Out of the Woods

Vocational transport specialist, Les Walkden Enterprises, recently returned to Ampol-aligned products after a hiatus of 45 years.

It’s no small thing to convert an entire truck fleet to a new lubricant. Especially when that fleet consists of 60 prime movers and ancillary support vehicles.

The Tasmanian-based Les Walkden Enterprises have just completed the ambitious undertaking having replaced its lubricant regime last year with the Mobil Delvac product range.

As it maintains several forestry and logging transfer contracts across the state, the business, which relies on Mack, Volvo and Kenworth vehicles in a range of interesting heavy-duty applications punished over rugged, often mountainous terrain, needed to update its oils and lubricants when its previous supplier was purchased by Ampol in late 2020.

Founder and owner, Les Walkden, is very particular about the products he uses on the vehicles according to WorkShop Manager Ashley Viney.

“For us, to move away from Caltex lubricants which we had been using for many years, on the face of it, looked like a tough proposition,” he says.

“Les is, understandably, pedantic about his oils.”

Being in business over five decades, Les has fond memories of Ampol, having used their products when he first started out in the late 1970s.

That, along with the help of some astute Ampol technical expertise, made the transition easier to get underway according to Ashley.

“Because Les had used Mobil during the early days of operations and had a good experience it was a relatively straightforward choice,” says Ashley.

“What first seemed like a daunting prospect was a smooth process with the help of Ampol who made the transition seamless.”

Operations, however, involve two different types of harvesting. In the north of the state Les Walkden Enterprises predominantly carter for timber and woodchip cartage, augmented by an infield chipping operation.

The infield chippers are situated where the timber is fell, usually in dense bushland where it is later carted away to a mill already in chip form.

In the south, near New Norfolk, trucks service cable logging and native forest harvesting.

Vehicle combinations more commonly involve both tri-tri B-doubles pulled by Kenworth prime movers and Mack SuperLiners at a gross weight of 60.5 tonnes and also include what Ashley refers to as Mini Bs, otherwise known as a tandem-tandem B-double.

These vehicles are restricted, under HML permit to 57.5 tonnes.

Mack SuperLiner tri tri B-double in Campbelltown, Tasmania.

Trucks in the fleet, incorporating some new additions from Volvo, clock an estimated 700 kilometres daily, carting hardwood timber from the south of the state and delivering to Bellbay in the North and then loading with pine to return south and deliver to Norske Skog.

Technical Solutions Specialist Abdulla Nasser, and Mick Smyth, Ampol State Sales Manager, were on site at both the workshops in Launceston and New Norfolk to help oversee the Mobil Delvac crossover product.

In order to integrate the new product line across operations Abdullah and Mick sat down with Les, Ashley and the team to complete a thorough analysis of the contrasts and vagaries of operations in the north and south, as one product suited for the former was unlikely to work as well under the working conditions associated with the latter region.

A list of machinery was compiled along with notes on the environmental conditions each was operating in.

“After going over all of those details with us they returned with a recommendation of a lube crossover which was made specifically for us to know the exact line up to move to on the next product,” says Ashley.

“Formulation was based on whether we were using a particular oil in the past. If so, they recommended a new equivalent in the Mobil/Ampol product. Ampol couldn’t have been any easier or any better to deal with and that includes their continued support.”

The itemised recommendations covered everything from lubricants through to coolants and greasers.

Each of the existing products received a substitution based on this consultative approach.

Fuel consumption in the trucks had been one of the key areas under review for the performance of the new lubricants.

Ashley, after a half-year period, was also looking to confirm if the service intervals had been increased.

Oil samples from the engines as well as the transmission and differential were taken given Mobil Delvac lubricants are used right across the major components of the drivetrain.

Ashley, naturally, was pleased to report that they had extended the service intervals even further.

“We’ve gone from 30,000kms to 40,000kms for service intervals in some applications which is a cost saving for the business,” he says. “Also going with those extended service intervals, we then reflect back on the oil analysis that we get.”

An oil analysis takes place at every service interval. It’s generally about a week or two weeks before they receive the results back from the time samples have been sent off to the lab.

For Ashley, it’s a key to preventative maintenance — a blown transmission or engine malfunction are not only costly but lead to disastrous downtime that no one in business can afford.

Oil analysis will often foretell the workshop manager how the engine is performing and can assist in the detection of issues with engine bearings, for example, down the track.

“Oil analysis can be everything. It can save us time and it can save us money,” Ashley says. “A company such as ours that runs 60 prime movers can pick up on things before the time they occur.

Oil analysis puts us on the front foot. In a nutshell that would be the easiest way to describe it.”

By studying oil analysis properly, the workshop manager, according to Ashley, can detect when an engine is generating a material inside it such as aluminium or iron.

“That way we can get onto it early enough so that the internal part can be replaced which will then prevent a catastrophic engine failure,” he says. “We do the oil analysis for this reason.”

Les Walkden Enterprises is yet to complete a four-week fuel trial using Ampol HD diesel but is hoping to begin in the coming months using a new era Volvo that’s already achieving results of up to 2.3kmpl.

More recently, upon conclusion of the six-month transition phase, Mick and Abdullah called into both workshops, to check in to see how the Mobil Delvac product was faring.

“They wanted our feedback on how it was all going and whether there were any products we needed to finetune or adjust,” Ashley says. “As far as customer support from a product perspective goes it’s been absolutely sensational.”

Fully restored Mack FR200, Les Walkden’s fifth original truck.

 

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