Taking Charge

Celebrating 30 years in business this year, Club Assist offers a comprehensive car battery replacement service for customers across Australia. For its most rigourous operation in Western Australia, the company relies on a new Isuzu FSD 140-260, which travels up to 3,000km per week delivering batteries to outlying regions where rough roads and searing summer temperatures take their toll.

Club Assist was founded in 1991 in Dandenong, Victoria.

Realising that roadside battery replacement services were not offered by any of the automobile clubs in Australia, and sensing an enormous opportunity, the business undertook an 18-month study, researching data on roadside emergency calls from auto club members in Victoria.

The study revealed dead batteries were the most common reason for roadside assistance calls and in response they came up with a revolutionary solution that would redefine roadside assistance by providing battery replacement at the roadside.

That started a partnership with the automotive clubs and by 2000, Club Assist’s fully integrated roadside service solution had expanded to include partnerships with other motoring clubs across Australia and in New Zealand.

Club Assist expanded across the world in 2001 to North America and Canada. Today, Club Assist supports its motoring club partners in serving more than 66 million members worldwide.

In North America, Club Assist is proud to have been the Preferred Supplier for the AAA/CAA Mobile Battery Service Program for 20 years.

“Club Assist is primarily a business-to-business automotive battery supplier,” says Adrian Smith, Executive General Manager at Club Assist.

“We also operate roadside service vehicles on a contract basis for the automobile clubs in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory.”

Clayton Trezise inspects the battery stock carried by the Isuzu FSD 140-260.

Adrian explains that while the main focus has been on supplying batteries to automobile clubs in all states and territories of Australia as well as in New Zealand through a joint venture, the company recently started supplying batteries to other automotive outlets including Pedders Suspension & Brakes, JAX Tyres & Auto and Penske Trucks.

With the introduction of new national key accounts and growing volumes with the Motoring Club often requiring larger consignments of batteries, the company was prompted to purchase a new Isuzu FSD 140-260 for its Perth-based operation.

“We’ve been using Isuzu trucks for a long time and about 12 months ago we embarked on an extensive fleet renewal program which involved acquiring a number of new Isuzus,” Adrian says.

“Our number one priority when selecting vehicles is a three-element approach to safety – safety for our drivers, pedestrians and the load. After extensive study we found that Isuzu vehicles were ideally placed to meet these criteria.”

After safety, the other important aspects, Adrian notes, are efficiency and functionality.

“We are very happy with the safety features of the Isuzu vehicles from a driver’s perspective and also in terms of the pedestrian warnings,” he says. “In the case of the new FSD, we’ve also gained worthwhile improvements in efficiency and driver convenience due to its larger fuel and payload capacities – important factors due to the vast distances it travels in WA.”

These features, according to Adrian, enable the driver to cover more distance in a day and be less fatigued at the end of the day. Furthermore, the design of the body has been modified to reduce manual handling for the driver.

“We designed the body so as to reduce a significant amount of manual handling – both loading and unloading – which further helps in reducing fatigue,” he says.

“The feedback from the driver has been very positive. He feels safer while driving and fresher at the end of the day thanks to features such as the air suspended seat with improved damping, rear air suspension and cruise control.”

Adrian says the vehicle covers regional areas of WA radiating out from Perth – travelling up to 3,000km per week – and is right at home in the harsher environment of country driving.

Steve Williams, Sales and Operations Manager.

“In terms of safety and functionality it fits the bill and has been very reliable so far,” he says.

The FSD 140-260 has respective gross vehicle and gross combination (GVM/GCM) figures of 14,000kg and 20,000kg. This allows Club Assist a payload capacity of 7,500kg which equates to around 500 batteries.

Respective power and torque outputs of 256hp (191kW) at 2,400rpm and 761Nm (561lb/ft) between 1,450 and 2,400rpm are delivered by the 7.8-litre six-cylinder diesel engine which features common-rail injection, an electronically controlled variable nozzle turbo and air-to-air intercooler.

Euro 5 emissions standards are achieved using cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) and a Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC).

Transmitting torque to the rear wheels is an Allison LCT2500 six-speed torque converter automatic with double overdrive ratios of 0.74 fifth and 0.64 sixth. The full-floating Banjo style differential has a ratio of 5.125:1 and is saddled with Hendrickson HAS200 air suspension with a 9,000kg capacity. Brakes are ABS mastered dual circuit air-over-hydraulic drums on both axles.

On the safety front, the FSD 140-260 has driver and passenger airbags and seatbelt pretensioners, an ECE-R29 (cab strength) compliant cab, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), front stabiliser bar and cornering lamps. Cab comfort and convenience features include an ISRI 6860 air suspension driver’s seat with pneumatic lumbar support and automatic weight adjustment, electric mirrors, cruise control and a satellite navigation (GPS) system.

Optional equipment comprises a telematics system integrated with the multimedia unit, up to four camera inputs including a rear microphone, reversing sensors, tyre pressure monitoring system, airbag compatible bullbar and a roof-mounted air deflector.

The custom designed body fitted to the vehicle, Adrian explains, was specifically designed to reduce manual handling by a massive 75 per cent compared with the vehicle it replaced.

“The body is designed to be accessed from both sides as well as the rear whereas the unit it replaced was only able to be accessed from one side,” Adrian says. “That significantly reduced manual handling because we were not having to push the batteries through the full width of the body.”

It was also designed for better efficiency in servicing the company’s regional WA clients which are typically smaller workshops and approved repairers that require limited quantities of batteries delivered just-in-time.

“The previous vehicle had to be fully manually loaded and unloaded while this one has provision for both forklift and manual loading,” Adrian explains.

“Therefore, we now use pallet loading and unloading wherever possible which saves the driver a lot of time and effort. We’re really ecstatic with the fact that he is so happy with the new truck because his safety and comfort are our prime priorities.”

Running hot on the heels of these priorities, Adrian says, was the company’s need for solid dealer support and it was here that Perth Isuzu dealer Major Motors didn’t disappoint.

“We really can’t fault the servicing and support we receive from Major Motors; this was certainly a big factor in us choosing to go with Isuzu in our WA operation,” Adrian says.

When it’s all boiled down, the FSD 140-260 with its custom-built body is a vehicle that’s suitably tailored to the task and backed by a dealer network that ensures it will remain reliably and efficiently traversing the WA outback for years to come.

Add to the equation a very happy driver, who feels safe and comfortable behind the wheel for his 3,000km each week, and it’s all boxes ticked for Club Assist.