Hold your horses

Posted: October 4, 2011 in Heavy Duty Trucks

Russell's new Kenworth C509s powered by Cummins Signature 600 engines.

Conservative horsepower and torque ratings and a 95 km/h speed limit are key elements in Russell Transport’s efficiency strategy.

If you look at Russell Transport’s two latest prime movers – Kenworth C509s powered by Cummins Signature 600 engines – it would be easy to consider the company’s conservative horsepower policy an exaggeration.

However, director and general manager Ken Russell dismisses any notion the Brisbane-based family company is relaxing its policy.

“The C509 Kenworths are an exception to our rule,” he says. “They are part of our heavy haulage business and operate at gross combination weights of 180 to 200 tonnes to anywhere in Australia.

“Our standard Cummins ISX engine ratings for 68-tonne B-double operation are 485 hp and 1650 lb ft of torque, and we have a company speed limit of 95 km/h to ensure we get very good fuel economy.”

He sees durability as another key benefit of this conservative approach.

“We don’t have any problem achieving life-to-overhaul in excess of one million kilometres with our ISX engines,” he confirms.

“Road transport is a cut-throat business so our company is moulded around having equipment that delivers best whole-of- life costs and is well supported when something goes wrong.

 “There hasn’t been any motivation for us to change from what we specify for our B-double and heavy haulage operations which is Kenworth with Cummins ISX or Signature engines.

“Nothing has been presented to us showing there’s a better alternative.”

Ken Russell runs Russell Transport today with sister Julie, while their father Phil is still involved in the business as a director.

The company was founded in 1925 by Roy Russell – Phil’s father – who carted drummed petroleum for The Commonwealth Oil Refineries. In 1970 Phil took over the business, relocating it from New Farm in Brisbane to Eagle Farm where it’s still based.

Heavy haulage aside, Russell Transport operates entirely within south-east Queensland and has around 240 employees. “Our expertise, our knowledge, our infrastructure are focused on the south-east and servicing customers in this region,” says Ken Russell.

The company’s biggest asset deployment is in contract distribution, with around 70 trucks involved in this type of work. Customers include BlueScope Distribution, Woolworths and Stramit.

Building products manufacturer Stramit is a time-honoured customer, its distribution having been handled by Russell Transport for 25 years.

Phil Russell (centre) with Ken and Julie Russell.

Other key elements of the Russell business include over-dimensional haulage, port services (the company built a new freight terminal in the Port of Brisbane precinct in 2007), and crane hire through the Metro-Lift Cranes.

Russell Transport’s association with Cummins dates back nearly 37 years when the company bought a new White powered by a Cummins NH250. Soon after an International 3070, with a Cummins V903 under the cab, entered the fleet.

Today, the Russell fleet includes Cummins ISC, M11, ISM, N14, ISX and Signature engines in mostly Kenworth and International/Iveco chassis.

Fuel economy is in sharp focus at Russell Transport with the company’s road speed limit held at 95 km/h to underpin the policy. Road speeds are monitored via satellite tracking, and the company has two fulltime driver trainers to promote ‘eco-driving’.

These trainers also instruct in correct loading practices and workplace safety in general.

“If you want to stay in business these days you can’t afford not to have training,” says Ken Russell.

The company’s workshop, with a staff of 20, has wide-ranging capability from routine servicing to extensive rebuilding of prime movers and trailers. Refurbishing of Kenworths two and three times during their life is not uncommon. The oldest Kenworths in the Russell fleet today are three 1995 K100G cab-overs.

Cummins has also instigated a customer-focused 6 Sigma project with Russell Transport to drive continuous improvement in its workshop. The project is about implementing KPIs so the company can measure workshop performance in relation to safety, productivity and efficiency.

Behind Russell Transport is a long history of stable and successful business management, a platform that Ken and Julie Russell are using for continuous improvement to ensure the family company’s success well into the future.



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