The unusual size of the steel cut-to-length and its variants like aluminum and colorbond dictate the customised approach to the trailer combinations used at Apex Steel.
That key requirement for the delivery business is fully realised through Western Star and more specifically the 4800 FS2 model, given its unique wheelbase helps keep the combination within the legal limit of 26 metres.
As it offers a wide range of commercial roofing, cladding, rainwater goods, sheet metal, purlins, battens, sheet and coil, pipes and structural steel, the task of supplying these products is wholly specialised for Apex Group.
It must include a mounted crane on all its trailers. The Fassi vehicle loading crane, supplied by 600 Cranes, has been standardised across the fleet for efficiency of use, maintenance and repairs.
Heavier loads, topping out around 25 tonnes, involve use of extendable trailers. These are nominally sourced from long time partners Vawdrey and occasionally Barker Trailers.
The company also runs a super extendable trailer with steerable axles it had commissioned by Lusty Trailers in Swan Hill a few years back.
In the main the company, which maintains a head office and depot in Dandenong South, supplies to independent roofing specialists for the construction and refurbishment of commercial and domestic properties.
Commercial roofers require, according to Apex Building Products Road Transport Manager Clint Rockman, a bespoke service for the overscale considerations of moving materials for factory roofs.
“If the customer orders a roof we have to be able to supply what they need. So it’s our job to cut it for them from a coil and then we have it delivered,” he says. “We do a lot of long roof sheets.”
The inclusion of the three new Western Star trucks comes in the midst of the fleet being rejuvenated. It has been a conscious undertaking on the part of Clint, who sees the long-term strategy of upgrading the equipment offsetting costs associated with downtime and repairs.
“The fleet has been purposely built to cart long lengths,” he explains. “All of our trailers are full extendable 48 footers. Once you put a crane on the Western Star it comes under the legal limit. So that’s why we buy them and they’re a top truck.”
While little Isuzus are deployed for smaller tray truck deliveries, the Western Stars are assigned the much longer steel sheets. With a longer wheelbase, the heavy duty 4800 FS2 cling reliably to the unsealed roads and enclosed areas customary of their final destination.
“For the most part the jobs are offroad. As you can imagine it’s factories and similar locations,” says Clint. “There’s not a lot of asphalt welcoming the drivers at these sites. But the Western Star is a great truck in the mud and slush. It handles variable conditions very well.”
Westar Trucks Derrimut oversaw the complex build in which underslung pipes for the exhaust were necessary to accommodate the rear mounted crane.
Shortened fuel tanks and toolboxes were also required as part of a host of modifications which have been observant down to a 10mm tolerance.
A more diminutive Western Star 4700, with a galvanized cab, is dedicated to servicing clients on the Mornington Peninsula. It pulls a single trailer.
On average the Western Star 4800 FS2s shoulder around 25 tonnes on a given job. By its very nature, steel prohibits carriers like Apex Building Products from going too heavy as the product would get damaged under its own weight. The sweet spot, according to Clint, is around 20- to 25 tonnes.
The Western Stars all generally use the same running gear with a Detroit DD15 engine and 18-speed Eaton Roadranger powertrain — and that’s the way Clint likes it.
“It’s a similar situation to our cranes. We tend to keep everything the same. It makes it easier afterwards if we need to buy anything,” he says.
Maintenance and repairs has been outsourced to long-time partner Osbourne Automotive Services based in Carrum Downs.
The new commercial vehicles are part of several strategic investments made by the company in Victoria.
More recently it invested in new facilities in Geelong and Bendigo, growth areas it has specifically targeted.
“This year has been a growth year with additional assets and the opening of new facilities in our regional hubs of Bendigo and Geelong, where we did have a previous facility which we’ve since upgraded,” Clint says.
Some of the new vehicles have been allocated for the Bendigo locale where they will help service clientele in the country.
“We’ve been running into Bendigo and servicing that area for many years but we can grow into the site now that we have set up there and in the next six months, given that is a growth area we have identified, the company should be able to build upon our investment.”
The roofing sector has been somewhat insulated from the economic downturn many construction businesses have experienced in the past three months according to Clint.
Privately owned, Apex Group is run by a group of individuals who are very much involved in the daily operations.
Current ownership has been in charge since 1997. It has been built, according to Clint, from solid foundations.
Expansion from Victoria was not long coming with sites in Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and more recently Darwin added to the Apex Group.
Clint is long servant at the company, having been in his role for the better part of 15 years.
“Everyone is hands on here. If you need something you can get it done on the spot,” he says. “That’s an advantage. It means you can move quickly when you need to. Because senior management is here you don’t need to follow a paper trail to get anything done. So we get things moving around here.”