Flexible Australia was established in the ACT in 1999 by Kurt Kaks who has been in this niche service industry since 1982. Flexible specialises in infrastructure maintenance and particularly the maintenance and cleaning of sewers and stormwater drains. This service includes the regular and emergency cleaning of Gross Pollutant Traps (GPTs) which function to collect trash such as plastic bottles, cigarette butts and other debris and sediment to prevent the litter and pollutants from urban runoff entering the ACT’s lakes and rivers.
To perform its operations the company employs some quite unique equipment fitted to a fleet of Scania cab/chassis which are rather specialised themselves. The Kaiser AquaStar water jet, vacuum and recycling equipment comes from Lichtenstein and the most recent additions are fitted to Scania P480 day cab trucks which have been equipped with a third steerable axle.
The innovative axle configuration addresses several fundamental issues for the type of work carried out by Flexible including increasing the payload from seven tonnes to ten tonnes when compared with the more conventional Scania 8x4s in the Flexible fleet. This significantly contributes to the overall efficiency because on most days each unit can operate for a full day without having to offload the trash it has collected.
According to General Manager Tim Rolfe, the increased capacity has changed the work schedule in a very positive manner and helps justify the investment of around $1million in each vehicle.
“We no longer need to take a trip in the middle of the day to offload debris at the recycling stations,” says Tim. “Instead we work right through and it means we can get bigger jobs done considerably more quickly, saving our customers time and money. Plus, we get more jobs done during the course of a week, which means we are gaining improved asset utilisation.”
Safety is enhanced as well. This is due to the location of the extra axle in front of the drive wheels instead of the more conventional tag at the rear which provides much more vehicle stability when tipping thanks to the larger footprint of the bogie dual wheel arrangement.
“Instead of a more typical 10×4 which has a steerable tag axle with single tyres, we worked with Kaiser, the Scania factory and the relevant Federal and State authorities to come up with an imaginative solution,” says Shane Griffin, Scania Australia National Manager, Specialist Vehicles. “We knew Flexible wanted to tip the waste out of the vehicle so tipping over the back axle on single, not dual, wheels would have been a less suitable solution, plus the rear overhang length would have been too long. So, in consultation with the factory engineers we came up with the idea of a super-single centre axle that steered in a pusher arrangement.”
The trucks are 11 metres long and 3.9 metres tall and although Canberra is renowned for its wide streets and large diameter roundabouts the vehicles still need to be manoeuvrable. The steerable third axle permits a turning circle which has a diameter only one metre larger than a more conventional and shorter 8×4 Scania.