Prime Mover Magazine


Gilmour Bulk Haulage

  • Posted on Wednesday 19th, December 2012
Gilmour Bulk Haulage

WA-based Gilmour Bulk Haulage has specialised in running road trains all across Australia’s vast west, where local mass regulations can provide a notable benefit for the extra axle.

The term ‘tyranny of distance’ is all-pervading in today’s Australia, especially in Western Australia, where the commercial road transport industry is facing massive distances on a daily basis. The state is virtually isolated from the rest of the country, and the vast majority of all its transport operations take place within the state itself.

However, the distance has enabled the WA trucking industry to develop almost independently of the rest of Australia, and it still is little influenced by what is going on in the Eastern States. As a result, industry regulation has developed separately as well, creating a closer and more collaborative relationship between the trucking industry and the government department, whose task it is to regulate it.

On the downside, these differences have created issues for operators from the east wanting to work in the west, as well as for those who operate back and forth across the Nullarbor. For the WA industry, meanwhile, a number of pragmatic regulations and permit schemes mean they can employ high productivity vehicles in different combinations with the blessing of the regulator.

One of the local operators able to benefit from this more enlightened attitude on the part of the regulator is Gilmour Bulk Haulage, who specialises in hauling bulk materials in the country areas of Western Australia.

The company is currently operating eight road trains running in and out of its home base in Noranda, mostly built by Tefco Trailers and Howard Porter. Most of the time, these road trains carry ammonium nitrate from the Perth area heading north to the farming areas. On the return journey, they will pick up a wide variety of bulk product depending on the season and the region. The company also runs two sets of tankers, which work in the same area handling liquid freight.

Gilmour uses tri-axle dollies, so with an 8x4 prime mover there is a total of 13 axles on the ground. These combinations can run at 92.5 tonnes all up. The concessional mass limit of these trucks is 98 tonnes. Using a 6x4 prime mover, the allowance is lower at 87.5 tonnes, extending to 94 tonnes under the concessional scheme.

“I've been in the trucking business for 38 years,” says Peter Gilmour, a country boy from Carnamah. “I started driving trucks when I was 18 and I opened my own business when I was 24, working on road trains. I started on the east/west run and I didn't find that any good. Then we got involved in a lot of fertiliser spreading and finally, the combinations grew.

“We probably got into running road trains about 15 years ago. We started with just one then it grew to two and then three and so on.”

Gilmour’s fleet consists of mostly double road trains, a system which works effectively given the area the company works in, according to Peter. “I've tried breaking them down and then making them up into triples again and it just doesn't work on this job. A lot of people disagree with me, but with the double road train combination I can go anywhere in Western Australia,” he says. “There are no issues with access anywhere. It's simply a matter of go, get loaded and then you are gone, drivers are not sitting around waiting for a third trailer. We find them more productive to work with as they are instead of having to wait around for that third trailer.”

Peter also believes the fatigue management system used in WA works a lot better than the eastern states’ system. He is pleased the WA representatives have been fighting hard to maintain the status quo in the face of pressure from the new NHVR. He is adamant the best way to fight fatigue is on a pragmatic basis, in a system like that used in WA.

“For me, running at the weights we do, I would like all of my trucks to be limited to 90km/h. However, it is far too dangerous – I thought about doing it but it makes it difficult for trucks to overtake. I have one driver who is happy to religiously sit on 90, the truck sits on the road a lot better and the journey is not as stressful. The difference in journey time from here to Kalgoorlie is only about 20 minutes. So, I don't understand my drivers sometimes. I pay them by the hour and they sit on 100km/h. If they sat at 90km/h they would save me money, in terms of fuel, and they would get paid more.

One of the limitations to the fleet is the ability to get good drivers to handle the over-sized road trains. If Peter could get more drivers, he would probably expand the fleet. He is currently trying to recruit drivers from other states, including Victoria and the Northern Territory. At least the company is not losing any drivers to the mining industry as those working for Gilmour can achieve a take home pay comparable with what they can earn working with the mining companies – with the added advantage of being home twice a week. But, tt is still important to get the right kind of driver to suit the kind of work the company performs and the unique WA environment.

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