Rolling out a new group of HINO HYBRID service trucks, COLAS turned to service body specialist, HIDRIVE, for its specialised design and manufacturing capabilities.
Road and infrastructure giant COLAS provides high-quality materials to build and maintain pavements through a network of production facilities across Australia.
Its state-based contracting businesses service asphalt and spray sealing with an enormous fleet of tipper and spreader trucks, asphalt sprayers, skid steer loaders, combination rollers, tandem rollers, wheel rollers and micro-pavers. Add to this shuttle buggies, walking floor trailers, Tieman tri-axle tankers, some 130 utility vehicles, nearly 50 4×4 passenger vehicles, several Manitou telehandlers, 21 forklifts, 23 Hino 500 Series FG1628s and over 20 prime movers of different makes. These myriad assets all require regular upkeep and servicing.
The workshop and servicing department are vital for the business as two areas COLAS continues to bolster with additional resources. As part of this expanding service department, the company has introduced five new 716 Hino Hybrids.
Just as safety remains a significant focus of the business, all vehicles have been fitted with lane departure warning systems, forward-facing and rear-facing cameras and radar reversing alarms. Hino City in Sydney supplied the trucks, each kitted out with a bullbar and tools housed in boxes with sliding drawers – mere appetisers in light of what was to come!
The five trucks are specified for breakdowns and repairs. COLAS technicians, need to carry a range of equipment out on the road, including inverters for refrigerators, a generator, air compressors and gas bottle storage according to COLAS National Equipment Manager Andrew Hughes. To accommodate these any many other accessories, Hughes turned to Hidrive. “After considering our options it was clearly apparent that Hidrive has a formidable track record and capability to build what we needed according to our time frames”, Hughes recounted for a project that would need to be completed in under eight weeks.
The new Hino Hybrids had to be well-equipped to handle all repairs on-site. It was necessary, just for starters, that the five trucks each had a welder, gas bottle, and inverter for charging refrigerators and tools. “Most of the tools now run on batteries with pneumatic gear largely a thing of the past,” explains Hughes. “We wanted to make these vehicles mobile workshops for our service technicians. From socket sets to air compressors, we even decked them out with 3/4 drive rattle guns from Milwaukee.” All told, $170,000 was additionally invested in the vehicles including $20,000 just in hand tools.
The industry sector for truck mounted service bodies is fast evolving. Australian-owned Hidrive, which operates under certification ISO9001 continues to rapidly evolve with it. Vertical integration gives the business control across design, manufacture, installation and service.
Hidrive has an national footprint and continues to attract new customers from a range of leading organisations across Australia. COLAS is one of them. The Hino Hybrids marks this as the first Hidrive project with COLAS.
The design team were tasked with creating a layout that was both practical and user friendly according to Russell Lacey, Hidrive’s Commercial Sales Manager who oversaw much of the project. “Once we found out what the trucks were being used for and the equipment that Colas wanted integrated the aim was to get the balance right to keep it within axle capacities to achieve the maximum payload with a minimum body weight.”
Using its design and manufacturing system at the facility in Goulburn in New South Wales, Hidrive draws up and fabricates the service body. The bodies, which are made from aluminium, accommodate extra payload capacity as they are much lighter than other materials, such as steel, while not compromising strength.
One of the key requirements was to fit a 1200mm x 1200mm pallet space in the rear, to carry parts and secure it properly with easy access to the back, while still having room for a crane. While other body builders usually wait until the truck arrives, then measure it up before they start building the body onto the truck, Hidrive has turned the on its head. Hidrive make everything in advance based on CAD drawings of the truck for design and accessories. For the customer, this ensures they are on the road sooner, and not paying for a truck that cannot be used.
At a practical level, Hidrive only needs a truck for two weeks, not two months.
The build of the service body passes through five stop gates. The first involves confirming the components and cutting. The next stop gate is the fabrication of the subframe chassis. After this, painting and sealing takes place and is followed by the internal fit-out and electrical.
The integration of the service body to the vehicle is the next step in the process. City Hino’s Bevan Joseph, who was part of the process, was pleased to hear that production ran smoothly without any delays for COLAS.
“They [Hidrive] have fitted far more than what the truck normally has. Hidrive offers a great range of options in their body build and COLAS have basically ticked every option.” he says. It’s a beautiful system as to how they work their bodies.”, Joseph said.
Of the alterations made to finalise the process, Hidrive needed to modify the exhaust on the welder to ensure that there was no heat transfer that could pose a safety hazard. “It’s the last two per cent in the finer details that makes the difference”, said Joseph. “They made sure it was going to work and that COLAS were happy with the positioning in case they might want to alter anything, even slightly.”
Working on a hybrid vehicle, as might be expected, entailed certain modifications. These mainly prompted decisions around the battery positions and how they might impact the placement of underbody storage. A few adjustments were noteworthy.“ It was a matter of where we placed the under body storage boxes,” recalls Lacey. “They needed to be out of the way of the batteries that take up the majority of one side. There may have also been some chassis adjustments.”, he said. The COLAS team visited the Goulburn facility to assess progress and approve some of the final adjustments during the process. Weekly progress reports were also received, as is standard.
“It was very reassuring not only to observe how they did everything but to see how personnel and individual departments run through their checks so nothing in the building process is missed,” he says. “Once they got the vehicles at the workshop things happened really fast.” They can turn around a build in a few weeks. The way they are going they will be turning them around in days.”, said Hughes.
Part of the COLAS brief required the five Hino Hybrid vehicles to have consistency of visual impact. Being built from scratch, the vehicle design needed to be repeatable and factor in the versatile configurations so all five trucks were completed with a uniform look. Hidrive’s proprietary modular structure also meant that every truck features the same drawers, compartments and fittings. “It’s all made the same and it all opens and closes the same,” said Lacey.
Lacy went on to say, “Supposing they want to order another truck, we can deliver the same thing and it wouldn’t be any different than the ones they have already had delivered from us.” That very consistency across the builds achieved from the Hidrive process has flowed directly into service bodies made for new Toyota Hilux vehicles COLAS has recently introduced into operations in Queensland.
The COLAS mechanics that will operate these cab chassis utes consulted directly with Hidrive on the builds. Andrew received the drawings and approved the cost. “It all went smoothly,” says Hughes. “As the workshop grows, we’ll look to work with Hidrive, especially on our workshop type equipment that is dedicated to maintenance.”
The Hino Hybrids have now been in the field for four months working mostly on residential streets where COLAS is doing spray seal jobs for councils in Dubbo and the Blue Mountains. “They’re hard to miss painted in an aerospace orange.” It is an automotive paint that Hidrive uses to match the cabin of the truck. “The whole thing has a visual impact in itself,” said Hughes. “You don’t see service bodies around as good as ours. Not that I’m trying to blow our own trumpet. But it’s a fact. Obviously we do like quality, and we don’t buy cheap stuff because we want it to last,” Hughes says. “We haven’t had any problems with the trucks — the whole experience has been a good one.”