The ABC of staying cool

A shift in customer demands for ABC Transport means that Carrier Vector multi-temp fridge units are entrusted with the task of maintaining goods at peak freshness under the harsh ambient conditions while traversing Central Australia.

ABC Transport was started with one truck to service remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Pitjantjatjara Lands of South Australia, at its peak servicing 35 Aboriginal Communities weekly, and has grown today to encompass 30 triple road trains plying the Stuart Highway – the north-south route that bisects the country – between Adelaide and Darwin.

The freight comprises a 50-50 split roughly between refrigerated and general freight with the trailer fleet consisting of a mix of flat-top, drop-deck and curtain-sided trailers along with the refrigerated vans.

According to General Manager, Steve Bartkowski, ABC’s history with Carrier fridge plants dates back to 2010 when some second-hand refrigerated vans were purchased that had carrier Vector 1800s fitted to them. On the strength of the performance of these units, new units have been subsequently added to the fleet in recent years.

“Over the last four years we have predominantly purchased new Carrier refrigeration plants when new additional trailers have been added to the fleet,” Steve says, adding that lower running costs were a big drawcard.

“We’ve got a great relationship with the authorised Carrier dealer – RTS Refrigeration in Wingfield (SA) – and they do a great job in the installations and servicing of the Carrier units,” Steve says, adding that the company runs a selection of Carrier Vector 8500 single-temp and Carrier Vector 8600 multi-temps on the new trailers.

According to Carrier, these are the latest Tier 4-compliant units from North America, which are the slightly older cousins of the latest Carrier Vector HE19 and are very fuel efficient and perform well in high ambient temperatures – conditions that the ABC Transport fleet encounters in spades during the frequent trips through central Australia. “We push our equipment pretty hard, in the first 12 months they cover about 450,000km running around the clock, so we do expect a lot out of them, we have a great service regime and team, that enables this to happen” Steve explains. “Especially the variations they experience from the tropical north in the top end, the sunburnt sweeping plains, arriving into the lush green pastures of the wheat crops on the fringes of Adelaide in the spring.

“In summer an average outside temperature of above 35°C is experienced daily during the majority of the 3,000km journey, this provides an extremely challenging environment to operate, let alone controlling sensitive temperature-controlled freight.”

Steve says the Carrier fridge units stand up well to the harsh environment and, apart from a few very minor issues that were rectified quickly by Carrier & RTS, they have performed faultlessly.

“We need reliability when travelling through a lot of nothing.”

“It doesn’t matter what brand of equipment you run, there will always be at least a few small issues, but it’s the way they are rectified that really matters and the boys at RTS are spot-on when it comes to this.

“Everything has its Achilles Heel, unfortunately,” he adds, but we try to run equipment that we know has good after sales support so that any glitches don’t impact our business, and therefore impacts our clients’ businesses, Carrier have been exceptional in this respect.”

In recent months the Carrier air curtain has been fitted to a handful of units, the feedback so far has been positive, although the upcoming build up season for the wet season in the Northern Territory will be a testing time. The air curtain creates an efficient and invisible barrier to heat entry into the refrigerated trailers while loading and unloading.

According to Carrier, the air curtain is an effective and user-friendly alternative to PVC strip curtains which can be an impediment to forklift and pallet jack access. Located above the rear or side door openings, Carrier says the air curtain can be fitted to most types of road transport vehicles including semi-trailer fridge vans with either barn or roller shutter rear doors, body trucks and vans.

As for prime movers, ABC Transport runs a mix of Kenworth and Mack, with the bulldog brand having dominated the fleet for the last five years, with Graystar Refrigerated branded vans dominating the latest editions in the fleet.

“Our drivers play a key part in the business so you have to offer them trustworthy, top quality modern equipment to get the job done harmoniously,” Steve says. “We’ve found the Mack Super-Liners perform exceptionally well and they also have a very favourable overall cost of life. They do an awesome job considering when delivered from the dealership they cover 450,000km in their initial year pulling triple road trains grossing between 110 and 130 tonnes all day, every day.”

The Super-Liners feature MP10 engines which are rated at 685hp and have the M-Drive automated manual transmissions which Steve says the drivers really appreciate along with the overall living space offered by the bulldog brand.

Steve says about half of the company’s drivers run two-up on the express freight runs meaning each truck has two drivers enabling unbroken travel between Adelaide and Darwin, covering the 3000km journey in under 36 hours. The other half, he says, drive solo carrying the non-urgent general freight through to Darwin.

Operating in what is arguably one of the harshest environments in the world, ABC Transport relies on the tough-as-buttons Carrier Vector refrigeration plants to maintain set temperatures day-in, day-out across this vast continent.

Fast Fact
Running triple road train fridge vans on express runs through arid central Australia between Adelaide and Darwin, ABC Transport depends on Carrier Vector fridge units to keep their cool on around the clock operations.