For a number of operators in Australia, including Martins Stock Haulage, the heavy-duty truck and engine of choice is non-negotiable: It is, quite simply, Cummins-powered Kenworth.
These operators are generally hauling close to maximum legal weights, often traversing some of the toughest terrain this country has to offer, and for them the Cummins/Kenworth combination has proven to be the most reliable and durable available.
While Cummins is the sole supplier of engines for the top-weight Kenworth models in Australia, the company has refused to rest on its laurels; rather it has continued to forge ahead with development of its venerable ‘big red’ 15-litre X15 to ensure its customers have access to the latest in clean-running fuel-efficient engines.
While the Euro 6 emissions standard is still some way off being ratified in Australia, forward thinking operators like Martins are keen to try out thus equipped engines in advance to see how they perform in their specific operations.
The Cummins X15 Euro 6 engine comes in two formats known as Performance Series and Efficiency Series. As a general rule, the Efficiency Series is suitable for the lighter applications up to and including B-doubles while the Performance Series is tailor made for the larger and heavier combinations like B-triples and roadtrains.
And so it is that Martins has taken on a T909 fitted with an X15 Euro 6 Performance Series producing 625hp and 2,050lb-ft of torque driving through an Eaton RTLO-20918B manual shift 18-speed transmission.
At the rear is a tandem drive assembly with a final drive ratio of 4.56:1.
The engine meets Euro 6 standards using Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and a Single Module Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) which according to Cummins is a compact and lightweight system that offers increased ash capacity for industry leading DPF maintenance intervals and improved serviceability compared to modular systems.
According to Adam Ross, National Operations Manager at Martins Stock Haulage, every prime mover in the fleet runs a Cummins engine and that’s the way it’s been for a long, long time.
“We did have some Caterpillars at one stage back in the day, but predominantly we’ve always had Cummins engines in the trucks,” Adam says. “In Australia you can’t beat the size and reach of the Cummins network for aftersales support such as breakdown callouts.”
The company owns a fleet of 86 prime movers which operate right across the country and that wherever they are there is nearly always someone who can help out if there’s an issue.
“Nine times out of ten we can find a mechanic or dealer with the spare part we need and the expertise to fit it if something goes wrong,” he says.
Stock work is notoriously tough on trucks due to the heavy loads and rough tracks they are often driven on.
Adam explains that the Kenworths are generally kept for around seven years before they are traded in.
“Lately, though, this has blown out a bit because we’ve been so busy in the last five years and new trucks have been hard to come by due to the pandemic over the last couple of years,” Adam says. “Due to these factors, we’ve had some go out to ten years without any major dramas – thanks largely to the durability of Cummins engines and Kenworth trucks.”
Owing to the heavy demands stock work puts on the trucks, the engines typically achieve a life-to-overhaul of between 800,000 and 1,000,000km, after which they generally do another 400,000 to 500,000km with the company.
“After that we typically try to turn them over and buy new gear,” Adam says. In addition to carting livestock, Martins also transports dangerous goods such as cyanide to mine sites in places like the Pilbara and other remote regions in the northwest of Australia.
“We truck a lot of cattle out of Western Australia back east across the Nullarbor while the dangerous goods are generally freighted across the Top End from Gladstone to the Telfer gold mine in the Great Sandy Desert in the north of WA,” Adam says.
“The keys to success in this operation are having the reliability of good gear as well as keeping the drivers and customers happy. We have a one-truck one-driver policy which the drivers appreciate and, in turn, means they generally look after the gear better.”
Seemingly one of the happiest drivers in the Martins operation is the truckie who pilots Martin’s mighty new Kenworth T909 powered by a Cummins X15 Euro 6 engine.
This is the truck that regularly plies the Top End from east to west and back again pulling a roadtrain triple grossing up to 120 tonnes.
Adam says the engine has been performing very well and that the driver is extremely impressed with the way it pulls the weight over some of the most rugged roads in Australia, including the Tanami Track.
He describes the fuel economy of the Euro 6 Cummins as “unbelievably good”, saying it returns between 1.4 and 1.5km/l (3.95 and 4.23mpg) pulling triples and between 1.9 and 2.0km/l (5.36 and 5.65mpg) towing B-doubles.
“With the price of fuel through the roof at the moment, fuel economy is central to everything we do,” Adam says. “Even a small variation across the fleet can be the difference between making money and losing money. The fuel economy we are seeing from the Euro 6 Cummins under extremely arduous conditions is nothing short of amazing, and certainly better than our Euro 5 Cummins powered trucks doing similar work.”
That said, Adam maintains he is quite satisfied with the fuel economy the company’s Euro 5 X15 engines are returning, with the prime movers pulling B-double stock crates averaging 1.7km/litre with minimal empty running.
“I’d say Cummins is where it’s at now with its Euro 5 and even more so with the new Euro 6 engines. Its got a really good product in terms of anti-pollution engines,” Adam says. “The fuel economy from our Euro 6 engine is excellent and, so far, it is proving to be extremely reliable. We love the reliability of the engines and the ready availability of parts which makes things better for us, our drivers and, most importantly, our customers.”
Any warranty issues, what’s more, are dealt with extremely well by Cummins according to Adam.
“We can’t fault the service we receive from the company and all of its dealers – we get looked after wherever we are,” Adam continues. “The way Cummins handles the service and warranty side of things gets a big tick in our books.”
Martins Stock Haulage was founded by Gordon Martin in 1958, carting pigs and calves in the Singleton and Maitland regions of New South Wales.
Over the ensuing years the company grew quickly, acquiring numerous other stock hauling businesses along the way.
Some of the big jobs Martins have had over the years range from carting gravel for the local roads in the Merriwa shire commencing in 1961 to hauling coal from the Hunter Valley mines to Newcastle after acquiring Ravensworth Transport in 1979.
Other prominent contracts include carting cattle from Prime city to Beef city for AMH, working for Australian Country Choice after purchasing Porters Transport, carting cattle for PRIMO at Scone, hauling magnesite for QMag, now Sibelco, in Rockhampton, and carting grain for Mauri ANZ into Brisbane.
As a company directly linked to the agricultural and pastoral industries, some of the climatic influences that have affected Martins in recent times include three major droughts: 1991 to 1995, 2003 to 2013 and 2016 to 2020.
There have also been some major wet seasons to contend with including 2011, 2016 and, of course, this year.