Engineering feat that ‘reinvents the wheel’

A father and son team are kicking goals in a big way at Inland Petroleum, with an innovative new 30m PBS A-double by Tieman set to shake things up even further.

Inland Petroleum is a family owned and operated fuel and lubricants business, operating in Central Western NSW. It was started by Paul McCallum. With his son Drew McCallum now by his side as director, the business has experienced exceptional growth in recent years. 

Inland Petroleum owner Paul McCallum, 64, made his first move into the fuel industry at just 15.

Paul, 64, is the principal and owner of the business. His first foray into the fuel industry was as a bowser boy when he was just 15 and fuel was only 18 cents a litre. After 20 years of working for multiple major fuel companies, he was involved in establishing Fosters Petroleum in Narromine in 1986 and then purchased his first petrol station in Dubbo in 1991. Soon after he acquired Maher’s Petroleum Depot in Gunnedah. In 2002, he decided to bring the two companies under one banner and with that, Inland Petroleum was born.

Drew, 30, joined the family business as a truck driver at the age of 19. About five years in, he decided to undertake his Batchelor of Business while continuing to work with his father. Since completing his degree in 2017, he’s remained heavily involved in the operational side of Inland Petroleum. 

The business operates from 12 sites, including five depots and 11 retail sites, running a fleet of 33 Kenworth prime movers used to pull everything from doubles to triples in a variety of configurations. 

But it’s the latest tanker delivery that’s getting a great deal of attention. Dubbed the ‘Tank Train’, the new 30m A-double by Tieman features a unique patented T-bar tandem dolly. Interestingly, it makes use of a D’Angelo turntable rather than a tow coupling.  

“It’s fundamentally a beautiful piece of engineering, designed to overcome stability issues and reinvent the wheel. Together with Tieman, we’ve come up with a structurally better unit that is safer and more stable. When you have liquid fuels, you have a lot to contend with in regards to a load moving. You still have dynamic instabilities, so it’s important to engineer a solution to that,” explained Paul.

The story of the A-double Tank Train started two years ago, when Inland Petroleum put its first 26m A-double on the road. As Paul revealed, “That A-double had a Ringfeder connection. As 26m A-doubles were coming onto the market, pretty much all manufacturers were using tow couplings. When I drove that combination and when I followed it, I found it wasn’t as stable as what I would have been happy with.

“Following a visit to Tieman, I saw they were using a D’Angelo turntable for a specialist quad quad combination that was going to WA. It was being built on a turntable instead of a Ringfeder. The difference is that it’s roll-coupled, so the weight of the front trailer prevents the back trailer from getting unstable. A Ringfeder offers no roll-coupling.”

With the 30m A-double, Inland Petroleum can cart 3.64 million litres more a year when compared to its 26m counterpart.

Paul and Drew discussed the possibility of designing a dolly that has no lateral movement, only vertical movement, with Tieman Tankers director Colin Tieman. 

The Tieman engineering team built a second 26m A-double for Inland Petroleum based on this concept and modified Inland Petroleum’s initial A-double too. “So we now have two 26m A-doubles with bogie dollies and D’Angelo turntables,” said Paul.

“Bogie dollies tend to pivot and bounce between the two axles, whereas a tri dolly is very stable. We found we were putting a lot of stress on the turntable because of pivoting on the bogie dolly, so we decided to lower the pull-point to be in line with the axles. So on the 30m A-double, there is a gooseneck drawbar which is directly in line with the pick-up point of the suspension. When the dolly goes over a variation in height on the road, as the dolly pivots around its axles, the actual pick-up point of the A-frame goes up and down but it doesn’t sway vertically. The A-frame doesn’t put any lateral stress on the pin of the turntable.

“The A-frame has all undergone finite analysis to make sure it can handle everything. You’re talking about a very strong structure in the A-frame. This is not your average A-frame, it’s purpose built engineering by Tieman. It’s so strong yet still reasonably light.”

As Drew explains, the payload advantages of the 30 metre A-double compared to its smaller 26 metre counterpart are huge – the issue, however, is gaining access to the required route. 

“With the 30m combination, we’re able to load to 85.5 tonne gross, under HML (Higher Mass Limits), which allows for 71,000 litres. With the 26m A-double, we’re running at 80.5 tonne and getting 64,000 litres, so it’s a big increase. Our guys do both am and pm shifts. It’s 10 loads a week, two loads a day. On the 30m A-double, we can cart an extra 70,000 litres a week. Over a year that totals to 3.64 million litres.”

The unique combination features a T-bar tandem dolly, and a turntable rather than a tow coupling.

Though it is still awaiting final approvals, the plan is for the 30m combination, which will be pulled by a new Kenworth T610SAR, to be based at Goulburn. It’ll run south along the Hume to the south-western districts of NSW.

Given the mammoth payload savings, it would make sense to go down the 30m A-double path going forward, but there’s an issue. “We can’t run it on the Golden Highway as the maximum length there is 26m. It’s a really crazy situation,” said Paul.

The reason? The intervals between when the lights start flashing and the boom gates go down at the railway crossing. “We put in an application to the NHVR for a 30m PBS A-double running Newcastle to Dubbo, because the longer the unit, the more payload we can get. 

“However the maximum length on the Golden Highway is there because of the railway lines. There are two railway lines that cross over it, and what RMS is arguing and telling NHVR is that once the lights start flashing to indicate a train, the boom gate may hit the back trailer on anything longer than 26m. If you do the mathematics, an extra four metres is nothing when you’re travelling at 50km/h; but it’s huge in terms of a safer vehicle being on the road – because at 30m, the centre of gravity is lower and the combination is more stable.” 

Though current red tape is hampering Inland Petroleum’s hopes to add more 30m A-doubles to its fleet, Drew says the business is very well placed for further growth. 

“Over the last four to five years is where we’ve seen the most growth. Today we have 33 trucks on the road, in 2015 we had 14 trucks and in 2010 it was only eight trucks. With our projections and what I have coming through in terms of truck and tanker orders, by the middle to the end of next year, we should be running about 40 trucks,” he said.  

What does the business attribute to that growth, I ask? “I think we offer a turnkey solution. We’re in the petroleum industry obviously, but we’re different to others in this space because we provide a lot of different services. That’s what makes us stand out from the rest. Our service level is second to none. We pride ourselves on trying to do everything we can for our customers.”

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