Through two generations of the Crawford family and four different businesses going back to 1986, Marshall Lethlean tankers have been a constant in the Crawford’s various fuel haulage businesses.
“My father started his association with Marshall Lethlean back in the mid-’80s and through several different businesses since then we have maintained a strong connection with Marshall Lethlean,” says Steven Crawford, Managing Director of Fuel Trans Australia, who with his wife Nicole founded the company in 2007.
The company has been operating for the past 14 years, predominantly in the Pilbara and Kimberly regions of northern Western Australia and throughout the Northern Territory.
“We were a Caltex distributor in the Pilbara before Caltex bought the distributorship back from us,” says Steven, “so we started Fuel Trans Australia about 14 years ago as a fuel carrier and then five years ago we became the BP distributor for the northern half of WA under our Recharge Petroleum brand.”
The company operates around 140 tankers, mostly in triple and quad road train configurations along with a smattering of double road trains, B-doubles and single trailers.
Typically using Marshall Lethlean tankers as its standard build, the company uses different specification levels, depending on the application, ranging from light-weight Metro through to ultra heavy-duty Tanami-spec for the outback operations.
Steven says the tankers are easy to maintain, an important factor given the company has four workshops in relatively remote locations, and that having a majority of one brand provides benefits due to parts commonality and familiarity with workshop staff.
“Having fairly standardised equipment allows us to rationalise our parts inventory and helps our workshop technicians to be completely across all aspects of servicing and repair of the equipment,” he says.
Steven adds that the people at Marshall Lethlean Industries (MLI) have always been extremely helpful and easy to deal with.
“Aftersales service has been consistently good and the team at Marshall Lethlean has been particularly helpful when we have needed design approvals and Dangerous Goods applications relating to the purchase of second-hand equipment,” Steve says.
The latest three units built by MLI to grace the Fuel Trans Australia fleet are the ultra-robust Tanami spec heavy-duty tri-axle tankers that will be hitched together as a triple road train. Based at Kununurra in the east Kimberly, they will service cattle stations and remote Aboriginal communities.
The barrels manufactured by Marshall Lethlean for the Tanami application utilise a standard spec of 8.0mm bellies and 6.0mm shells. Liquip manifolds and valves are used and the fuel is gravity unloaded. The combined fuel capacity of the triple is 128,500 litres.
BPW heavy-duty axles and suspension are attached to robust 100mm x 100mm RHS chassis rails, along with Ringfeder couplings to ensure reliable service in the harsh conditions. Rubber stone shields adorn the front of the second and third trailers to minimise stone damage to the landing legs and suspension componentry.
Custom features include a drum rack and drum lifting crane on the rear of the lead trailer and caged spare wheel racks which can be used to carry 20 litre drums of oil or other products and equipment when necessary.
Central to the wellbeing of the trailers over corrugated outback roads is the Central Tyre Inflation (CTI) system that enables the tyre pressures to be reduced and reinflated on the run as needs dictate. Reducing pressures softens the ride on harsh roads to help protect the trailers.
Steven says employing great people and having a positive, can-do attitude are critical keys to the success of the business. He admits that finding really good drivers that understand how to operate equipment optimally in the challenging conditions is quite a challenge.
“We’ve been really fortunate with our drivers and our biggest cause of losing them is actually retirement,” he says. “We started in Port Hedland with four trucks and 15 trailers in 2007 and a lot of the drivers we’ve employed over the last 10 years are still with us.”
Steven adds that the biggest change he has seen over the years within the fuel logistics industry as a whole is in the accountability of the driver.
“Drivers used to leave the yard, do their deliveries and then you would see them when they got back and hope or assume everything was done the way it should have been done,” he says.
“Now journeys are planned, tasks are risk assessed, drivers are tracked in real time and communication in remote regions has improved out of sight thanks to satellite phones.”
For Fueltrans, Marshall Lethlean provides, and stands for, build quality, product integrity, durability, design technology, customer service, multiple build capacity at reduced lead times and real value for money. These are the key drivers and the leading features that have endeared the brand to the outback fuel haulage specialist ‘Fuel Trans Australia’.
A triple road train combination of Marshall Lethlean Tanami spec tankers has recently joined the Fuel Trans Australia fleet. Consistently reliable service from the products in some of the harshest operating conditions in Australia has led to a strong association between the two companies for nearly four decades.