Freight carrier, O’Connor Haulage, abides by a simple philosophy.
It will continue to improve until the needs of its customers, their customers and its vendors are met. Based in Fairfield East on the fringes of western Sydney, the company runs a fleet of 40 prime movers and 65 trailers and is testament to the hard work and vision of its eponymous Director Ashley O’Connor.
Having started out in the trucking industry in 1978 age 19, Ashley was raised around the trucks and heavy machinery his father Reg O’Connor owned and operated in the Goulburn region. His first job was as a subcontractor for Ron Finemore Transport. By 1996 he had gone out on his own and as business expansion dictated, Ashley migrated to warmer climes in Sydney, the same year the city hosted the Olympics.
The business prides itself on a loyal customer base and services all capital cities in Australia.
In June it took delivery of six new Euro 6 DAF CF 530s. All of which have so far been returning incredible fuel figures according to Ashley.
“It’s been nine weeks since inception and the results we’re getting on these DAFs is very impressive,” he says. “Seeing those figures of 160 litres on the return trip to Albury certainly helped. I knew Euro 6 would be good on fuel. But the fuel numbers have blown me away.”
In New South Wales the terrain, where the new DAFs have been assigned, varies greatly. Each of the regions can differ demonstrably in topography, wind resistance, climate, traffic congestion or a combination of the aforementioned factors that customarily affect truck performance. Of the new units, one has been assigned a B-double leg returning to Sydney daily from the ACT.
The others are pulling single trailers from Lismore to Bateman’s Bay, as far west as Armidale, Tamworth, Dubbo and throughout the Riverina. Fuel economy is the final frontier as far as Ashley is concerned when it comes to efficiency gains. It remains the area, at present, his team has been most invested in hence the latest acquisitions.
“Fuel is one of the few places you can still save,” he said. “These Euro 6 DAFs stack up. The drivers absolutely love them. In fact, you can’t get the drivers out of them. Ultimately, a whole range of things swayed me to buying them.”
Indeed fuel economy, a crucial factor for a linehaul transport operation looking for gains in overhead costs, have delivered on what was promised by the dealer.
According to Workshop Manager Danny Jackson, the DAF CF 530s have proven themselves right out of the gate. On a run loaded to Albury in which the DAF delivered a fuel burn rating of 3.01 km/litre it was a staggering 30 per cent better than the truck we had customarily assigned to the route.
“For us that equates to around $120,000 a year in total fuel savings. On that maiden voyage to Albury the figures it returned made it a tough prospect to argue against,” he says. “You wouldn’t have dreamed of it ten years ago.”
These are the first DAF commercial vehicles introduced into the fleet and the new 13-litre PACCAR MX-13 530hp engine, the highest spec available in the new Euro 6 range, packs extra grunt.
Notwithstanding the down-speeding now afforded the engine, it delivers more torque at lower revs thanks in part to the Variable Geometry Turbocharger but drinks considerably less. An elite TraXon automated manual transmission from ZF helps accelerate gear changes from the 16-speed transmission.
In addition to the noteworthy attributes incorporated into the drivetrain, driver acceptance has also been encouraged by an updated interior design according to O’Connor Haulage General Manager Susan Jackson.
“The drivers, who are more accustomed to the American trucks, might have been skeptical at first but are now major converts,” she says. “They love the comfort, ride, features and power.”
Gilbert& Roach Huntingwood Kenworth DAF dealer Lloyd Moran has a longstanding relationship with O’Connor Haulage now entering its 17th consecutive year. It began with several Freightliners. When Lloyd moved to selling Kenworth trucks, as a testament to the friendship, Ashley moved with him.
“I’m not sure what sold the trucks better Lloyd or the Kenworth products” Ashley jokes. “Every time he comes to me with a quote, I remind him that I have a pencil sharpener and an eraser to sharpen his prices. In all sincerity, however, Lloyd is a good friend who happens to be down to earth, reliable and an honest salesman.”
Relationships are key to the business which has an enduring association with Fantastic Furniture that goes back to when Ashley was providing rigid trucks for home deliveries in the Australian Capital Territory circa 1998. Today he is one of its major suppliers.
He counts, among the company’s many milestones over the last 20 years, having won several awards from Fantastic Furniture including Outstanding Customer Service of the Year and Supply Chain Manager of the Year as two of his fondest achievements. Ashley includes appointing Susan to the position of General Manager as another.
Just over 12 years ago, she walked into the company office to help out for fewer than a couple of designated hours each day. She now, as they say, runs the show.
“I never thought it would turn out like this,” Susan says. “It’s been a long and memorable journey working for such a humble business owner. After working beside Ashley for a little while I set myself a goal which was to earn his trust and prove to him that women could pretty much do anything.”
Aside from the support she received from Ashley, Susan says perseverance, patience, strength and courage are the qualities most integral for women to become successful in such a traditionally male dominated environment.
“After so many years I have finally achieved my goal and can proudly say that I am the General Manager of such a great family owned business,” she says. “It is a tough industry to work in no doubt, but after having Ashley as a boss, mentor and someone I look up to, working in transport has made me who I am today.”
The new regulatory environment post COVID-19 has proven challenging for many road transport businesses.
To that degree, O’Connor Haulage is no different, adjusting its hygiene practices and social distancing among staff and operators to ensure safety protocols are up to date and prioritised.
“COVID has been a very testing time for us as well as the rest of the world. It’s a timely reminder that without trucks, Australia stops,” she says. “It has also taught us the importance of looking out for the safety and wellbeing of one another to ensure we pull through these uncertain times.”
For the past ten years O’Connor Haulage has been accredited under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme and is currently a member of Natroad and Transport Women Australia.
In that time Ashley has seen it transition to digital integration from a pen and paper operation, embrace Chain of Responsibility regulations and support Women in Transport initiatives. Driver training is an area of particular importance to Ashley, who supports the inexperienced drivers by having them start in metro operations before building them up to regional work and progressing the drivers eventually to long haul.
“Having driven and now as a manager I am able to understand and provide support to all of my drivers,” he says. “Our employees are very important to us and contribute greatly in the way they help us achieve our goals.”