Feb 24 2020

The evolution of the AB-triple in Western Australia has seen transport businesses benefit from payload and productivity gains unlike anywhere else in Australia. On behalf of the Downer group, Byford has now brought the concept to the bitumen industry.

Formally known as Downer EDI, today’s Downer Group is providing engineering and infrastructure management services to a vast clientele in the energy and construction industry. The name may have changed, but the Group’s business values are still central to the success of the company, which started off as John Walker & Co in 1863 and merged with Downer in 2001.

One such value is to “strive for improvement and innovation, and have the courage to think and actively contribute new initiatives that benefit Downer overall.” Downer Infrastructure West is one business unit committed to that principle, reflected in the recent development of an AB-triple bitumen tanker combination in co-operation with Victorian tanker expert Byford.

To Grant Campbell, Regional Plan Manager at Downer Infrastructure West, the new co-operation is a prime example of how to actively add value to the business through constant improvement.

“Our task is moving bitumen from Perth, were it is manufactured, to all corners of the Western Australian state,” he says, revealing that the bitumen is used to build major roads for the state Government and private organisations; as well as on-site infrastructure projects including airport runways for the mining industry. “We have around 30 tankers delivering product to places as far south as Albany and north to Kununurra, which is located at the top end – so it’s not unusual for our vehicles to travel up to 3000km just to deliver a single load,” he adds. “With those sorts of distances and with demand for bitumen constantly growing, we had to find a more efficient, reliable and flexible transport solution capable of delivering more capacity – so we turned to Byford for the answer.”

Previous to the development of Downer Infrastructure West’s first 107,000-litre ABtriple combination, Downer was restricted to using pocket road train combinations at best.

“Our task was to convince Downer that we could deliver a system that would go the distance under extreme operating conditions and deliver more bitumen quicker, safer and more economically,” says Richard Antczak, National Sales Manager at Byford. “It’s been quite a challenge but that’s exactly what we love about the industry.”

The result is a highly polished, lightweight stainless steel tanker grouping, which is fully insulated and heated to take care of the sensitive bitumen product over extremely long hauls. At the heart of the combination is an easy-to-operate fast flow pumping system that offers pressure filling and discharge, recirculation, flushing and reverse suction. Most importantly, Byford developed a host of OH&S boosting design features, such as the top catwalk, rear ladders and maintenance access sites, developed to protect both the product and driver whilst in transit. Heavyduty ancillary equipment like BPW’s highly stable running gear package, was also chosen to minimise downtime and the worst case scenario of a roll-over.

The BPW package included the latest Airlight II tri-axle suspension, complete with D36 airbags and dump valves, drum brakes, as well as the mechanically operated BPW axle lift feature developed to save tyre wear during the unladen return trip – and BPW’s proven Electronic Braking System (EBS).

According to Grant, the end result was even better than expected. “The team at Byford was so accommodating; nothing was spared to create a lightweight tanker that was reliable, affordable and offered all the ergonomics of comfort and safety for our operators,” he explains.

“Everyone involved in the design and manufacturing process, including Garry Byford, was passionate about getting the build right, even down to the slightest detail – nothing was overlooked. If Garry wasn’t happy with a particular section or part, he would insist that it be re-engineered or replaced, time and again if necessary, until the result was perfect.”

During the first half year in operation, the AB triple even underwent some minor technical re-adjustments as part and parcel of the Byford after sales support commitment. As for the Downer drivers, they have already indicated how well the entire rig handles the roads and corners, according to Grant. “It brakes true and hugs the road without any incident of tanker sway.”

On the subject of operational flexibility, the triple combination can be easily converted to a road train – making the whole new Byford experience that much more cost effective. “The integrity and collaboration by all involved in the AB triple project has so far produced an outstanding result, one that Downer can be proud of as it meets all of the company’s criteria as a responsible and accountable service provider. Therefore our confidence in the Byford product and business experience is such that we are committed to more of the same,” Grant concludes.