UNDER THE HOOD AND ON THE ROAD
Steve Schmidt knows Isuzu trucks intimately, from wheelbase to windscreen-wiper, having worked as a company mechanic 15 years ago.
This background has given him a sixth sense for spotting a reliable truck – a crucial skill in his current position as national Fleet Manager and Head Mechanic for Sydney based Gilders Transport.
Steve’s work involves managing maintenance, registration, compliance and insurance for 40 trucks (of various brands) as they transport palletised freight up and down the east coast of Australia.
He recently added three brand new 2016 Isuzu FVLs to his fleet, motivated chiefly by their reliability regardless of application.
“Basically, I chose them because they don’t break down,” Steve said.
“Reliability on the road is the thing I look for these days because it’s our company’s main point of difference – everyone experiences issues but it’s very rare that Gilders has a breakdown.
“I’ve got 40 vehicles on the road and we only had two breakdowns (neither of which were Isuzu trucks) through the whole of last year.
“The less time we spend on the side of the road means more savings for us.”
Whilst they’re a genuine ‘fit for purpose’ solution, Steve sees this investment in quality as more than just a dollars and cents proposition.
“It’s a top priority for us that every truck operates in peak mechanical condition so we can keep safety levels as high as possible.
“I need all our drivers to get home to their families.”
Originating at its Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane depots, Gilders ships freight to retail stores throughout these major cities, as well as dispatching to Canberra and regional centres like Coffs Harbour, Orange, Bathurst and Wagga Wagga.
The ever-changing freight loads and destinations mean Steve needs each truck to fill a specific niche application, so that Gilders can cover any job at any time.
This was the basis on which he chose the FVLs, adding to the 15-strong Isuzu fleet he already had on hand.
“I needed a unique set of requirements in terms of freight type and size, and they also had to offer good driving in both highway and city environments.”
For help with sourcing just the right vehicles, Steve visited Mark Batchelor down at Dwyers Truck Centre in Wollongong.
Isuzu’s FVL 240-300 boasts the 6HK1-TCS engine, with 296 horsepower at 1,450 RPM.
Steve’s trio of FVLs are all specified with the Allison 3500 series 6-speed automatic transmission, among the first automatic transmissions of any brand he’s added to the fleet.
He worked in the industry back when auto trucks were struggling through some teething problems – so was dubious about switching from a tried and tested manual operation – but he was convinced when he put the FVLs through their paces.
“I’ve been very sceptical of autos over the years. Fifteen years ago there were a lot of dramas with automatic transmissions. But I wouldn’t have gone with them unless they got the job done, and I’ve been really happy so far.”
All of this speaks to Steve’s considered approach to selecting and maintaining Gilders fleet, utilising his mechanical expertise to find the perfect truck for his needs.
In this, he’s always favoured the Japanese models, with Isuzu leading the pack.
“The Europeans are made for comfort, but we’ve had trouble maximizing our payload due to the weight of them,” he said.
“Isuzu offers the best all round truck package: they’ve still got the comfort, they drive well, and they’re reliable and easy to maintain.
“We had Mitsubishis, Hinos and UDs before and none of them panned out as well.
“The Isuzus are the best price for value on the market, plus their resale is a lot better.”
A benefit of Isuzu’s comprehensive approach to quality is that, for these trucks, comfort goes beyond seats and suspension.
Of particular note for Steve was the FVL’s stability.
“It’s a well-balanced truck that lets you distribute the weight better in the back, which results in a more comfortable ride,” he said.
With Steve and his drivers sometimes clocking up to 12 hours behind the wheel, this comfort provides a crucial boost for both job satisfaction and safety.
“I just took one of our 2012 FVLs, fully loaded, from here in Sydney to our Brisbane Depot, and that’s 11 hours’ driving time,” Steve said.
“I didn’t get uncomfortable at all.”
These results don’t surprise him however.
“Having worked for Isuzu in the past, I knew how good the product was before we got them,” Steve said. “And I’ve got to say, from this end, I’m really happy with them.”
High praise indeed from someone with Steve’s expert eye for quality.
For further information, please contact:
Isuzu Australia Limited
Phone: 03 9644 6666
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Phone: 03 9867 5611