Paccar Australia fends off pandemic, and recruits

Hadjikakou sees truck-maker pulling up suppliers as demand rises

Paccar Australia fends off pandemic, and recruits
Andrew Hadjikakou


Paccar Australia is refusing to bow to the Covid-19 pandemic in Australia’s worst-hit state.

In a boost for Australian manufacturing and the local economy, the truck-maker says its Bayswater plant in Victoria recruiting more than 120 people in line with a rise in demand.

Increased truck production in the coming months is behind the resulting growth in the factory workforce and related engineering and administrative support at its head office in Melbourne.

"The current operating environment globally is uncertain, and especially in Victoria at the moment, but we are immensely proud we are able to employ more people and support economic growth within the local community," Paccar Australia MD Andrew Hadjikakou says.

"We have been manufacturing Kenworths in Australia for 49 years and the majority of our suppliers of component parts are small-to-medium businesses, many of whom are local to our factory.

"When we increase our production, they increase their production.

"The flow-on effect through our local supply chain means many more people are affected than just the people we are employing. 

"We hope our customers understand when they buy from us, as an Australian manufacturer, the choice they make positively impacts the lives of many Australians.

"The increase in staff is not only a great boost for the local economy, but it’s great for morale and we look forward to welcoming our new team members as they continue to join the business over the coming weeks. 

"Despite the positive news, Covid-19 has not left us unscathed.

"Our operations team has worked to make manufacturing Kenworths and assembling DAFs at the plant in Melbourne safe for all workers according to the government’s guidelines on social distancing and maintaining health standards."

Read about the local launch of DAF’s Euro 6 range, here

The development comes as Paccar’s global CEO Preston Feight tells US industry publication that its factories have the flexibility to move into battery electric (BE) and hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) propulsion, when it makes economic sense for its customers.

This follows the group’s US quarterly results announcement, in which chief technology officer Kyle Quinn gives an indication of the group’s direction in alternative propulsion.

"Industry zero emissions powertrain deliveries are expected to be modest over the next several years due to the high cost of the technology," Quinn says.

"Medium-term demand for zero emissions vehicles will be primarily in refuse, port and local delivery applications which do not require long distance travel or a network of refuelling infrastructure, as well as in locations with government mandated zero emissions."  

Kenworth is delivering 10 HFC Kenworth T680 trucks to several customers for field testing in the Port of Los Angeles. Kenworth integrated Toyota fuel cell technology with the Kenworth T680, and Shell provided hydrogen fuel and infrastructure. 

The trucks were produced at the Kenworth truck factory in Renton, Washington, and the Paccar technical centres are providing performance testing.  

Peterbilt has developed three application-specific battery electric truck models, and many of these vehicles are accumulating test miles with customers. 

"Peterbilt Model 579EV trucks are deployed in port and regional haul applications; Peterbilt Model 220 trucks are being utilised in medium-duty pickup and delivery applications; and Peterbilt Model 520EVs are collecting and hauling refuse," Paccar vice president and Peterbilt general manager Jason Skoog says.

Meanwhile, DAF appears a likely vector for such propulsion in Australia and has developed a range of electric and hybrid vehicles undergoing field testing by customers in a variety of applications in Europe. 

"The DAF CF Electric is used in regional haul and refuse applications; the DAF LF Electric is ideal for local delivery; and the DAF CF Hybrid is designed for long haul with the capability to also operate in cities with zero emissions requirements," DAF executive director of product development Ron Borsboom says.

But it is Feight who gives a strong indication of where the company sees the US market at, which could mean Australian observers can expect to add a few years for the local market.

He points out that current hydrogen prices are at US$12-13 (A$16.5-18) per kilogram, while commercialisation is seen as demanding that be around US$10 less per kilogram. And then there needs to be infrastructure in place to handle such zero-emission trucks – the whole thing being more a five to 10-year proposition.

"Paccar will begin the production of battery-electric trucks next year," Feight says.

"Volumes are expected to grow gradually as the cost of batteries decreases, charging infrastructure is expanded and regulations drive customer adoption of these technologies."

More to come


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