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Fuelled for Success

Half a continent from its home base, the vibrant red Mack Superliner LT and Homewood B-Double tanker set of Peter Champion Mining stood out from the crowd. Howard Shanks reports.

Most of Alice Springs was still sleeping, as Peter Champion and his long time mate Gary Millewski arrived with the Superliner-LT on the southern outskirts of town. It is an impressive unit by anyone’s standard. Yet it is the attention to detail that stems far deeper than the polishing rag that really impresses. And, given that this unit’s home base is the harsh black coalfields of Central Queensland, then it is even more so.  

Peter’s company, Peter Champion Mining, is contracted to the Coppabella open-cut mine, some 25 kilometers southwest of Nebo. His company is responsible for mining PCI coal and Ultra LV coal, which is delivered to the stockpile for processing and not surprising the Mack Superliner-LT shares a stable with some pretty large stable mates which include 200 tonne dump-trucks, bulldozers and excavators.

“We roughly burn a B-Double load of Diesel per day,” Peter admitted. “So in some respects the Superliner-LT is the backbone of the operation.

“My father told me once that if you buy, Caterpillar tractors, Mack trucks, Holden cars, and Honda motorbikes you won’t go wrong, and I’ve pretty much stuck to his advice,” Peter admitted when asked why he specified a Mack Superliner-LT.

“We’ve a couple of other Mack trucks in the fleet, in various roles from a mobile workshop through to the heavier applications like roadtrain and float work.” Peter added. “They all do their respective jobs admirably, so I can see no reason why the Superliner-LT won’t perform equally as well, after all it has the best of everything.”

The new LT is built around the well-proven CH chassis and Mack claims this contributes to not only the newcomer’s significant tare weight reduction over the existing Superliner built on the heavier R-series chassis, but also improved turning circle and lower chassis height while still permitting a gross combination mass (GCM) rating of 70,tonnes. Mack states, however, that a double skin chassis is mandatory with wheelbases exceeding 5537mm (228 inches) and with GCM ratings over 70 tonnes. Currently the highest rating on the LT is 105 tonnes.

Incidentally, a range of axles are available with a spread of ratios between 4.10:1 and 5.02:1, with various rear suspensions including air and steel spring. Add to this a total of six wheelbase options starting at 4.6 meters (182 inches) stretching to 6.0 meters (236 inches), delivering a versatile range of options to meet wide variety of applications.

However, when it comes time to specify which axle and ratio with which wheelbase and suspension combined with what engine and horsepower that will deliver the most tangible efficiencies in a mining operation then you need more than someone with expertise in trucking.

Peter’s longtime mate, Gary Millewski, has a lifetime’s experience setting up trucks to operate efficiently in mining operations, that stems right from the design process of trucks and trailers to the construction of haul roads.

"The Superliner-LT formed the perfect platform for Peter’s application,” Gary explained. “By this I mean we had a vehicle that could achieve the GCM Peter required, had a considerably light tare weight considering it’s heavy duty specification and afforded us the flexibility to tailor the unit specifically to suit the role Peter required.”

“For the running gear we specified a Caterpillar C-15 set at 550 horsepower, an Eaton 18-speed with Rockwell rear axles on a Neway air-suspension,” Gary added.

 “Also like most of the equipment at the mine, we fitted a Grovenveld auto greasing system. I really can’t speak highly enough about these Grovenveld auto greasers, Gary volunteered. “They deliver the right amount of grease to each grease point and do it all while the vehicle is working. This means there is less downtime in the workshop. Why pull a truck off the road to have greased when it can be done during its daily operation?”

“The Grovenveld auto greaser also has a unique feature, which alerts the driver if there is low pressure in a grease line, which means there may be a broken line or problem at that grease point. When you think about it grease is virtually free compared to replacing parts that are prematurely worn out due to a lack of lubrication.” Gary clarified.  

The Holmwood tanker units were also custom built to meet Peter’s unique application and the harsh conditions of a mining operation. Unlike many tankers of this size, which are primarily set up to deliver bulk fuel to service stations, this unit is basically a mobile service station for the mining equipment.  

Gary worked closely with Michael Beeby, Holmwood’s project coordinator for the PCM unit, who also co-ordinated the fitting out of the Mack prime mover

“Holmwood designed and manufactured the hydraulic driven high flow “special purpose” pumping system with electronic metering and fittings that enable the Superliner-LT to pull alongside any of the mining machines and fill them with fuel,” Gary revealed.

“In most cases we can fill a 200 dump truck quicker than the average person will fill their family car,” Gary added.

“The heavy duty barrels are constructed with a 6mm shell and 8mm ends and bulkheads. The tankers have full vapour recovery, bottom loading and overfill protection system. In addition Holmwood designed stainless steel pneumatic operated walkway handrails,” Gary explained.

Running gear on the trailers includes BPW – OM/OT suspension with BPW – SHZA 9010 –15DA disc braked axles and Michelin 295/80R225 XZE/2+ tyres.

“Peter had the rear end of the unit changed from the standard format to make it more “flashey” even to the extent of having the letters “PCM” cut into a sheet of stainless steel and illuminated in red so it was visible at night,” Holmwood’s Michael Beeby added.

 “To finished the unit off, Peter requested we make the ladders & toolboxes from polished stainless steel and chrome plate the stand-leg handles,” Michael explained. “Some nuts were also changed over and replaced with polished stainless steel dome nuts so the threads of the bolts could not be seen.”

There’s an age old saying that goes something like “when the clutch drops the bullshit stops”, and as Gary eased out the clutch the bright red Holmwood tankers began following the Superliner-LT obediently it was apparent that all the hard work had paid off.

“The torque of these Cat engine’s reminds me of the old Maxidyne’s,” Gary smiled. Back in their day, there wasn’t much that got around a Maxidyne and their power was so smooth.”

In terms of creature comforts for the driver, Mack has left nothing out. The traditional Mack sleeper is spacious and comfortable. Behind the wheel the driver is treated to a full range of gauges set in a luxury car like wood grain dash.

In terms of road manners, the Superliner-LT is very obedient, with an extremely smooth ride.

“Even though it’s early days this is probably one of the best Mack’s I’ve driven,” Gary concluded. “Time will tell if we’ve all done it right though.”

Words and Photography by Howard Shanks.

April 27, 2014 | Posted in: Articles



Australian Trucking Quarterly