Patrick Logistics: In and out

Australia’s trade in goods and services was pivotal to our economy in 2013, with a net worth of nearly $650 billion. A major link in the profitable import/export supply chain is Patrick Logistics, a leader in the movement of goods in and out of the country.

The Patrick fleet includes a large variety of combinations, with differing specifications to handle transport to and from the wharf, while the line-haul part of the business has tailored services to meet customer requirements in a produce-producing region. At all times, this hustling and bustling company seeks to improve its operations in all areas.

As a result, the company can boast a diversified range of equipment; and according to National Fleet Manager, Greg Ubank, truck and trailer specifications, as well as vehicle life in general, are largely influenced by the job at hand. “In our wharf operation, for instance, most trucks work in a stop/start environment, covering low kilometres each week. But we also transport freight from the wharf to regional cities and towns, where distance is a factor, so we endeavour to gain the best outcomes in terms of containing costs and achieving the best from each vehicle depending on the task,” Greg says.

“In our business, saving on tare weight is everything – and it’s often a matter of looking at new ways to achieve improvements, for example by spec’ing single fuel tanks and alloy hubs. “In addition, we always look at the market and the proportion of 40-foot and 20-foot containers carried to decide what equipment suits us best. Currently 60 per cent of our business is 40-footers, so we can eliminate a set of pins – effectively taking half a tonne out of the trailer weight.”

Naturally, Patrick looks at efficiency increases across all sectors of operations, which is why the company has investigated Performance-Based Standards (PBS) vehicles too. However, Greg says current requirements present real challenges to the business, pointing out there are many complexities related to the approval process that still need to be evaluated.

The A-double combination is one prominent example. “We have looked at A-doubles and how they can benefit our customers and our business, but at this point, it is considered the weight gain is not what we will benefit from,” he explains.

“One of the issues is with export containers. These are rated to 34 tonnes, but unless they are loaded to capacity, we cannot achieve any benefits here. With a theoretical capacity of 84 tonnes we cannot achieve load productivity gains; it may work well for freight such as export grain, but in our business, we cannot justify the investment at this stage.” However, Patrick’s trucks are PBS-rated and mainly pull super B-doubles for container cartage.

While PBS remains a consideration at present, Patrick Logistics still keeps a close eye on technology improvements – particularly in relation to safety – and specifications include the latest equipment available. For example, all prime movers and trailers are now fitted with EBS and on-board weighing systems.

“There is a high focus on safety and we consider ourselves to be a leader in that regard; actively trying to do whatever we can to be the safest in the business. Everything is considered – be it the safe positioning of steps and grab handles or the decision to move offset trailer connections to the right-hand side to eliminate climbing onto trucks; or the installation of extra lights to illuminate turntable jaws,” Greg points out. “We work closely with suppliers and continuously look at engineering solutions to improve safety in every way possible.”

The company is working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and bulk movements of 200 to 300 containers per ship are the norm. A common issue in that line of work is container height, where 4.3 metres is the limitation. “Container height can be a problem and it is important we work with manufacturers to ensure we comply,” Greg says. “Stock crates, car carriers and some curtain-siders can operate at 4.6 metres, but we don’t enjoy that luxury, so all new equipment ordered is low profile.”

While the focus is on container movements, Patrick is recently moving more into the line-haul market. Running from Griffith to Sydney in the main, but also to capitals such as Brisbane and Adelaide, the growing line haul division services mainly the needs of the Riverina and feeds the container business with produce for export. “This a very customer-focused business tailored to meet demand as and when the need arises,” Greg says. “Most of the trucks are B-double combinations and it is an important adjunct to our business, which is very successful.”

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