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Reason and reality forges Lindsay Transport vision

This year, refrigerated freight specialist Lindsay Transport will notch 70 years in business and as part of a major fleet replacement program, take delivery of its 500th Kenworth. These are, of course, memorable milestones for both outfits but as Rob Dummer, Lindsay’s general manager of operations explains, Kenworth is just one part of a product strategy which also sees corporate cousin DAF making big inroads


Old habits die hard and to those of a particular vintage and mindset, the high profile company known nowadays as Lindsay Transport will always be simply LBs. Lindsay Brothers!

Whatever, it’s hard to imagine that in early 1953 when Peter and Tom Lindsay agreed to buy a couple of second-hand tray-top trucks from their father Victor, these two stalwarts from the school of hard men and hard knocks would’ve dared dream of the evolution or indeed, the legacy which would unfold over coming decades.

Tough and tenacious, and famously quick to bursts of fiery expression, they were just as quick to recognise opportunity and it’s a matter of simple record that hauling produce from surrounding farms to trains in Coffs Harbour bound for Sydney markets was the inauspicious foundation for achievements on a far greater scale. Like, capitalising on the emerging potential of refrigerated trailers for hauling fruit and vegetables, and particularly as trucks improved, the opportunities this provided for forging a network of depots throughout eastern Australia to move produce fresh from farming regions to far distant city markets.

For local prime mover work and as an eight-wheeler rigid, DAF since 2015 has become entrenched as a cost-efficient and reliable workhorse for Lindsay Transport

Ultimately, diversification would also become part of Lindsay’s progress. In 1983, for instance, a small rural supply company near Bundaberg (Qld) named P&H Rural first opened its doors, eventually forming the platform for the Lindsay Rural division, supplying agricultural products such as seed, chemicals, fertiliser, packaging requirements and so on, specifically to the horticultural industry on which so much of Lindsay’s workload continues to be based. Today, Lindsay Rural operates in more than 20 locations based in and around most of the nation’s eastern food bowl.

For Peter and Tom, theirs was a time of build or break, but breaking just wasn’t part of who they were. Not one bit! Their fortitude was formidable, their achievements exceptional, and as a younger man writing about trucks and road transport, it was always a privilege to listen and learn about the making of a truly remarkable business by men of immense character.

They’re both gone now – Peter in 1998 at 68 years and Tom late in 2021 at a grand 90 years – but their legacy lives proud and prominent in the high profile and highly successful public company called Lindsay Australia, with dozens of transport depots and facilities stretching from Cairns to Melbourne, Adelaide and now Perth, and every major fruit and produce growing region on the mainland.

Lindsay Transport general manager of operations, Rob Dummer. Time and toil determine why Paccar’s Kenworth and DAF dominate the fleet

First listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in 2001 and now operating through three distinct divisions – Lindsay Transport, Lindsay Rural and since 2014, Lindsay Fresh Logistics at Brisbane Markets – it’s a group which has continued to invest in itself by building and expanding facilities, maintaining a strong emphasis on running efficient equipment, and focussing on long-term growth, typified perhaps by the 2015 introduction of rail freight into the transport division.

A flick through Lindsay Australia’s 2022 Annual Report reveals a powerful performance. In its summary of operating results, the report states, ‘Despite ongoing disruptions from COVID-19 and several adverse weather events, the group delivered a strong performance … a testament to the robust foundations formed over several years from capital investment in facility upgrades, fleet renewal, rail expansion and technology investments.’

Foundation stones. Peter (left) and Tom Lindsay. In the early days it’s unlikely either brother would’ve dared imagine what would be created

Accordingly, the report states, ‘Driven by strong demand for road, rail and rural services, operating revenue for financial year 2022 grew by 27.1 per cent to $553.07 million (while) earnings increased by 32.6 per cent to a record $60.1 million.’

Importantly, ‘Although rail has been the key organic growth strategy for the past three financial years, the capital invested in the road fleet renewal program has ensured that both parts of the division remain well placed to take advantage of strong market conditions.’

Thus, ‘The Group will continue to renew its road fleet in line with the replacement plan which remains a key pillar to the ongoing success in the Transport segment’s performance and ensuring the fleet remains first in class while delivering efficiency and safety across Lindsay Australia’s network.’

Obviously enough, it all means 2023 will be another big year for new trucks and trailers at Lindsay Transport. Perhaps the biggest yet as the company prepares to mark 70 years since two redoubtable brothers decided to do their own thing, not knowing what the future held but obviously determined to make the most of what they had, however modest.

Fast forward to the modern world and for general manager of operations Rob Dummer, there’s certainly nothing modest about the demands for ensuring the right equipment continues to keep the company on top of its game, just as there’s nothing modest or mild-mannered about the determination to make it happen.

Time travel

There’s no Lindsay in his bloodline but born and bred in Coffs Harbour, there’s something about the strong character and candid conversation of Rob Dummer which reflects an inherent affinity with the underlying core of this company. And the affinity, the connection, runs deep. His father worked at Lindsays, Rob’s two sons work there, and it’s now more than 25 years since he started as a driver doing local pick-up and delivery work as well as linehaul shuttles, based out of the company’s historic heart at Boambee on the southern outskirts of the coastal city.

Reason & Reality - Pic C2.jpegWhile the company’s tentacles reach far and wide these days and the Boambee depot is small compared to some of Lindsay Transport’s facilities in major metro and regional areas, it has been home base since Peter and Tom Lindsay’s earliest days. Critically, Boambee also contains Lindsay’s national transport office, ideally sited straight off the northbound lanes of the Pacific Highway, about 525km north of Sydney and less than 400km from Brisbane. It is, quite simply, the perfect base for linehaul shuttles between the two capitals.

In an unpretentious office next to the typically hectic operations room of a transport company with hundreds of trucks moving across a maze of routes from the far north to the deep south, mixed with strings of east-west runs, highway shuttle work and metro delivery units, it’s a momentarily reflective Rob Dummer who concedes that his own journey from driver to the head of transport operations has been many things: satisfying, sometimes surprising and always challenging.

A sparkling new T610 gets the final touches at the Boambee base near Coffs Harbour

Responsible for the purchase of “… everything from a pallet jack to refrigeration units, rail equipment and every truck and trailer,” it’s no surprise to hear that experience has been a strict and occasionally punishing teacher. Good or bad, however, the lessons are firmly embedded.

The challenges, though, are arguably more pronounced than ever, not just in maintaining the high standards the company sets for itself but in building platforms to make the most of opportunities as they occur in what is always a fiercely competitive and customer-driven business. It is, Rob remarks, all about staying ahead of the game, not just keeping up with it.

Yet he is quick to counter even the slightest suggestion that rail’s introduction in 2015 and subsequent growth – there are now around 400 rail containers in the group’s inventory – has drawn some workload from road transport.

“Rail hasn’t taken anything off road,” he says bluntly. “The two work as part of the group but operate as two separate divisions within transport. Simple as that.” But there is, of course, nothing simple about the complexity of an operation tracking trucks and freight across the country, allocating loads and drivers, and contending with all the maintenance necessities and inevitable operational factors of a refrigerated freight business stretching from one end of the nation to the other.

Rail was added to Lindsay’s transport division in 2015. Growth has been strong but rail has not stymied demand for road transport

Further, Rob Dummer insists that while the road fleet hasn’t grown much over the past few years, productivity and efficiency have increased significantly as new models have steadily replaced older units. “Overall, it’s largely the same number of trucks just doing the job better.”

Asked late last year about the size of the Lindsay Transport road fleet, he said it was something of a moving total due to the ongoing replacement program but overall, the company was operating around 350 trucks. Obviously enough, the majority are Kenworth cab-overs and conventionals on B-double linehaul and highway shuttle work, but also a large number of DAF prime movers primarily for single trailer and local B-double delivery duties and what he described as ‘fish runs’ from co-ops along the coast.

Also in the line-up at the close of 2022 were a couple of single-drive prime movers and upwards of 50 rigid units spread across the country, increasingly DAF eight-wheelers but also Fuso six-wheelers and a handful of aging Kenworth T300s. The odd bods in the mix, however, were a Western Star, a near new Mercedes-Benz 2663 and a pair of Volvo FH16s.

As Rob explained though, by the middle of this year the lone Benz and two Volvos will be the only exceptions in a fleet dominated by Paccar’s Kenworth and DAF brands as Lindsay Transport undertakes its latest and arguably most comprehensive fleet renewal program. What’s more, somewhere among a big batch of new K220 cab-overs and T610 conventionals set to join existing K200s and T409s will be the company’s 500th Kenworth, a milestone highlighting Lindsay’s long association with Paccar’s premier brand.

DAF’s rise includes eight-wheeler rigids with 16-pallet bodies. DAF’s success has seen the demise of Fuso and Kenworth T3s

For an openly pragmatic Rob Dummer, the Kenworth preference is based solely on factors forged by time and toil. Overall, durability and resale value top the list but in an era when finding and retaining good drivers is a concern for most trucking firms, he’s certainly cognisant of Kenworth’s appeal to many drivers in the long distance fraternity.

As he puts it, “Finding drivers is one thing. Finding good drivers is something else.”

High on the list, too, is Paccar Australia’s ability to tailor some models to specific requirements, with Rob pointing to linehaul T610s with a 600mm sleeper and standing room between the seats, yet still meeting the 26 metre B-double length limit with a bull bar attached.

Critically, he also cites the importance of Lindsay’s connection with the Brown & Hurley Kenworth and DAF dealer group which has over the last decade and more expanded considerably and in the process, provided a wider service network for Lindsay Transport’s fleet requirements along the eastern seaboard.

“Brown & Hurley knows what we need and probably more than that, they know what we expect,” he says succinctly. It’s the combination of all these things, he explains, which make Kenworth the linehaul truck of choice.

Much the same applies to Lindsay’s reliance on trailer group MaxiTrans and refrigeration giant Thermo-King. “We run more than 600 refrigerated trailers and they’re all either Maxi-Cube or Freighter, and there’s well over a thousand fridge units and they’re all Thermo-King, including the rail containers,” Rob comments.

By June this year, an existing pair of Volvo FH16s and a late model Mercedes-Benz 2663 (pictured below) will be the only non-Paccar trucks at Lindsay Transport. Neither brand is likely to break the Paccar preference

Reason & Reality - Pic G2.JPGCummins, too, continues to be a long-term provider with an enviable service structure and for the most part, good performance and efficiency standards at Lindsay’s. Even so, as an assertive Rob Dummer agrees, it’s no secret that earlier Cummins 15 litre engines reliant on exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) for emissions compliance created issues with far-reaching consequences.

In Lindsay Transport’s case, those EGR issues provided the opening for a truck brand which had long had its sights on the high profile fleet. Mack!

Learning curves

“Like everyone else, we had a few issues with Cummins EGR engines,” says a somewhat understated Rob Dummer. “Those things are well behind us now but back then, we needed to do something quick and Mack had been knocking hard on the door, so through 2011 and 2012 we bought a batch of Tridents.”

Long story short though, the durability of Trident’s 13 litre engine was soon found wanting in the high mileage, high weight hustle of linehaul B-doubles where shuttle combinations can notch between 450,000 and 500,000km a year. “Trident’s not a bad truck but for us it quickly became a boy in a man’s job,” he quipped. “It was a hard lesson.”

Last of the line. There were high hopes for Mack Super-Liner but it wasn’t to be. Mack’s slick automated drivetrain did, however, encourage Lindsay’s liking for automated transmissions

Consequently, a deal was struck which saw the struggling Tridents replaced by 16 litre 600hp Super-Liners with more than 20 units joining the company between 2014 and 2016. Rob admits expectations were high but inconsistent fuel economy and Super-Liner’s heavier weight over drive axles (compared to equivalent Kenworths) didn’t do Mack’s future prospects at Lindsay Transport any favours. Indeed, as 2022 drew to a close, the last two Super-Liners sat forlornly at the back of the Boambee depot ready to be traded.

Yet as Mack was making its move at Lindsay Transport, so was Western Star but again, engine issues became a problem, namely Detroit’s DD15. “That engine wasn’t a success for us,” he said sharply. “Fuel and reliability weren’t great but there was something about Western Star some drivers just didn’t like either.

“It’s hard to know exactly what it was but many of the drivers just didn’t take to it. Maybe it’s a Kenworth thing. Whatever, the last one is a 2015 model and it’ll be gone this year.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Lindsay Transport driver honoured for fiery crash rescue

In hindsight, 2015 was something of a seismic year at Lindsay Transport for a number of reasons. It was, of course, the year rail was introduced to the company’s operations but it was also a time when automated transmissions – encouraged in no small way by the smooth and intuitive performance of Mack’s mDrive powertrain – became the standard for all truck purchases.

Apart from making life easier for drivers and drivelines, a definite Rob Dummer says the fleet fuel average has improved notably since standardisation on automated shifters, predominantly Eaton’s Ultrashift-Plus in Kenworth models and DAF’s standard ZF Traxon box. Soon enough, however, Eaton’s new Endurant automated 18-speeder will debut with the company in a sizeable batch of K220s being built for the latest fleet update.

Importantly, the company’s first move to DAF also came in 2015 and there are absolutely no regrets. “We still have our original DAF and seriously, we can’t fault it,” he asserts. “As a single trailer truck and eight-wheeler rigid, and even local B-double work, we can’t go past DAF.”

All Lindsay’s DAFs, now numbering more than 100 units, are from the versatile CF range punched by Paccar’s MX-13 engine with earlier Euro 5 versions rated at 460 hp and the latest Euro 6 models at 480hp.

Kenworth K200 is being superseded by K220 but with an all-new Cummins set for DAF, is Kenworth’s iconic cab-over under threat? Could be!

Meantime, it’s a cautious Rob Dummer who concedes that DAF’s positive standing at Lindsay Transport may become even more pronounced over the next few years.

As we reported exclusively in the December issue of OwnerDriver, Lindsay Transport is currently trialling an entirely new, lightweight Cummins 15 litre engine in at least one Kenworth K200 cab-over. While there’s little doubt the new six cylinder plant with up to 660hp and 2300lb-ft of torque will be eventually offered in Kenworth, Paccar Australia’s priority right now is for the engine to provide the muscle for a bold new DAF flagship being developed specifically for the Australian market under the new XG+ cab.

Late last year Rob was among a group of Australian truck operators visiting DAF facilities in Europe and Germany’s huge Hanover truck exhibition. Again choosing his words carefully, he confirms there was a lot to like in the new DAF cab.

Rumour has it there are already a couple of right-hand drive XG+ models powered by the new Cummins under test in Australia. Asked if Lindsay Transport with its high mileage, high weight B-double shuttle operations are likely to provide a real world test bed for DAF’s promising flagship, a non-committal Rob Dummer said simply, “Could be!”

As for the top-shelf DAF’s ability to gnaw at Kenworth’s cab-over business, he was a fraction more forthcoming. “Could be. The K220 is an expensive truck.”

And finally, DAF made a big deal at Hanover about its electric trucks and there are already hints that Paccar Australia will be soon trialling an electric DAF or two, so does Lindsay Transport see a place for an electric model in its future?

“In local work, sure. Eventually!” he concluded.

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