Capital Equipment News

When faced with a decision to procure a fleet of construction vehicles, Hillary Construction did its due diligence, and it looked beyond the machinery itself in order to uncover every opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. A detailed specification of requirement, coupled with Scania’s ability to build vehicles to the construction giant’s exact needs, not only sets the quality and performance standards for the vehicles, but also provides the greatest scope for maximising usage and value for money. By Munesu Shoko.

As a diversified construction group, Hillary Construction’s equipment needs are very diverse to suit the different requirements in varied applications. Consequently, a one-size-fits-all approach to its construction vehicle needs is out of question, and the ability to tailor vehicles to the construction company’s specific and wide-ranging needs is what has made Scania South Africa its supplier of choice.  

Hilary Construction built to spec

Trevor Freestone, MD of Hillary Construction, explains that there are several companies within the group. These include Hillary Construction, which specialises in road and general civil construction; Polokwane Surfacing, a specialist in road surfacing; Tswelopele Roads and Earthworks, a 100% black-owned company under the ownership of some of Hillary Construction’s employees; recently-formed Amalgamated Plant, tasked with the maintenance of the group’s equipment, as well as offering plant hire services; and Ya Rena Civils, historically a civil construction company now turned crushing entity.  

Hillary Construction is a big owner of capital equipment. It owns a huge fleet of road building gear, from compaction rollers, graders, excavators, loaders, dozers, through to milling machines and recyclers, as well as tippers for the earthmoving requirements. Polokwane Surfacing has four asphalt plants, six paving trains and a fleet of mainly Scania trucks which were specifically designed and built to its spec.

To date, Scania has become its preferred tipper truck supplier. After running a competitor tipper truck range for many years, in 2013, Freestone, together with Eddie Simpson, Plant Operations Manager at Amalgated Plant, started investigating the 8x4 option for the company’s tipper range in their quest to maximise payloads. The previous supplier could not offer this solution locally, but only offered to import the units as special vehicles, which meant that Hillary Construction would have to pay a premium for its 8x4 vehicle needs. 

Good research ensures the right choice of equipment for the right jobs. During the search for a fitting supplier, which could not only provide an 8x4 tipper, but would be willing to tailor the truck to the last millimetre as per Hillary Construction’s spec, Freestone and Simpson came across Scania at an exhibition in Johannesburg. Freeman recalls that from the onset, the truck “was visibly of better quality than the competition”. However, the fact that Scania would build the product to meet the company’s exact specifications, while playing a major role in guiding the end user, was the ultimate deal maker. 

Customisation is key

In an environment where construction jobs are few and far between, and margins continue to tumble, it is very crucial to bear in mind that the procurement of capital equipment ties up money for long periods of time, and the longer the period, the greater the uncertainty and risk involved. Consequently, it must be done correctly the first time, as mistakes are not easily rectified.

This is exactly Hillary Construction’s approach to its buying decisions. As Freestone reasons, like most things in today’s world, purchasing capital equipment for construction is becoming more complex. As construction companies strive to compete in a tough business space, the investment in new equipment takes on a more important role. Companies now evaluate everything that surrounds the vehicle in addition to the normal productivity and cost savings calculations already commonly used.

For Hillary Construction, customisation was key in its decision to go with Scania. The company went on to purchase its first Scania vehicles in 2013. To date, Hillary Construction runs a total of six Scania P410 8x4 units, as well as a G460 6x4 lowbed truck and a G460 6x4 flatbed crane truck. Polokwane Surfacing runs a total of 16 G460 8x4 units. “We started with Scania back in 2013 with the first six units. By the end of 2014, we bought another fleet of 11 Scania 8x4s. The rest were purchased in 2016, with the exception of the crane truck which we bought last year,” explains Freeman.

According to Simpson, the six P410 8x4 earthmoving tippers run by Hillary Construction have been specified with 17 m³ TFM tipper steel bodies. To achieve that, the company specified heavy duty axles; a front axle rating of 8,5 t, as well as a 13 t drive axle with light hub reduction. “We also specified a steel front bumper, bearing in mind the arduous nature of the application. We specified a rear diff ratio of 7:18, which gives us the torque to pull heavy loads out of the borrow pits, but also offering us suitable cruising at 80 km/hour,” explains Simpson.

The trucks offer an off-road payload capacity of 26 t, and on-road payload of 15 t. “We needed a ridge vehicle that was robust and could endure the long-haul distances, tough underfoot conditions and could load these huge off-road payloads to meet deadlines without going the ADT route due to the massive cost difference between these two vehicles. Scania was the only OEM that could customise this vehicle to our specifications,” says Simpson. 

The 16 G460 8x4 units run by Polokwane Surfacing are deployed to haul asphalt from the asphalt plants to jobsites, and are sometimes used to haul aggregate from the pit to the asphalt plant. “We have specified 15 m³ Alup-tip tipper aluminium load bodies on this range, giving us a payload of 18 t. The trucks also pull 15 m³ Alup-tip tri-axle aluminium pup trailers, and the combination gives us a 36 t payload. The limiting factor is the bridge formula that the Traffic Department uses to calculate maximum loads between various groups of axles,” explains Freestone.

Simpson explains that they specified an air suspension with an on-board weighing system. “In most instances, there isn’t a weigh bridge on most loading points to check the axle loads to ensure that we comply with the payload limitations, thus we requested for Scania’s on-board weighing system. With the air suspension, the system automatically changes the braking system to disc brakes,” explains Simpson.

To achieve the 18 t payloads on both the ridge and the trailer, Polokwane Surfacing specified a longer chassis, thus increasing the wheelbase, thereby helping with the bridge formula and increasing payload. “We specified a gearbox with the overdrive top gear and the Opti Cruise, thereby reducing the rpm needed when cruising and keeping the revs in the green band, thus greatly increasing our fuel consumption,” says Simpson.

Simpson adds that these units were specified with a rear diff ratio of 3:8:1, which offers the ideal ratio for cruising at 80 km/h at low rpm. “We also specified aluminium rims, which helps reduce tare weights, thereby increasing payloads,” he says.

Happy hauling

The Scania range has so far performed to expectations and Freestone is particularly happy with the availability, which he says is “excellent”. The running costs, especially fuel consumption, have been good, although the two companies are continuously working hand-in-hand to further improve.

“We have seen a huge improvement in our running costs compared with the previous range. Scania trucks come with modern technologies, such as the FMS telemetry solution, a set of services that connects our vehicles and drivers with the office, which gives us control over our business. It gives valuable insight into driving styles, productivity and economy,” says Freestone.

On the asphalt application, which is generally unloaded one way, the Scania G460 8x4s are consuming an average of 43 litres of diesel per 100 km, depending on terrain. This is in stark contrast with another truck range in the stable which is about to be phased out, running at between 60 and 65 litres per 100 km, depending on terrain and type of haul.

The earthworks tippers, the P410 8x4s, are running at about 13,5 litres per hour. “We are very happy with the consumption. Bear in mind that these trucks are equipped with 17 m³ TFM tipper steel bodies, and it’s the same consumption that we achieve on some of our 10 m³ tippers we have. So, we are getting 40% more payload for the same fuel consumption,” explains Freestone.

“We are looking at initiatives such as driver training, which we offer as Scania, and that will not only help further reduce fuel consumption, but also enhance the life of the truck,” says Theuns Naude, Segment Manager, Construction/Public and Special at Scania South Africa.

Simpson expresses great satisfaction with the support from Scania. “The support has been very good. We are also happy with the fact that due to the nomadic nature of construction work, wherever we are working, there is somehow a Scania branch for the much needed support,” says Simpson.

Naude is also equally impressed with the professionalism of Hillary Construction. “Their planning in terms of placing their orders for their custom built vehicles is excellent. They are not like other construction companies that get a job today and place an order today and expect the vehicle tomorrow. Their project planning is brilliant, and it helps with lead times, especially considering the specialised nature of their vehicles,” concludes Naude.

Contact Capital Equipment News

Title: Editor
Name: Munesu Shoko
Email: capnews@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

Title: Advertising Manager
Name: Elmarie Stonell
Email: elmaries@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

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