Pumping Iron

Operating quad roadtrains carting iron ore in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, MGM Bulk depends upon the strength and reliability of JOST’s heavy-duty JSK39CS ball-race fifth wheel to keep the wheels turning day in and day out.

The sparsely populated and mineral-rich Pilbara region brings to mind the comic twist of the classic AC/DC song, “It’s a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll.”

Just like the band itself, running equipment has to be built super tough to take years of beatings remote from anywhere and, what’s more, keep coming back for more.

This includes the prime movers, trailers and, of course, the couplings that secure the combinations as a unit.

JOST Australia has a long history of building transport components that go the distance under arduous conditions and it’s for this very reason that companies like MGM Bulk continue to use its products.

In short, it makes sound business sense. MGM Bulk traces its roots back to the 1950s when Mario Giacci and his family founded a small transport and logistics business at Bunbury in Western Australia.

Over the ensuing years it grew into a national business called Giacci Bros. In 2004, Mario Giacci also founded MGM Group, with his daughter Giuditta (Giudi) and son Michael.

Over the next decade MGM Group expanded its operations, equipment and resources to become a large established business in its own right.

Kenworth roadtrain at work in the Pilbara for MGM Bulk.

After the sale of Giacci Bros to a public listed company in 2014, MGM added a bulk division to the group known as MGM Bulk, which has experienced significant growth over the last few years, providing bulk haulage and material handling services to a wide range of mining clients all over WA.

The company currently manages the logistics of mineral sands, iron ore, lithium, salt, copper concentrate, timber, gravel, limestone and sand.

The full fleet of trucks – ranging from semi-trailers to ultra quads – is fitted with driver monitoring technology that includes MTData and DSSI (Seeing Machines). Trailing equipment includes side-tippers, end-tippers, Tautliners, flat decks and tankers.

MGM Bulk is currently in the middle of a significant fleet expansion program, with 32 new tri-drive Kenworth C509 prime movers having been delivered from November 2020 to July 2021.

Longevity is key in this operation, with MGM Bulk Fleet Manager, Allan Thomas, saying the original C509s the company bought in 2016 now have around 34,000 hours of operation under their belts and are still going strong. Some of the new units have replaced earlier C509s, although the bulk are additional to cater for business growth.

A further batch of 19 units are expected to be delivered in the second half of 2021 and into early 2022.

Speaking about the JOST JSK39CS fifth wheels installed on the C509s, Allan Thomas says JOST fifth wheels have been a permanent fixture in the MGM Group since the component company opened its Australian operations in 1995.

“When JOST first moved into Australia we started using their products and they’ve stood the test of time, so we’ve kept using them,” Allan says. “Wherever we can specify JOST components such as turntables and landing legs that’s what we use.”

JOST’s JSK39CS heavy-duty fifth wheel is specifically designed for arduous applications including mining, stock crate, fridge van, forestry and other off-road applications.

It has a D-Value of 275kN and an imposed load capacity of 26 tonnes. Adding to its longevity are replaceable steel wear plates which bolt onto the top plate.

After reaching a minimum thickness limit, the wear plates can be simply unbolted and replaced with new units, thus giving the top plate a virtually unlimited lifespan.

Other robust features include manual adjustment of the locking mechanism which provides high reliability and extends the lifecycle of the mechanism.

There are also rubber cushion pad mounts which allow a degree of lateral flex of the top plate to help even out the top plate loading and reduce the stresses imposed on the entire unit.

The JOST fifth wheels, according to Allan, have a very long lifespan if they are maintained correctly.

He also says the process of maintaining and refurbishing them is straightforward, with replacement parts and repair kits readily available, even for the earlier units.

“We have some very old units that we have repaired with new jaws and locking bar kits – I’ve never yet seen one thrown in the bin,” he says. “They are user-friendly and very safe, I believe.”

MGM Bulk has three branches in WA including its head office at Picton near Bunbury, a branch in Perth and the largest depot at Port Hedland from where the big gear operates.

In fact, there are over 60 super- and ultra-quad combinations pulled by the Kenworth C509s with gross combination masses (GCM) of 195 and 210 tonnes respectively, along with respective payload capacities of 140 and 150 tonnes.

The tri-drive Kenworth C509 is ideally suited to hauling these colossal weights, featuring Cummins X15 engines rated at 600hp (459kW) at 1,800rpm and 2,050lb/ft (2,779Nm) of torque at 1,200rpm.

Along with its loyal adherence to Kenworth trucks and JOST fifth wheels, MGM Bulk has also stuck firmly with Bruce Rock Engineering (BRE) side-tippers and dollies which make up all the quad roadtrain combinations in the northwest operation. As for the drivers, the company has not been immune from the industry-wide shortage of skilled operators.

JOST Australia, along with its highly durable fifth wheels and landing legs, have served the company extremely well for more than 25 years.

In an operation where harsh operating conditions and high weights dictate the need for ultra-robust equipment, Allan contends that the company has never had any cause to re-evaluate its dedication to a brand it knows and trusts.

A new Kenworth C509.