Outback operator takes its trucks to the extreme

In just under 20 years, this remote transport operation has grown its fleet from one truck to over 50, all being put through their paces in some of the country’s toughest terrain.

Based in Roma in central Queensland, Wild Desert was started by managing director David Whiley in 2005, servicing oil and gas well sites and providing all the facilities and supplies needed to keep them going.

As he explained, “We saw the opportunity, so we sold a few houses and bought a truck. Since then we’ve just been getting busier every year. 

“Our trucks are mostly running as AB triple or triple road trains and depending on what they’re carrying and where they’re going, they might do anything from 500 to 3500 kilometres in a trip.”

Drivers have to get into some extremely remote places, so Wild Desert needs its trucks to be tough, robust and reliable enough to handle the extreme conditions that are thrown their way.

Wild Desert don’t just service the wells for the five biggest oil and gas companies in the country, they supply entire camps delivered, set up, stocked and fully-staffed. And on short notice can be asked to pull a camp down, move it a few hundred kilometres, and then set it up again, often in the same day.

“We’re a single-source provider, and that’s what our customers like,” said Whiley. “We bring in all our own fuel and parts from Brisbane, and we supply all our own food out of Roma. The only thing we don’t do is fly in the staff – we know our limitations.

Whiley added, “We’re often way off the bitumen. Some of the roads, the corrugations are so wide apart you can’t get on top of them. In those places we have to crawl along at five kilometres an hour. On one job a few years ago it took me four hours to go 70 kilometres!”

The trucks run mostly as AB triple or triple road trains. Image: Mack Trucks Australia

The fleet is kept busy transporting all manner of equipment and supplies to destinations as far apart as Moomba in South Australia, and the Carnarvon Ranges in Queensland.

With a huge area to cover, remote destinations and rugged country, Whiley knew he needed trucks that could handle the conditions. Back in 2006 he bought a 1998-model Mack Titan which fit the bill.

That first Titan is still going strong after 18 years, which is a testament to both the truck itself and the care Whiley takes with his trucks.

“We don’t trade them in, we just keep refurbishing them and they serve us well. The drivers love them too, especially the new ones with the mDRIVE automated manual: removing 600 gear shifts per days really does reduce driver fatigue,” he said.

Of the 50+ trucks in the fleet today, more than half are Mack Titans.

Whiley added, “My dad drove Flintstones and R600s so I had a bit of history with Mack, but the Titan is ideal for what we do. They don’t just look tough, they are tough, they hold up well and we’ve kept ours going for years through multiple rebuilds.”

Over the years Whiley has built a solid business relationship with Mack and the team at Western Truck Group in Toowoomba.

“The Mack team and the WTG boys really know our business. They understand the environments we work in and the things that matter to us in a truck. I’m only lately learning to use their help more, and they’re always keen to get involved and make suggestions on how we can improve things. We’ve got a good foundation there and I like working with them.”

The team have suggested a few modifications to the Titans that have helped improve their range and effectiveness.

Whiley said, “We’ve got tougher mounts on some of them, bigger toolboxes, long-range fuel tanks and iceboxes. For drivers who are heading into places that are literally hundreds of miles from anywhere, the Titan is a great combination of toughness and comfort. Our drivers do 20 days on and ten off, and during that time they might spend 15 nights in the truck, so driver comfort is very important.”

Vice president of Mack Trucks Australia, Tom Chapman highlighted the Mack Titan’s meticulous design for both durability and driver comfort.

“Since we started building trucks in Australia, Mack Trucks has been synonymous with reliability and unmatched durability for the tough Australian conditions. There’s a strong commitment to continual evolution and every truck engineered out of our Wacol plant is designed with two major trademarks in mind: comfort for the driver and optimal total cost of ownership for the business owner,” he said.

Wild Desert bought three Titans last year and has two more on order. Image: Mack Trucks Australia

“It’s fantastic to hear real-life examples of this out in the field with customers like Wild Desert. The driver’s safety and comfort is absolutely paramount when operating in remote areas, and we certainly value Wild Desert’s trust in our product whilst operating in some of the toughest areas in Australia.”

Wild Desert bought three Titans last year and has two more on order, with a third likely to be ordered later in the year. Whiley estimates they’ll replace three trucks per year over the next five years.

“We’re busier than we’ve ever been,” he said, “so we’re taking the opportunity to expand, and also to replace some of the older manuals with autos. Not that we’ll be selling any trucks – they’ll just get put on lighter duties.

“The conditions which we operate in call for a truck that can handle everything. Driver function and comfort, room, vision, fuel economy, reliability and most of all, a truck that’s bloody tough.”

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