All over the world, people are waiting for the mailman. Distributing mail is a complex and challenging logistical task, especially in Australia. 21 million letters and parcels reach their destination every day, despite vast distances and some of the toughest road conditions in the world. Without reliable trucks, it wouldn’t be possible.
Twin beams of light cut through the darkness and driver Rick Hoyne is on the alert as he pilots his Volvo FH through the Australian night. Based in Melbourne, Rick is a 22 year veteran with Australia Post. This particular night he is heading for Dubbo, a route covering more than 700 kilometers. There, another driver takes over, continuing the long journey to Brisbane.
Rick is driving on a long straight stretch of the Newell Highway near the isolated town of Jerilderie in Western New South Wales. The region is in the grip of drought and kangaroos flock to the roadside where the grass growing along the verge is moist from dew. Rick stares intently through the windscreen, ready to take evasive action should the need arise.
Australia is known for having among the world’s toughest road conditions for trucks. The weather in Australia varies from tropical storms with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius in the far north, to snow and ice in the Australian Alps in the south.
“Australia is a big country. The distances are vast so it is important that all aspects are taken into consideration to ensure on-time delivery,” says Chris Pearce, Manager Surface Transport, Network Distribution Transport at Australia Post.
The company handles postal distribution to all cities and towns in the country. Its fleet consists of vehicles ranging from motorcycles to tractors with double semi-trailers. Delivering mail in Australia is a huge logistical task. Australia Post handles 21 million postal items daily, of which two million parcels, and the figure rises to more than double that around the Christmas peak period.
125 Volvo FH trucks make up the core of the line haul transports. 65 of the trucks pull double semi trailers, so called B-doubles. By using larger rigs, many smaller trucks can be replaced. This means more fuel-efficient transportation, lower emissions, less congestion and less road wear. With the installation of front underrun protection and high cab safety as standard, Volvo was one of the first truck makers to meet the legislation for 26-meter B-Double rigs in the country.
All the trucks are fitted with Volvo’s transport information and driver alert systems. The strong and safe cab also plays a role in the operation as Australia has an ongoing problem with kangaroos crossing highways, as well as loose livestock in unfenced regions.
Rick Hoyne remains on the lookout for kangaroos on his night route.
“You need to be comfortable to be safe. On long-distance routes, fatigue is reduced when the truck you are driving is comfortable”, he says.