The Right Direction

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-By Kristy Attard

HAULMAX trucks are classic big boys’ toys – strong, mighty and robust. However, these are no ordinary trucks. They are purpose-built with a specific use in mind. The Marketing Manager of HAULMAX, Bob Calvert, explains: “The product is designed and built for extended application distance on mine sites, and we’re not talking about putting some product in the truck and driving at 100 km/h down the road. That’s not what the product’s designed for; it has a special application within the mining industry.” HAULMAX trucks are used to haul the full range of resources, everything “from mineral sands right through to heavy iron ores, coal, bauxite, silver, lead, zinc, copper, tin, gold, you name it – the whole lot” on mine sites. “This product offers a solution to the mining industry that has not been there before.” HAULMAX is based in Wynyard, which is a small town approximately ten kilometres west of Burnie in Tasmania. “We’re wholly and solely an Australian OEM manufacturer.”

Starting Up

Ron Schliebs, a former trucking haulage contractor, founded HAULMAX in response to problems he was having at work. “He needed to overcome the reliability issues and high maintenance costs that came with using traditional on-highway trucks on mining sites,” explains Mr Calvert. Up until HAULMAX, the only alternative was to use traditional highway trucks with very little modification. A conventional highway truck is not ideally suited to the rigours of mine sites, and another solution was needed.

Mr Schliebs had a vision of a purpose-built hauler for hauling materials on mine sites over extended distances. “He brought this vision of designing and building a purpose-built truck to Caterpillar, with the idea of having Caterpillar assist him in coming up with a design that would incorporate a common off-highway designated component that was specific to a mine site design,” says Mr Calvert. From this vision and partnership with Caterpillar, HAULMAX developed a reputation for excellence in the trucking industry based on the robust design and quality of its extended haulage equipment.

HAULMAX is now a part of the Elphinstone Group, founded by Dale Elphinstone over 30 years ago. Mr Elphinstone had heard about the small company operating out of Brisbane, building a product that it wanted to take onto the world stage, having already won two international mining contracts, but needing assistance in growing the business from a full manufacturing perspective. HAULMAX came to be based in Tasmania, through a facility that was owned by the Elphinstone Group. Mr Calvert has been involved with the Elphinstone Group from a sales and marketing management perspective since 1988 and comments that the culture within HAULMAX is now “the same culture that made the Elphinstone underground mining product what it is today.” He says, “I think we’re a very proud organisation, an Australian company whose historical credentials are of a benefit to us. We stand by those principles that we provide a low cost solution for extended haulage and special applications to the industry.”

Going the Distance

HAULMAX offers a cost effective, tailored, total haulage solution starting with the expert assessment of client needs. HAULMAX has clients such as Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, The Stockton Alliance in New Zealand that is a joint venture between Solid Energy and Downer EDI Mining, contractors ASMS in Wollongong and a “dynamic, very visionary contractor,” MMG in the Hunter valley. At HAULMAX, customer feedback is used to make product updates wherever possible. Mr Calvert reports, “The feedback has been very positive; we’ve had very good feedback from all of the different applications that we’ve put the trucks into. The operators find them very comfortable to operate especially on the long shifts… generally the units are doing what they are supposed to do. We don’t stop there; we also have a continuous improvement program.” Whatever feedback HAULMAX receives from its customers is put into a data system so that when the team is looking for product updates, they can consider incorporating them.

Clients can be assured that when they choose HAULMAX to assist with their off-highway extended haulage needs, they are making a smart choice. Behind every HAULMAX truck is over twenty years of research in the haulage industry, and it shows in the clever design of the vehicles. HAULMAX trucks offer the operator maximum comfort and safety with features like air ride suspension seating, High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights and a resiliently mounted integral ROPS cab. Servicing the engine is a breeze – steps, handrails, stairs and platforms affixed underhood on both sides of the engine bay offer safe and easy access. Powered by components and systems from the world-renowned Caterpillar product range, HAULMAX trucks are built to last and perform under challenging situations. “Using a strong base of Caterpillar components enables HAULMAX to build on that name as we grow the products internationally. Wherever possible we use the Caterpillar dealer network to promote and support our products in the industry.”

HAULMAX trucks are equipped with dual rear axle drive braking system and can be used in slippery, soft underfoot conditions. Standard, traditional mining trucks might have problems driving in wet conditions even during short hauls. “We’re able to provide a solution because of the sure-footed traction that the truck actually offers and we’ve seen this in applications, especially up in the Hunter Valley in NSW. That’s a reasonable new avenue for us to further foster.” Besides being built with safety, comfort and performance in mind, HAULMAX trucks look great. The design is distinctive and modern in a cheery bright yellow for maximum visibility.

While HAULMAX trucks fill a niche in the mining industry, they also offer great flexibility. Mr Calvert comments, “The product is very adept to being used as a base for specialised fuel and service modules that support the mining equipment on very large mining sites. It could be for carrying fuel to remote parts of the mine site to fill up the very large trucks, excavators, shovels, diggers and the like. Consequently it also could be used to carry 80-odd thousand litres of water to spray down roads to keep dust under control and so forth.”

Up Ahead

HAULMAX has been growing rapidly, particularly over the last 12 months, gaining new work by “providing the solution that yields (what we call in the mining industry) the lowest cost per tonne hauled over distance.” Currently HAULMAX has around sixty employees. In the future the company plans to provide even more total haulage solutions not only in Australia, but also to the global mining market. “We’re a company that is very much focused on developing and growing the product range to provide solutions that have otherwise been a cost impediment to the mining industry.”

It has been challenging, bringing product awareness and product focus within the industry; “It’s such a niche product, it’s getting the acceptance of ‘here’s a solution to a problem that’s been there in the past’… we know that it’s something that’s not an overnight success. You have to just build on references and make those references supportive for the product and then you go forward from there.” The team at HAULMAX is aiming “to see that the mine industry does prosper through using good, solid, Australian designed and built technology.” While the focus is on improving efficiencies and developing new products, Mr Calvert says, “We know we’ve got a new solution with what we have now so we’re going to continue to build on that. The innovation of coming up with a solution to the mining industry is really at the forefront of our own vision going forward.”

One current development which looks promising is Railmax. “We’ve come up with a product that allows total compliance to meet the rigid rail industry compliance within Australia for running of excavators along the rail tracks for care and maintenance of the railway track systems. This is something we were challenged with because we were made aware that there was not one company within Australia that had taken up the challenge to meet the total compliance for the new rules that were being fostered to improve the level of safety of excavators that were operating on rail.” HAULMAX has developed adaptations that allow the product, say a 14 tonne excavator, to run on rails and meets all of the codes and the criteria that have been set down. Mr Calvert says, “Now that’s another chapter in the company. Again, it fits with our vision of fulfilling a void in the industry but in this case it’s on railway, nothing to do with haulers.”

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February 27, 2020, 3:41 AM AEDT

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