Rivet Energy keeps a strong focus on risk

By: Ricky French

When safety is non-negotiable, the systems must be robust, as Rivet Energy boss Mark Anderson explains

Rivet Energy keeps a strong focus on risk
Rivet Energy general manager Mark Anderson


It’s Monday morning at Rivet Energy’s Melbourne depot and national health and safety coordinator Ian Butterick is reviewing footage of an incident.

A Rivet truck has been involved in a crash. It has rear-ended a ute on a busy Sydney street.

In years gone by this may have been seen as a clear case of the truck driver at fault. Not today though. DriveCam in the truck has captured what really happened. The ute suddenly crossed lanes in front of the truck, then slammed on its brakes. There was nothing the Rivet driver could do.

As soon as the crash occurs, the driver activates DriveCam to record the incident. It’s programmed to record the previous eight seconds and the following four, and has done its job perfectly.

The truck driver is vindicated. Where, in the past, drivers may have been hesitant to embrace cameras monitoring their cabs, today, Rivet drivers are learning that a camera in the cab might just save their bacon.

Garry Anderson with his Volvo FM.jpg

Rivet Energy driver Garry Anderson with his Volvo FM


DriveCam is just one of the tools introduced by Rivet to ensure their safety standards won’t be compromised, and there will be no repeat of the horror crash involving a Cootes tanker at Mona Vale back in 2014.

Cootes was a subsidiary of McAleese, which went into administration two years later on the back of key contract losses, rising debt and falling revenue, much of it driven by the downturn in the mining sector. From that low-point, the transition into Rivet has been nothing short of miraculous.

Chief executive officer Mark Rowsthorn and chief operating officer Philip Tonks steered the new company through the major restructure, dropping underperforming divisions such as heavy haulage and dividing the business into three core units: aviation refuelling, mining services and gas and fuel transport.

Rivet Energy general manager Mark Anderson has been with the business through the ups and downs for over 30 years.

"This place is like family. The stability of our people and the lifestyle we’ve been able to give to our employees is what I’m most proud of," Anderson says.

He says you never forget the critical accidents, never forget the fatalities, and you never stop working to make the workplace as safe as humanly possible.

"We don’t talk about it much, but after Mona Vale we really saw people in this organisation roll their sleeves up and vow to stay on board for the long-term.

"Mechanics, fitters, schedulers, managers, everyone. We have families who have had generations come up through this business.

"It doesn’t matter who owns it or what the name is, we will still be here serving our customers."

Energy to burn

Rivet Energy is primarily an LPG business. Its two biggest customers, Elgas and Origin, rely on it to provide a full supply chain solution.

"They’re very much hands-off once they secure the customer, which might be an abattoir, chicken farm or a cotton gin," Anderson explains.

Rivet Energy takes over from there, managing the whole process from supply point to delivery. It’s a vital service, and a misstep could have disastrous consequences. Poultry sheds, for example, are heated using LPG to keep the young chickens warm. If the gas runs out, you could end up with 120,000 dead chickens.

"Just this morning the boys at the farm were saying it’s cold and they’ll need more trucks sent up," Anderson says.

"So that needs to be managed, taking into account drivers’ availability, truck and tank availability, product availability. We’ll need to reschedule loads and prioritise, make changes. So flexibility is really critical."

Rivet Energy has a data-base of 3,500 customers, and have depots in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Winter is the peak period. The temperature might be cold but the scheduling is running hot, with trucks being shuffled between states to cater for fluctuating demand.

Regional depots are particularly busy with farming households requiring gas supply and industrial factories still running LPG for heating for their workers.

The demand for auto-gas is declining, due to the death of local car manufacturing, increased competition from hybrids and electrics and the ending of government subsidies, but still accounts for around 23 per cent of Rivet Energy’s business. The breadth of the operation is huge, running trucks all over the country.

"We’ve done 1,200 tonnes Sydney to Darwin for the new LPG plant up there," Anderson notes.

"We’ve got five trucks running for Elgas out of Port Botany to Curtis Island at Gladstone for the LNG plants, across on the barge.

"We go to Stradbroke Island, taking LPG for the resort. People don’t realise how much we do, all on time, all planned. We do the whole package."

In Victoria, the point of supply is often gas fields in Bass Strait. From there, the natural gas gets sold into the grid and the LPG gets stripped out to be sold into the domestic market. Rivet Energy pick up the LPG from supply points at Longford, Lang Lang and Port Campbell.

"They have only small storage there so it’s time critical to pick it up," Anderson explains. "Port Campbell is really interesting because we’ll pull 30 loads a day."

Fleet safely

With safety a long-standing priority, choosing a fleet that reflects that commitment was a no-brainer, Anderson says, adding: "The last group of trucks we bought were Mack Tridents. We also bought a Super-Liner for the Tanami Track."

The business has also invested in Volvo FM and FH models, which Anderson says offer the full safety pack. But a safe truck is only the starting point. Every cab (including every workshop ute) is fitted with DriveCam and the operation is also trialling Guardian Seeing Machines – advanced computer vision technology to detect and minimise driver fatigue.

MTData is currently being run across Rivet’s mining arm and Anderson says he expects the energy division will be 100 per cent MTData in three months. But it’s DriveCam that has really been a safety revelation.

"You see your problems in the first month," Anderson says. "We risk profile all our drivers, and we’ve focused on eliminating any dangerous practices. It’s been a great story for us."

Chief operating officer Philip Tonks agrees.

"We’ve had a 40 per cent improvement in LTIFR in the last financial year," Tonks says.

"It’s a result of investing in the latest technology and investing in a culture of safety. Having the technology is one thing, but actually using that technology to assist you in getting those results is another thing."

It’s a sentiment echoed by leading insurers such as Zurich, which reports some operators using telematics primarily for fleet coordination, rather than utilising the technology’s safety features. For Rivet, the emphasis is on ensuring drivers are safe.

Each truck has a tablet, located out of the driver’s sight while driving. Manifests are inputted to the tablet, while MTData is allowing for voice-over texts.

Truck phones are automatically disengaged when the park brake is deactivated. All mobile phones must be placed in the driver’s bags. It’s all part of the policy of minimising distractions, but drivers needn’t worry that they’re being watched 24/7.

"The camera only gets activated if there’s an event," Anderson says.

An "event" could be heavy braking or fast cornering, with the increase in g-forces triggering the camera, which also captures data such as speed, brake activation and lateral movement.


Chief operating officer Philip Tonks


Butterick explains that, under Chain of Responsibility, footage gets sent automatically DriveCam’s parent company, Lytx: "They review it first, so there’s no bias. They decide if it warrants us talking to the driver."

It’s a busy morning for Butterick. He’s got 45 "events" to review and assign to drivers. Having a dedicated person employed to manage the system has contributed to Rivet’s excellent safety record.

"When Rivet decided to put DeiveCam in they made provisions to create a position for someone to manage it," says Butterick, who used to work for DriveCam, so knows it inside-out.

"It’s never been sold to drivers as a baseball bat. The idea is to identify habits and work with drivers to fix those habits."

Workshop watch

Anderson leads ATN to the formidable workshop in the Dandenong premises. It’s here where the trailers come to get regular overhauls.

"We haven’t bought a trailer in a long time," Anderson says. "They last a long time when you look after them."

Mechanic Matty Irwin is busy working on a trailer. Irwin’s father was one of founder Ian Coote’s first drivers, an example of the family connection through generations evident wherever you look.

The trailer Irwin is working on was made in 1988. It’ll be crack-tested, inside and out, and the baffle pads will be X-rayed. Irwin will strip off the valves and pipework and ensure nothing gets overlooked.

Axles will get pulled off first, to see if the suspension needs doing.

All trailers are fitted with drive-away protection, an ingenious add-on that prevents the brakes from releasing if a hose is still hooked up.

Other modifications include high-fit brake lights, so trailing cars can see brake lights come on easier. There are 220 tankers on the books Irwin and the rest of the team will get through 50 refurbishments a year.

The commitment Irwin has to the business is evident in how he goes about his work. Anderson has his own fond memories:"Back when I was driving Matty was a pain in the arse kid who used to run around the workshop."

Irwin laughs. "Some say I’m still a pain in the arse!"

Forging a new road

While laughter is a familiar sound in Rivet’s workplaces today, the serious efforts expended by key personal to get the company into this position cannot be overstated.

Tonks recalls the stress and the fight to secure the future of the business when everything seemed to be going wrong; the constant strategising he and Rowsthorn would do to ensure the livelihoods of their employees, and the product supply to their customers. 

"We were determined to retain the company culture, to keep the core of the business going in relation to providing services to our customers," Tonks says.

Left-hand swivel seats and DriveCam - comfort and safety come together for Rivet Energy.jpg

Left hand swivel seats and DriveCam — comfort and safety 


His primary task was to correct the balance sheet and get debt down to a manageable level. "We shouldered a lot of that so the guys on the trucks doing the work could get on with that, while the boardroom stuff was transacted through here."

For the generations of drivers, mechanics and office staff who have grown up in the business, the future once again looks bright. It’s a volatile industry, but having experienced hands steering the ship is showing huge results.

Tonks says the whole team deserves credit. "To come from where we did and reset the balance sheet, and do it safely and with a workforce that has stayed committed and loyal to the company, that’s what I’m most proud of. We have a culture of resilience and survival."


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