Story and Photo by Australian Truck Photography

Victoria’s Midfield Group has established a global reputation for its high quality lamb, beef and pork. Keeping up with the growing demand is just the job for its fleet of Kenworths …

Victoria’s Midfield Group has established a global reputation for its high quality lamb, beef and pork. Keeping up with the growing demand is just the job for its fleet of Kenworths … story + photos n australian truck photography When Midfield’s founder, Colin McKenna entered into an agreement with the local abattoir to process his livestock for private sale he was sowing the seed for what would become one of Australia’s most successful meat processing companies. On one hand the family-company has come a long way in 40 years, but on the other they haven’t really travelled too far at all.

Located in Warrnambool, the Midfield Group is headquartered in the heart of Victoria’s pristine Great South Coast region. It’s where they started and where they’ve grown a local meat processing business into a global enterprise.

Colin’s original agreement with the local abattoir proved the benefit of adding value to grazing livestock, which is after all really only half the story when it comes to putting food on the table. So, when the local council abattoir came up for sale, Colin was quick to seize the opportunity and add that missing connection with the consumer.

The son of a soldier settler, Colin grew up on a family dairy farm and had a good understanding of the concept of hard work. He also knew that nothing ventured is nothing gained and his leap of faith from farmer to rural producer has became the cornerstone for the foundation of the Midfield Group. From that one brave decision, the company has grown into a multi-faceted operation with multiple divisions, employing over 1500 people.

The global scale of the operation hasn’t changed Midfield’s structure and the family company sticks close to the ‘paddock to plate’ fundamentals established by its patriarch. That focus on total control saw the Midfield Group initiate its own transport division in 1980 and today the company operates a high-profile fleet of Kenworths out of the State’s south west. Mark Leggett is the logistics co-ordinator who oversees Midfield’s vital transport operation. Similar to the company’s paddock to plate philosophy, the Kenworths work in all aspects of the business and can be found hauling livestock, refrigerated and bulk tanker loads.

“Ours is a varied operation, and with our recent Kenworth’s we’ve been able to … make the fleet as versatile as possible.”

“We’ve got some pretty good gear running now,” Mark said of the fleet’s upgrade program. “And, to be honest, we’re very excited to have them around – a lot of money has been invested with the intention of providing the best possible service available. “It’s my job to run them efficiently, and to make sure they look the part so they’re a good representation for the company. They’re the first thing our customers are going to see when Midfield is the man delivering to their door,” explained Mark. The backbone of the fleet is its T609s pulling the company’s livestock B-doubles with the K200s hauling out the processed meat in FTE refrigerated B-doubles vans. While Mark has standardised his recent purchases to the T609s and K200s, there’s also a T909, T409SAR and two T359s in the fleet. “Ours is a varied operation, and with our recent Kenworth’s we’ve been able to move away from tasking a truck to a single purpose. For example, our T609s and K200s are useful in a number of applications, which makes the fleet as versatile as possible. “The T609 is an excellent all-round truck,” he added. “It has great visibility for the driver and is a real asset – especially as our work can vary from farm pick-ups to city running. “I want Midfield’s truck operators to have the best available trucks.”

While usually pulling stock crates, the T609s can also be found hauling B-double tankers loaded with tallow. With a mixed trailer fleet of drop decks, tautliners, tankers, livestock crates and tippers, Midfield can be said to operate the lot. However, while he says the T609s and cabover K200s can hook up to almost any of their trailing gear, its the solitary T409SAR that’s the the most utilitarian truck in the fleet. This Kenworth workhorse is able to do anything – from towing B-doubles to tipper work. “We can even put a cattle crate behind it if needed,” he added. The farmlands around Warrnambool are some of the most productive in the country, with the district notably one of Australia’s prime dairy regions. It’s also at one end of the Great Ocean Road and, as a consequence the region’s road networks are under increasing demand from both rural industry and tourism.

Unfortunately, road construction and maintenance has fallen behind the increase in demand with the deterioration becoming a hot topic for local media and politicians. The crumbling southwest Victorian road system has resulted in the authorities reducing highway speed limits to 80 kph in places.

“For the amount of traffic, the roads are shocking. We’ve instigated our own lower speed limits in places because the (hanging) meat comes off the rails. Unfortunately, that translates to slower trip times and increased maintenance. That’s one of the good things about operating Kenworths – they haven’t gone soft, they’ve a good feel for the road and the operators are rapt with their ride. “In terms of comfort and driver ergonomics, they’ve come a long way. Kenworths are a comfortable, driver-friendly truck, but still strong and tough,” he continued.

It’s this demand for reliable machinery that’s seen Midfield continue to use Kenworths.

Having a go at a bit of everything makes Midfield a good place to try different ideas, with the transport division recently trialling Cummins’ big-six ISX e5 in a higher 600hp rating. The extra 50hp has returned a considerable fuel saving, so the remainder of the fleet will be bumped up to 600hp to take advantage of the potential savings. The extra power isn’t a problem for the driveline as the majority of the fleet are 18-speed Eaton Fuller manual transmissions, except for a pair of 10×4 twin-steer T359 hook trucks. The two T359s have the 10.8 litre Cummins ISMe5 engines set at 440hp @ 1800 rpm with a little over 2000Nm of torque available at 1200rpm. Back in the day this sort of grunt would’ve been good enough to run two trailers through the Territory, but Midfield’s T359s are both fitted with an engine PTO and given the not-so-noble task of hooking up and delivering bins of offal to Midfield’s rendering plant in Warrnambool.

An Eaton FO-16E318B-MXP UltraShift 18-speed auto transmission makes easy work of the job; while steering mounted cruise control and hill start assist lets the driver concentrate on the job. Kenworth’s EBSS safety package has been specified to help out in difficult or emergency situations. “Our hook trucks are something a bit different. I don’t think there’s too many 10×4 twin-steers around, but they’re ideal trucks for us and suit the purpose.” Midfield had operated an 8×4 as its hook bin truck but Mark was looking for increased stability in addition to carrying maximum weight.

“Prior to these, we had a T350, powered by a 350hp Cummins ISL. I went for the ISM e5 at 450hp. They’re beautiful little units,” he said. The twin steer T359s were ordered as 10x4s with the lift-axle being fitted as a tag at the rear of the drive to primarily improve vehicle stability.

“Those trucks are on short-haul, loaded one way and moving a lot of different payloads – into and out of tight spots,” Mark explained. “We needed the lift axle for safety, but didn’t want to be prematurely wearing the tyres with all the screwing around. “We want to be the best, so we use the best. That’s the way we look at it. Reliability is what we’re after; whether it’s hauling live animals, time sensitive tallow or hanging meat – we can’t afford for our trucks to stop for any reason.”

It’s this demand for reliable machinery that’s seen Midfield continue to use Kenworths. “Our main business isn’t transport, we’re a meat processor,” he adds “But the division I look after, I want it to be as good as possible, to be an asset to the company and supply and support the parent.” Mark has driven Kenworths and as far as he’s concerned they’re the best on the road. “It’s been proven by very demanding operators, and by the number of

Kenworth operators. It’s a premium product built to last and their resale value is the best. We’re a fast moving business so we need the best. We need reliable equip ment. We haven’t had an ounce of issues with any of them, they’ve been that good,” he added.

Ultimate reliability helps make Mark’s life much easier, but effective, scheduled maintenance is the key to keeping trucks on the road. Two dedicated mechanics and two apprentices ensure the fleet is kept at optimum operating readiness. With their rich red livery and blue signwriting Midfield’s trucks advertise the company well beyond its presence in the Warrnambool region.

“It’s free advertising and amazing how many people notice. I’ve seen our meat and truck photos turn up all over the world and that’s testament to the fact that at Midfield, transport is a vital and integral part of the operation. We’re very proud of what we’re doing and how we go about doing it. It’s a great company with a great group of people.

“Midfield is moving forward and our Kenworths are taking us there!” stated Mark proudly.


Originally Published on July 2016 in Kenworth Down Under Issue 17

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