Lowes Petroleum has announced it has taken delivery of six newVolvo FM  prime movers marking the beginning of its biggest fleet replacement since 2015.

Head of Fleet and Compliance Jake Myler said while the rolling arrival started at the end of 2021, across the next two financial years, Lowes Petroleum would receive a further 44 prime movers. A move ensuring the company remained a tier one fuel deliverer and transporter.

“This is a very exciting time for Lowes,” Mr Myler said. “Over the next 18 months we will update

50% of our vehicles, with 20 new prime movers coming in this financial year.  The fuel industry is highly competitive so obviously foremost the fleet upgrade will ensure we remain competitive maximising our own road transport efficiency and maintenance downtime.

“It’s about getting the most out of your asset but also knowing when to move on and replace them. That being said the Volvo FM units also offer the very latest technology in safety features and driver comfort.  Not only is it important to regularly invest in upgrading our fleet across our network to maintain efficiency but also safely.

“Technology with heavy vehicles, particularly in the safety space, has come a long way in the last five years. Most of these safety features were not around seven or so years ago when some of our primer movers were bought. There’s been a massive leap in safety features and driver comfort.

“This model offers adaptive cruise control, as well as forward collision warning and emergency breaking. It also comes with lane departure warning and lane change support: all of which increase the safety of our drivers and other road users. We have made this technology standard for any new heavy vehicle entering the business.”

Like many industries the transport sector is facing a skills shortage. The multimillion-dollar upgrade is also about meeting the employment market and ensuring Lowes Petroleum remains attractive to existing and future drivers.

“The trucking and logistics sector is a viable career path,” Mr Myler said. “Not everyone wants to go to University or is suited to a trade.  Many of our drivers have had rewarding career journeys through trucking and have seen parts of the country few have seen. There have been significant inroads by the industry to promote the professionalism of drivers across Australia.

“Last year Lowes Petroleum introduced its inaugural professional driver awards for our 250 drivers. Covid has shown how important the transport sector is, not only to so many businesses but also to consumers who now have a better understanding of the supply chain.

“This fleet upgrade also goes a long way to not only retaining the drivers we have but recruiting to the industry. It’s also about attracting women to the industry, as these vehicles are more responsive. The average age of drivers is 55 and that is a big issue for the industry.  Having new gear is always an attraction: who wouldn’t want to drive these fantastic trucks?

“Drivers talk on the road: when they are loading, unloading and when they see drivers in state-of-the-art trucks it is always going to attract people to your business. They can see that we’re investing money in equipment and thereby its people.”

Giving the procurement the thumbs up, Alex Connell, who has been driving with Lowes Petroleum for eight years, said the enhanced driver comfort meant ending a 10-hour shift feeling significantly more refreshed than in the older vehicles.

“Nothing takes away from the safety features of course, but there has been a lot of thought to the cab, providing more space for storage,” Mr Connell said. “When you spend so much time in the truck it is some of those finer features and clever thinking that also create a better environment for the driver.”

For Mr Myler the trucks couldn’t arrive soon enough.

“Unfortunately, lead times for buying new equipment has blown out like so many things due to Covid and supply chain issues,” he said. “Wind back the clock to pre-Covid and I could order a truck and have it probably within three to four months: four months being the outer, but now it’s 10 to 12 months. And it’s probably not going to change for the next one or two years.”