As one of Australia’s largest parcel and courier transport fleets, Australia Post and StarTrack have got the nation covered.
Managing a major national transport fleet can be quite a daunting task. “The job description calls for a clear understanding of the technical merits of a plethora of vehicles spanning a range that might include motorcycles to passenger cars, vans and utes to light trucks and then adding line-haul heavy commercials on top,” said James Dixon, Australia Post’s General Manager of Transport, Chain of Responsibility and Safety.
“In addition to the mechanical aspects of the vehicle and equipment fleet, there’s a need to, work closely with different interest groups, and employees. Finally there’s the continuing management of the budget requirement that enables all the above to function.”
There’s also the equipment register that includes thousands of forklifts and materials handling equipment.
In fact, there are probably a whole heap more factors that need to be considered, but to find out at least some of the unique requirements, Delivery Magazine interviewed Terry Bickerton, National Manager – Fleet, for Australia Post and StarTrack (a business of Australia Post).
Terry Bickerton explained to Delivery Magazine how the function and responsibilities of the Australia Post and StarTrack transport networks had expanded since the merger of both brands back in 2013.
“It’s my job as National Manager Fleet, to look after the purchase and maintenance of the vehicle fleet in its operating lifecycle,” said Terry.
“We look at what is the safest and most economic way we can transport our people and our goods. When we do our due diligence for purchase, the factor of safety features is a major part of our checklist.
“We need to determine whether the vehicles in the appropriate category have electronic stability control (ESC), anti-lock braking systems (ABS), Supplementary Restraint System (SRS) airbags, lane departure assist, hill start assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, trailer sway control and a host of alternate features.
“We need to evaluate how our fatigue prevention programmes will integrate with the technology, how to train drivers to be aware of the technology and how to ensure both aspects function to the betterment of the employee.
“Only after we have considered those items can we then get down to the technical features of what is the fuel burn estimated for the engine, the cost of replacement parts, the availability and benefits of contract maintenance programmes and the forecasting of vehicle and component life to reduce unscheduled downtime,” said Terry.
Australia Post acquired StarTrack in 2012, and since then has been integrating the two businesses, including vehicle fleets consisting of red vans and motorcyles primarily used for the pickup and delivery of letters, with a range of vans and trucks used for the pickup and delivery of parcels and freight.
“Our parcels vehicles are being updated to display our new StarTrack logo, which features the Australia Post ‘P’ in front of the StarTrack name. This is because StarTrack – as a business of Australia Post – is now our parcels business.”
Management of the combined fleets of both brands produces a logistics responsibility for over 16,000 pieces of equipment. Of these, over 1500 units are light commercial vans; there are over 750 semi-trailers, many of which operate as B-double combinations, plus over 200 prime movers.
“The Chain of Responsibility legislation clearly places the onus on the company to provide the safest workplace available, and with the merging of both fleets, the buying policy is totally integrated in terms of vehicle replacement and operational policies,” said Terry.
“Our buying policy requires us to keep a modern and efficient fleet and over a typical 12 month period we would purchase on average 150-250 vans, around 100 rigid trucks and 20-30 prime movers.
“We prefer to purchase our vehicles rather than lease them, but all our new commercial vehicles are the subject of completely maintained service agreements, whether they are Renault, Mercedes-Benz, Fuso or Volvo,” added Terry.
“We have run three brands of vehicles, using the Ford Transit in the early days. Japanese vans were all quite small by comparison as we were buying high roofed long wheelbase vehicles. Then we moved to high roof Mercedes-Benz Sprinters in short, medium and long wheelbase options and we currently use both Renault Master and Mercedes-Benz Sprinters in both fleets.
“For the StarTrack fleet we purchased 120 Sprinter 516 models to replace the previous light truck fleet that features Pantech bodies with roller shutter rear doors,” said Terry.
The Sprinters are fitted during manufacturing with a fixed bulkhead that incorporates a sliding door for driver access into the cargo area. Having collected the parcel the driver can exit the vehicle onto the kerb through the sliding side door without being exposed to passing traffic.
The Mercedes Benz Sprinter 516 is being used to replace some of the small Pantech-bodied cab-over trucks. In circumstances where a driver is doing 100 drops a day it removes the need to get out of the truck, lift the roller shutters and climb in and out, which in turn provides an opportunity for injury.
The van interiors are also designed to carry odd dimensioned loads with existing floor mounts for safe load securing.
“These Sprinters feature a range of safety items including ESC, side wind assist and ParkTronic as well as the 7GTronic fully automatic transmission. Our drivers have also responded well to the six-speed AMT fitted to the Renault Masters. The use of an automatic or AMT aids the reduction of driver fatigue, particularly on the short delivery runs these days of the PUD world,” said Terry.
“Mercedes-Benz and Renault, and more recently Fiat, have demonstrated their professionalism and keenness to work with Australia Post to provide solutions to the ever changing needs of the business. Their people understand our business and also the vehicle competitiveness in the marketplace.
“In the van market we are probably one of the biggest van owners in the country. We own them all and we buy high volumes each year. The brands that we have service us very well and even when we didn’t buy their vehicles they were always discussing their products with us, which is what we expect from suppliers and potential suppliers.
“Dependent on the type of work required we also run the largest fleet of Fuso Canter (including Hybrid) light trucks in the country with 50 of these doing local work in our PUD city operation. They are certainly on a par with a standard diesel vehicle with the added benefit of improved performance in hilly areas as the result of the electric motor assistance. As manufacturers extend the Hybrid technology we expect the Hybrid trucks to increase in size and appeal.
“We run our own driver familarisation programmes through our Driver Training, – learning and development department. This covers the provision of initial training and repeat training and then refresher programmes. As changes in the environment become more noticeable we try to include them. There’s always room for more training,” said Terry.