KEEPING COOL – ARTICLE FROM DIESEL MAGAZINE

Queensland Thermo King - QTK

Queensland Thermo King are better known as QTK and are based in a swish new dealership in Darra, in the South-West of Brisbane Australia wide for operations like QTK work as Thermo King are offering fixed where most of the transport industry is based.

QTK represent all Thermo King products in both Queensland and the Northern Territory and are also the national dealer for Thermo King’s bus product. The QTK organisation as a whole employs over 65 staff.

Diesel met QTK Operations Manager, Grant Turner, at the Darra HQ. Grant is responsible for looking after spare parts as well as the truck and trailer servicing division. His team consists of 23 mechanics, including seven apprentices, involved in the operation. Refrigeration units are serviced on site in Darra as well as by the 10  mobile service vans based there. The vehicles travel west as far
as Dalby and north to Bundaberg, also covering the far north of NSW. The rest of Queensland and the Territory is covered by a range of subagents who each cover different regional areas.

QTK offer a 24 hour call out service, with at least one technician and van always on standby. There are around 5,000 refrigeration units out there Australia wide for operations like QTK to keep an eye on, so there is never a shortage of units to service or repair.
There are also new opportunities opening up for the operation.
“With Woolies and Coles Online, the delivery vans use Thermo King Multitemp fridges,” says Grant. “They have freezer in the front and chiller in the back. We have close to 90 of them on the road in Queensland. Most of them are in SE  Queensland where we deal directly with them.”

A large proportion of the servicing task involves working on refrigerated trailer units. In times past transport operators turned fridges over when they reached four years old, around
20,000 hours of operation. More recently, the refrigerated transport businesses have begun to hold onto fridges longer with QTK now servicing some units at 15 years old and with well over 60,000 hours of service under their belts. This increases the demand for servicing.

QTK is also handling more service work as Thermo King are offerring fixed cost fridges over a five year term, where the customer pays a set amount each month covering both ownership and maintenance of the unit. The costs are controlled and the customer knows the unit is getting regular ser vicing. This system is proving particularly attractive to the bigger fleets QTK deal with. It also means QTK has a large volume of fridges they are doing monthly checks on, not just attending call outs to fix the units.

Recent years have seen a sharp increase in the sophistication of the refrigeration units QTK are dealing with. The latest units now include an ECU to control the whole system, monitoring engine load to enhance fuel efficiency as well as maintaining the correct temperature. These have been effective in the control of fuel use, delivering excellent results.

This increase in electronics also means transport companies have to supply downloaded data from their fridge units to their customers to verify load temperature during transit. These changes are also useful to the service technicians, who can now just download the data and see how the unit is performing.

“There seems to be plenty of service work for us, that’s why we keep growing and growing,”says Grant. “This means we need more service trucks.

“We brought our first Daily in as a trial. That ended up becoming three and they all did 200,000 km with no problems. Over the years we have bought 20 Dailys. We can transplant the body across to the new truck in a day.

“WE BROUGHT OUR FIRST DAILY IN AS A TRIAL. THAT ENDED UP BECOMING THREE AND THEY ALL
DID 200,000 KM WITH NO PROBLEMS. OVER THE YEARS WE HAVE BOUGHT
20 DAILYS.”

The chassis set up is the same so it’s quick and easy. The Iveco tare weight works well for us. The vans, with body on and fully loaded, are around the 4.3 tonne mark. Other cab chassis we have looked at are heavier so we would lose carr ying capacity.
“We buy the basic spec cab chassis Daily 45C. We normally run them out to  four years but we have some at the moment we are going to run for five years. That will be a test to see if we can keep them that long.

“The biggest factor for us is driver comfort. The driver can do multiple jobs during the day, standing outside in the heat. They need a bit of comfort travelling in between jobs. They can
drive it easy, it’s a six speed with cruise control.”

A high level skill set is required by QTK. The technicians have to work with small diesel engines, electrics and electronics plus the refrigeration equipment with gas pipe welding etc. Fridge maintenance engineers need a high level of certification and often transport companies find it difficult to recruit suitably qualified technicians. There is also a shortage of skilled technicians in the industry. QTK currently has seven apprentices in the system, trying to create enough new suitably qualified people to fill the gap.

“We don’t muck around, we pay the guys well,” says Grant. “Those in the service trucks get a lot of overtime, so some of the pay packets here are equivalent to what they could earn in the mines. They can get well paid and stay local.”

QTK has developed its own design for the, service body fitted on the rear of the Iveco Daily cab chassis of which the service fleet consists. The design is unique to QTK, with a raised platform on the rear from which the technician can access the trailer fridge. The front two-thirds of the box body are for storage and workshop. They also act as the access for the technician from the ground level up to the platform at the rear.

The platform also has a slide-out function enabling the technician to get access to the full width of the fridge motor. The technician can work inside the body, out of the elements. They can also carry enough spare parts to cover most eventualities with them.