and as part of its upward trajectory a new 10,000sqm warehousing facility requiring 40,000sqm of concrete is nearing completion. Construction started last winter.
“Because we’re growing so quickly as a business we’re building the infrastructure to service it otherwise it’s not sustainable,” says Damien. “The new facility in Mildura is geographically a good hub for a national domestic distribution for our customers. For the linehaul business it gives us the ability to create all the changeovers and maintenance, handle the fatigue management side of things and the utilisation of equipment.”
The new facility will be fully automated with robot pick and pack and put-away technology with autonomous forklifts. In addition to a domestic national distribution centre that will benefit the logistics operation, there will also be container packing facilities, providing access to export freight markets.
“It’s in a good position to do domestic distribution because of where it is situated on the map,” says Damien. “As a food, wine and beverage carrier the busiest times of the year are October through to Christmas and then again in the lead up to Easter. That’s customarily as busy as we get but there’s a lot going on all year around.”
In 2018 the business grew 20 per cent. For this financial year alone Damien expects G1 Logistics to see 25 per cent growth in revenue.
“The forecast for the next financial year is for another 20 per cent,” he says. “For a long time the wine and beverage industries represented the core part of the business but in the last 12 months it has grown significantly through the supermarket supply chains.”
As G1 Logistics creates a network around the customers it services nationally one of the recent challenges, according to Damien, has been geared around diversifying not just for ongoing demand but to ensure the fleet is utilised all year contingent upon seasonal economic conditions.
“We had to keep that in mind so we got into refrigeration and invested in curtainsiders initially because we have so much back-up freight already in sideloading with existing clients,” he says. “So we can use fridges when they are in demand and we can use existing crates when the refrigeration is not in demand to limit the down time.”
In the past G1 Logistics has been able to supply ambient services using straight deck 36-pallet trailers. When demand increased, in order to service it, they moved to 36-pallet drop deck trailers. They invested again when there was demand for high cubic capacity PBS-approved 4.6m triple drop decks of which they now run a small fleet of 16 sets. Extra room created behind the suspension of these trailers allows for additional pallets which can be double stacked in the mezzanine deck.
When Damien started at GTS the business had no warehousing, B-doubles or Tautliners, with just half a dozen trucks equipped with flat top trailers. Across the entire group the fleet now consists of nearly 150 B-double specified prime movers and some smaller metropolitan suited rigids on top of that. There’s close to 450 pieces of trailing equipment.
Long haul of this repeat nature, at 68 tonnes gross concessional mass every day over vast stretches of the East Coast of Australia, is incumbent on a powerful heavy vehicle with a big engine – 580 horses in fact.
“We’re mass accredited so we need high horsepower,” Damien says. “As a high percentage of our fleet is now pulling 36 palleters we’re running weight and at full length.”
Agreeing to a 12-month trial of the new MAN TGX D38, G1 Logistics took only six months to reach a decision in the affirmative. Not only was it the right truck for the job but, subsequent to the evaluation, the company wasted no time in committing itself to an order of 11 prime movers.
Late last year G1 Logistics invested in another 31 MAN TGX D38s. Driver acceptance and fuel economy were, to note two of the standout factors in the decision, first rate recalls Damien.
“We certainly get the highs and lows of weather out here and the trucks cope with the extremes well. The MAN TGX is well appointed with a suite of safety features. The data that we see coming out of the trucks both with our MT Data and out of the MAN data confirm our average speeds are high, the engine brakes are strong and trip times are always good,” he says. “For us the driver acceptance – and my fleet manager will also endorse this – is really good. They present well.”
With branding crucial to most road transport groups, the MAN commercial vehicles impress in the distinct black and purple colours now uniform among the G1 Logistics fleet. They’re also, for something with such pulling power, unobtrusive in operation with noise levels, for drivers at the wheel for 12 hours, pleasantly restrained.
Not unlike most growing businesses of this mode, G1 Logistics was attracted to the competitive pricing offered by Penske Commercial Vehicles, including its contract maintenance deal.
“Penske Truck Rental has a network of rental trucks that are available through different seasonalities so if we need to hire trucks we’re also covered,” Damien says.
The first MAN model to be rated for B-double application in the country, the TGX flagship has been established as a 15-litre linehaul option and rated at 2,900Nm while possessing ample maximum torque of 930 rpm. Fuel optimised with MAN EfficientCruise which features GPS connected cruise control resourcing topographical map data to gauge route gradients, the vehicle, following its launch by Penske in October, 2016, promises a comfortable ride with an automated manual 12-speed Traxion Transmission.
“It’s been built specific with B-double applications in mind and during our year-long testing we had confidence to purchase it after just six months,” Damien says. “The numbers we’ve bought of the MAN stands alone in terms of the services being good. It’s early days but at the moment we’re pretty excited about continuing our working relationship with Penske.”
G1 runs a large workshop of 12 full time staff not including the fleet manager who oversees it and a workshop manager.
The business, like the town of Mildura, has long been home. Damien has resided here most of his life. His father relocated from Portland in coastal Victoria to Gol Gol, across the Murray in New South Wales when Damien was two. He still lives there despite the business relocating to Mildura in the mid 1980s. He took over as sole shareholder of GTS in 2008.
Next year he will have marked working at the company three decades. In that time he’s seen massive changes across the industry. Safety precautions and new practices to protect staff and its drivers an appreciative measure he regards as instrumental for all involved.
“To bring in all the fatigue management and speed limits and mass limits has been one of the best things for the industry to have effected across the board,” Damien says. “We measure our kilometres per accident and we’re now at our lowest percentage of accidents which has been at its lowest since I’ve been here.”
Reputation is part of the company’s success according to Damien. He says its core values help ensure it remains a trusted industry partner.
“Our history shows a good track record. What we have done is try to set a culture and a standard in our business that safety is paramount and if people don’t want to work in the way that we respect safety we’d rather not have them employed,” he says. “All the people that we are lucky to have do a really good job of just following the culture of safety number one, and number two, it’s all about the service and making sure the customer is happy and they get what we sell and how we provide it.”