Paul McCallum, Principal of Inland Petroleum, traces his roots in road transport back to 1984 when he commenced running the BP depot in the central-west New South Wales city of Dubbo.
Dubbed ‘the hub of the west’, Dubbo’s population has steadily expanded since then, fuelling proportionally increasing demand for petroleum products, which Inland Petroleum has grown to meet.
“When we first started, we were using an old cab-over Atkinson eight-wheeler and a Bedford table-top truck,” Paul says. “Our first new truck purchase was an L 700 cab-over Kenworth that served us dutifully from 1986 to 2002.”
A relative newcomer to truck driving, Paul gained his heavy vehicle licence in 2006 and progressed through to driving B-doubles, road trains and other multi-combinations.
He says this has allowed him to better understand the everyday issues of operating a heavy vehicle and to assist in getting the work done during very busy periods. It also gives him valuable insight into the concept and viability of higher productivity combinations.
“We have been quick to adopt new combinations as they became available,” he says.
“The emergence of the 50-tonne truck and dog and the 19-metre pocket B-double allowed incremental increases in payloads that were desperately needed.
“Now in western New South Wales the development of Performance-Based Standards (PBS) has given rise to the BA-triple and the AB-triple, both of which have significantly boosted payload and operating efficiency.”
On that note, Paul says his company now has a fully integrated computer system with software to measure the profitability of each heavy vehicle it owns for every kilometre it travels.
“This should produce some interesting results and may be a little sobering,” he says.
As for the biggest changes and developments he has seen, Paul says the integration and evolution of safety systems in trucks and trailers have been fundamental to lowering heavy vehicle incidents.
“We have adopted anti-lock (ABS) and electronic braking (EBS) technology across the board,” he confirms.
“It is not until you drive equipment with this latest technology that you fully appreciate the ability of the third-generation EBS to keep the trailers and prime mover in a straight line during an emergency braking event.
“Jack-knifing issues are eliminated, and the trailers are kept from sliding sideways down the camber of the road under heavy braking in the wet.
“Particularly important with fuel tankers, rollovers are prevented by intervention of the electronic stability program (ESP).”
Paul adds that huge increases in horsepower and torque of modern prime movers, both North American and European, have been another big game-changer.
“We haul fuel from Newcastle to western New South Wales in B-doubles grossing 68 tonnes and over the hill from Sydney at 57 tonnes. The high horsepower trucks do this comfortably and safely.
“Another change for the better is the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) legislation,” he continues. “It has squarely focussed the entire supply chain on adopting a responsible approach to fulfilment of the task. Thankfully, gone are the days when customers, especially large contracted ones, would put pressure on our organisation to achieve impossible outcomes at short notice.
“Lastly, over the past 20 years roads have been improved out of sight. This to a large degree has been offset by the tremendous increase in traffic volume. Prior to the turn of the century the Mitchell highway between Dubbo and Sydney was a country drive. It is now a very busy arterial thoroughfare, requiring intensive concentration and skill on the part of heavy combination drivers.”
Asked about one thing in particular he considers revolutionary regarding his involvement with PBS, Paul’s response is emphatic.
“The BA-triple we operate between Dubbo and Eromanga (near Quilpie in western Queensland) is a standout success for efficiency gains,” he says.
“After operating as a 19-metre B-double from the seaboard fuel terminal to Dubbo, we add a tri-axle dolly and semi-trailer – moving from 57 to 102 tonnes gross – and deliver fuel to north western NSW towns. We then dog-leg to Eromanga to load solvents for Melbourne, Sydney or Newcastle.
“The BA-triple features full EBS brake-by-wire technology and its handling and stability are testament to what can be achieved by the latest technology in high-productivity combinations.”
The question of who in the industry he admires initially draws a nostalgic reply from Paul.
“I admire my father-in-law, Lance Foster, one of the brave and resourceful truckies who traversed the ‘goat track’ across the Blue Mountains in the late 1940s and ‘50s. In those days they jockeyed International and Commer trucks with 10-tonne payloads. There were many hazards, not least dodgy brakes, and a return trip from Dubbo to Sydney was one big event, not a day’s work.
“Today, I think a stand out example of a successful person in transport is Paul Little. He drove Toll Transport from a small Queensland-based outfit to a world-class operation. Sadly, it is now overseas owned.
“Looking at my industry, I admire Lance Fisher, Fleet Maintenance Manager, and Phil Pierce, Chief Operating Officer, of John L Pierce. The JLP operation has to be the most successful bulk liquid operator in Australia by far. Its growth in the last 15 years, minimal incident rate and very obvious professionalism of the drivers can only be attributed to the leadership in the organisation.”
As for a memorable industry-related story, Paul offers an amusing event that happened during the maiden run of the BA-triple.
“We got wheeled in by the local highway patrol who immediately grounded the unit due to the B-double being at the front instead of the back. We produced the permit at which the fellow could be heard muttering about Sydney not keeping the boys on the ground versed in changing combinations.”
Made possible by Smedley’s Engineers. Industry Icon is a series dedicated to honouring the unsung heroes of the commercial road transport industry.