Some road trains seem to merge into the bush and desert as they recede in your rearview mirror. Not so GTS Freight Management's PBS triple rig.
Headed by Mack’s most muscular Super-Liner, the A-B-triple setup is all-black from the truck’s bumper to the back trailer’s bump stop, with dramatic deep purple highlights all along the curtain-sides.
The rig attracts attention wherever it goes, even including a couple of Main Roads inspectors at the road train assembly area in Northam, 100kms east of Perth. They’d caught sight of the black Vawdrey trailers glistening in the early morning sun together with the big Mack in a matching colour scheme waiting quietly for the hook-up.
But it wasn't an inspection they were after. They just wanted to have a look, and after a brief chat, complimented driver Ash on the rig before heading back to the Great Eastern Highway.
Damien Matthews, owner of the Mildura-based company told me that the reasoning behind the new set-up was simple. "From 68-tonnes to 106-tonnes with still only one truck is a no-brainer," he said.
The rig handles the SA-WA run weekly and Mack’s 685hp Superliner was the perfect fit for the long-distance haul, with its long wheelbase delivering a high level of rolling stability and tracking as well as space needed for a big fuel load.
It’s an all-Mack driveline - the ATO3112D mDRIVE 12-speed AMT transmission easily handles the engine’s 3,180Nm of torque. Mack’s Grade Gripper hill start assist is standard, but there’s little need for that on the Nullarbor.
I drove this engine and box towing another operator’s 100-tonne triple road train. It’ll skip shift from zero to 100km/h, using the full range of the engine’s wide torque band (1,000-1,560rpm) and 89 per cent torque rise, changing only five times with a gentle throttle foot - on the flat of course.
Behind the engine it’s Mack all the way back to the tapered rail chassis ends, meaning the gold bulldog sits proudly on the bonnet. Mack’s Advantage chassis offers a residual bending moment up to 212,000psi.
Behind the truck is a Vawdrey trailer set, and this particular rig is a combination of unique and standard. It made sense to include one of the existing 36-pallet B-double sets, but the lead trailer was built shorter than standard - 22-pallets - so that the Mack’s long wheelbase wouldn’t take the rig overlength.
That thinking also meant Vawdrey’s people signed off on a bogie dolly instead of a tri. Additionally there's the performance benefits and fuel saving from one less axle to pull and less weight.
Numbers wise, the business case isn’t hard to figure out. The rig allows a 56 per cent increase in payload over a B-double, but burns only 25 per cent more fuel (1.6 to 1.2kms/litre).
GTS is a family business that started in Mildura in 1980 and has grown to become one of the largest wine and beverage transport distributors in the country, averaging around three million kilometers each month. It uses auto-greasers and synthetic lubricants on all the trucks in the fleet, helping to extend service intervals to 50,000kms.
No wonder this Mack triple is likely to be the first of many.