John West Logistics, not unlike any good business predisposed to innovation, goes after things with a singular vision.
Working up and down the Australian eastern seaboard as well as New Zealand, the company runs a large fleet of vehicles that encompasses curtainsiders, rigids and B-doubles.
Crane mounted trucks are, for the most part, the dominant application identifiable in its vehicle range.
Though the business began mainly in dangerous goods storage and distribution back in 2000, the company’s eponymous managing director, whose background and expertise were in warehousing and contract logistics, always knew that’s where the business was likely headed.
John West sold the name, DGL, and the dangerous goods arm of the business back in 2018 and has maintained and grown the contract logistics revenue stream ever since.
Its latest additions to the fleet attest to a decisive and ongoing commitment to its customers. One of these is leading building manufacturer and supplier Stramit, for whom it has maintained an alliance for nearly 20 years.
On this account no two loads are the same. The product carried by John West Logistics varies in widths and lengths, some of it up to nine metres long.
Such variation has required a build to accommodate the task of transporting anything from reobar, mesh, roofing, guttering or flashing while incorporating the presence of a truck mounted crane.
Once settled it was clear a longer wheelbase and new drive axle configuration were priorities.
Another brand in Australia offered something similar but for John, whose fleet consists in the majority of the three brands associated with the Volvo Group — UD, Mack and Volvo — looking elsewhere was never going to be long-term solution.
“We don’t own a spanner in our business,” says John. “All of our fleet is maintained by either Volvo Group under contract maintenance and service agreements or other suppliers depending on where our fleet is.”
All roads, as they say, lead to Rome or rather, as the case might be, Ageo, Japan. John first began lobbying UD Trucks Australia for the truck build modification around three years ago.
Talks soon advanced to the point UD head office in Japan got involved, with all three parties determined to make the new customised design happen.
“We’re really happy with the way they look after us and we’re happy with the performance of the UD Quon,” John says. “That’s why we kept talking to them and pushing them and they kept pushing Japan. Hence, we’ve got the first ones now which is great.”
The new 6×4 UD Quons are fitted with a double decker tray.
This helps with appropriately fitting the smaller building materials underneath while the larger building products are carried on top where it is craned and unloaded.
Cranes are customarily supplied by either Palfinger or Hiab.
“We had to get the chassis’ a lot longer and we needed the bogie drive aspect as we’re going into building sites,” John explains. “That also allows us to get the right balance of weight spread over the axles given we put the cranes on the rear as well.”
The five new Quons have already been allocated to different drivers. For John the UD brand has always been synonymous with Japanese reliability — a major factor in any of his equipment purchasing decisions.
The Volvo Group influence, however, has taken the trucks to a whole new level that appeals to his sense of social, civic and fiscal responsibility.
“The great thing about UD now are all the safety protocols that are in the truck,” he says.
“They’re brilliant. That Volvo influence has had a huge impact on making the driver and environment around him even safer now and helped shape the transition where UD, over the years, have gone from being basically a very reliable Japanese truck to a very safe and reliable truck through the Volvo partnership.”
The new Quons feature safety systems based on advanced technology including Traffic Eye braking and Driver Alert.
Of his fleet of around 300 vehicles, 70 per cent of which are trucks in crane mounted applications, there are approximately 80 UD units.
They are also proving very economical when it comes to fuel usage. Getting the application right for the job is sometimes only half the battle. Offering his drivers top of the range vehicles is, as it has been for a long time, another factor.
“Our biggest issue like everyone in our industry is we have a severe shortage of skilled drivers,” John says.
“With the shortage of drivers out there they’re not going to come and drive an old truck when someone can drive a new truck. You’ve also got to make sure that they have the skills that you need to do it along with the right specc’d truck.”
Even so, the new drivers often don’t have the skill set required of them which means further training. John West Logistics, for this reason, always buddy them up with an experienced operator so they can learn from them.
“With our internal apprentice program, we can bring a person on board and with zero experience and they will have a medium rigid truck licence with all the skills that they need in 13-14 weeks, to go solo “ John says.
“If they’ve been doing it for some time and they’ve got all the tickets then that’s fine. But we find that most of them come to us without the training required to operate a crane or deliver building products so it can vary between a week to four weeks depending on the person before they can go solo.”
Stramit have input into the John West Logistics vehicle procurement spec to further improve the efficiency and the productivity of the freight movements while being mindful of how best to look after the product when it is being transported and delivered onsite.
“We’re always looking at ways to improve what we do,” he says. “Especially in consultation with the customer.”
The new trucks delivered to John West Logistics have been, uncharacteristically by industry standards, wrapped in the Stramit livery. And there’s a very good reason for this according to John.
“Nearly all of our trucks are all branded in our customers colours and livery. We advertise them,” he says.
“They’re the ones that make us the money. They’re the ones that we advertise. Not that we’re not proud of our name. But our view is that we should be advertising our customer. The more work they get the more work we get.”
It’s this continual willingness to go the extra mile for its customers that has helped make John West Logistics an esteemed transport business for those who are privileged enough to partner with it.