UD Quon and the family Law


A year’s use of the plucky prime mover is proving its worth in Australia’s north

UD Quon and the family Law
Lance and John Law are delighted with how the UD Quon has been performing over the past six months

 

How hard do you need to be to handle a cargo of crocodiles? For a Northern Territory task, the UD Quon that Innisfail Carrying Company (ICC) MD Lance Law won for a year was fitted with a refrigeration unit to keep the latter-day dinosaurs at a quiet and comfortable 25 degrees for their journey east.

That is a pretty fair way away from Queensland’s north coast, where the Quon has been put to the sort of stern test UD was hoping for when it launched the exercise.

After UD organised its placement from Brisbane to ICC’s Townsville Carrying Company (TCC) operation, run by brother John Law – as Lance said it would six months ago on being presented with it – the Quon was quickly put to B-double use, both long- and short-haul.

Its early tasks included trips to Mt Isa and Cloncurry, along with a few Brisbane runs.

That crocodile load, one of about 10 annually, was part of a trip through Katherine to Victoria River, where Coolibah Station runs a crocodile farm, there to fetch reptile stock for Queensland interests.

ICC’s Townsville Carrying Company has been putting the truck to work for both long and short-haul work

When ATN called at the half-way mark of the initiative, the Quon had done about 44,000km in an average range of around 7,500–8,000km per month depending on task.

And John Law is delighted with it.

"It was well-used – it’s a very versatile truck," John says, praising its direct steering and tight turning circle and ergonomics.

"I love it – a good truck."

Given his senior position, spending days away from the office can’t be done, but he’s been more than happy hooking up a few local 19m extendable loads.

"It’s extremely manoeuvrable around town – you can put it anywhere, it’s good to dock with it, good visibility.

"It’s a really tidy little truck."

After half a year with TCC, the Quon is transferring to sister company ICC to tackle services related to a long-term customer, electricity company Ergon Energy.

This takes it on coastal roads and the Bruce Highway – south to Ingham, Townsville and Mackay and north to Cairns – along with a Mt Isa trip once a month.

With such hefty distances to cover, especially going west, the Laws are sensitive to containing running costs.

Pushed along by a relatively modest – in northern Australian terms – 11-litre engine, they are pleased to report 2.8 to 2.9 litres per long-haul and 2.4–2.5 around town.

TECH TIME

This is where the technology now in newer vehicles is proving a boon to owners and managers whose experience has been with more traditional fleets.

Logistics and operations manager Wes Smith, who looks after TCC, has an app on his iphone for the telematics and reports to the Laws on fuel economy and how the truck is being handled.

As Lance Law was checking with Smith on the distance travelled, it became apparent that some hard driving had been undertaken, with gears being used manually when, ideally, it should have been under cruise control.

On board telematics data has allowed the company to monitor driving performance and achieve fuel gains

They are relishing having such information at their fingertips, not least when it comes to advising drivers on conservative driving.

ICC has taken on advice it sought from regional neighbour Blenners Transport and will ask Volvo Commercial Vehicles (VCV) to limit foot-throttle operating speed to 95km and cruise control more than that, to save fuel and encourage more cruise control use.

The brothers are interested to see if the 0.1–0.2 per litre per km saving can come their way with such a strategy.

"It doesn’t take much to add up," John says.

On the back-up services available from VCV’s Townsville branch, there has been little call for it, bar the 20,000km service and a minor issue with the air-conditioner fan that was quickly fixed.

VCV

At the Quon’s handover, VCV Townsville branch manager Ross Gordon told us he was looking forward to showing the Laws what back-up his organisation would be able to provide.

At that stage, driver trainer Pat Ryan was not in the picture but Gordon counts him as a valuable impetus to the Laws’ understanding the greater insight telematics gives them and the possibilities they might gain from a better understanding of its attributes.

"We’ve been working with them to improve fuel economy," he tells ATN.

"We’ve seen some good gains there and they’re quite happy with that."

Gordon puts it down to the combination of driver training and telematics giving them a clearer idea of what’s happening with the truck and how it was being handled.

"From what we’ve heard from them, they’re quite happy with the truck," he says.

"They are looking to purchase the truck at the end of the demonstration program, so that’s a good indication."

L-R: Lance Law; Rex Ross – UD Trucks Sales Manager; John Law; Tony Le-Galloudec – UD Trucks Area Sales Representative

Gordon feels that much of value proposition for the likes of UD can sometimes be hidden by the hardware’s image.

"I think the brand doing something like this is a fantastic opportunity for someone who’s not been involved with it before to get an insight into what we can offer," he says.

He nominates information on what the trucks capabilities are, how best to use the telematics system and how to use the features of the truck to get the best out of the vehicle as the most important training attributes.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU

VCV’s handover and delivery manager for UD is Pat Ryan. For the purposes of the year-long exercise, Ryan was on hand when the Laws took full custody of the Quon, to give them a run-down of its attributes.

He has been with the Laws’ companies twice and, when ATN called, had one more appointment, in July, before the end of the year.

The second time around, in May, included bringing then-new Townsville manager Wes Smith up to speed on the full capabilities of the vehicle.


Look back on the announcement of ICC as the Quon winner, here


"I help people understand their trucks better, I deal a lot with the bigger fleets to help them get the most out of their trucks – if they’ve got any issues or question," Ryan says of his general role.

"I’ve been up to speak with Lance and a couple of their boys on a couple of occasions to help them along with their truck, to see if they have any issues and so forth to sort out."

Not that there have been many issues to deal with, more fielding operational questions on how best to run a vehicle they have had little exposure to before.

"The last visit was very positive, the truck is running very, very well, it’s got very good fuel economy," Ryan says.

"It’s been doing everything a truck can do, from single trailers to B-doubles, everything that they can throw at it – lighter loads, maximum loads, long distances, short distances.

"They’re pretty much giving it a really, really good workout, as you’d expect. And they’re really enjoying it, the drivers love it."

Ryan reports that drivers he encounters generally in follow-up visits – and not just with the Laws’ operations – find themselves won over by the automated manual transmission (AMT).

This is particularly so of those who struggled with rougher earlier examples of the technology.

"It’s really hitting them between the eyes how good an AMT can be," Ryan says of the smarter, more decisive new models.

"A lot of people commented that trucks used to hunt the gears, they’d be over-revving and all that sort of stuff."

After half a year with TCC, the Quon is transferring to sister company ICC to tackle services related to a long-term customer, electricity company Ergon Energy

He is now fielding comments with the new UDs to the effect that "it is nothing like they’d ever driven".

The positive outcome is that it "allows them to concentrate on driving . . . gear selection is always spot on".

In his experience, it makes drivers eager to keep driving the new Quon and he insists he has seen companies that have a limited number in their fleets experience turning up early at work to claim them before others do.

 

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