Euro 6 DAF CF450 prime mover

Trail Blazing – ColdRex Refrigerated Logistics

Soon to mark ten years since its founding in October, 2013, ColdRex Refrigerated Logistics offers an inimitable value proposition through a regional network it has nurtured and grown steadily over that time.

The next phase of expansion, when it comes, will see the company move further north into Bundaberg and then Central Queensland. At current, the Sunshine Coast is its most northern extremity.

To the south, it services customers as far down as Melbourne. The key focus of its transport operations revolves around deliveries to regional independent supermarkets and food distributors.

A majority of these are IGA stores found in the three most populous states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, where ColdRex maintains a depot in each including Noble Park in Melbourne, Archerfield to the south of Brisbane and Sydney’s Smithfield, where a workshop for servicing and minor repairs is also situated.

The first iteration of the company saw it operating as a tow operator. That was when it possessed three initial trucks.

The fleet today contains nearly 60 vehicles. Operations Director Brendan Donnelly previously worked for Toll’s refrigeration arm and Scott’s Refrigerated Logistics prior to founding ColdRex.

Business bloomed, he recalls, after it won a contract from Monde Nissin who, at the time had taken on Bulla Ice Cream as a client.

That was, historically speaking, ColdRex’s point of entry into independent supermarkets.

“They needed someone who could do frozen and chilled distribution,” Brendan says. “We won the contract in New South Wales and tended for the one in Victoria and then tended for the one in Queensland and it has progressed over the last five or six years.”

That work led to subsequent accounts on the eastern seaboard, notably Primo Smallgoods. Today, utilising the same network it has established in little under a decade, ColdRex will handle regional freight for the likes of Lindsay Transport.

“We deliver different freight for multiple customers that go out on those same routes using all our own company equipment,” says Brendan. “That gets us to every country town on the network multiple times per week.”

More than 95 per cent of the mobile asset infrastructure is company-owned with third party outsourcing, at present, an exception rather than the rule.

The new Euro 6 DAF CF450 prime mover

“We do a 100 loads a week of Nudie orange juice,” Brendan explains. “Some of those occasionally are full loads out of Griffith going to Melbourne that will require a sub-contractor but predominantly it’s all of our own company fleet in use.”

Late last year the fleet, which had been for many years largely mixed as it found its feet, debuted a new Euro 6 DAF CF450.

It has since excelled pulling a single trailer. So impressed was Brendan he invested in a further three DAFs this year, opting for the larger DAF CF530 model to move its B-doubles between Sydney and Griffith.

Improving the fuel consumption, given the punishing operating environment, is an early triumph made possible by the new DAF trucks.

“The single trailer DAF is getting 2.7 kilometres per litre,” says Brendan. “That’s big. The other trucks are getting around 2.2.”

As the fleet still runs a few Kenworth T909s, there was a pre-existing relationship with PACCAR that opened the door to DAF, a brand, along with Volvo, ColdRex, according to Brendan, will look to consolidate within the fleet going forward.

“The CF450 does local runs during the day and three shuttles between Smithfield and East Gardens of orange juice and at 3pm it does a changeover at Holbrook,” Brendan says.

“The dayshift driver gets in it at 4am in the morning and does two shuttles that takes about ten hours during the day.”

That all adds up to around 22 to 23 hours work a day for the vehicle. So far it hasn’t faltered.

“It’s doing great, and the drivers are pleased with its performance,” says Brendan. “It’s versatile as well as being really good on fuel.”

Brendan, who has driven the new DAFs albeit briefly, defers to the feedback from his driver’s, which is uniformly enthusiastic.

European style cabovers are favourably cited by fleet managers usually for the advantages they offer drivers in accessing sites. Not so here.

For Brendan it’s mainly about the transmission, namely the ZF TraXon 12-speed automated gearbox.

While visibility from inside the cab is a “big plus” in the new Euro 6 DAFs, it’s the user-friendly product, as Brendan refers to it, which convinces him of its long-term viability as a flagship truck in the fleet.

“The automatic transmission makes it easier to drive for the new age drivers,” he says. “It certainly makes it easier for new drivers behind the wheel of B-double combinations. The demographics are changing. Old school drivers are moving on.”

The drivers have told Brendan, not coincidentally. that the DAFs are easy to use.

Part of that comes down to the layout in the cabin. The location of the instruments on the dash are well thought out in relation to the steering wheel and sightlines outside the truck says Brendan.

“These DAFs are a smooth truck to run. They drive really well,” he adds. “I can’t fault them on intrastate work.”

In the last few years, heavy vehicles have multiplied, as if in lockstep with the 65 personnel employed by the business. A workshop, mentioned earlier in Smithfield, is staffed by one mechanic who can handle servicing, general repairs and jumpstarting.

“All your basic sort of stuff,” says Brendan. “Anything considered major gets outsourced by us.”

FMCGs, better known as fast-moving consumer goods, have, as a consequence of mass mobilisation, evolved rapidly in recent times.

Where ColdRex might be said to succeed foremost is in how it has anticipated changes in the market specific to its working model as if they were born of its own planning rather than the other way around.

Demand for regional freight spiked during the COVID period when remote working environments and migrations from major cities, following lockdowns, began in earnest.

“It changed noticeably during COVID between people travelling and getting busy along the north and south coast and regional areas were busier and products were harder to get in supplies,” Brendan says.

“During winter it’s normally a quieter time with staff taking time off and then summer is usually busy but because of COVID people soldiered on and worked through.”

That period has proven particularly fruitful for ColdRex. Brendan acknowledges that the business, ever since then, has undergone a rapid growth journey.


DAF CF450 B-double.

ColdRex is running a DAF B-double in regional NSW.

“We had a 90 per cent increase in revenue year-on-year in 2020 that coincided with expansion into Queensland and taking on a large contract out of Griffith in NSW,” he says.

That new account inexorably expanded its multi-combination footprint.

The new B-doubles are mainly doing changeovers in Griffith where packaged goods are delivered before the trucks return with finished goods. ColdRex will also blend in consolidated cartons from across its customer portfolio where appropriate.

“We’ve gone from servicing one or two customers into that IGA network to a lot of other customers who have jumped on the back of the network of that same service,” says Brendan.

“A customer we are transporting for will have a metre-high pallet and we might have another 20 cartons for another customer and another 15 for another one and ten more for someone else. That all gets packed and wrapped on one pallet and delivered as a full pallet delivery to the store.”

All mobile refrigeration units are supplied by Thermo King. Outside the purview of the cold chain, however, the company also runs two Tautliner B-double sets that carry dangerous goods. The trucks have flattop trailers equipped with 1,000 litre IBCs.

A range of acids and alkaline, which these trucks carry, flush the lines of the tanks that are used to clean abattoirs at places like Wagga Wagga and Raleigh.

The DG revenue stream began around seven years ago. Inasmuch as it represents an entirely separate operational service, it runs in accordance with the same regional task the company has, through wise investment, timely expansion and old-fashioned derring-do, since made its own.

While it is worth remembering that Brendan worked ten years for Toll’s refrigerated division, where he gained valuable experience and knowledge no doubt applicable even to this day, the trail he blazes and the rewards to come are thoroughly deserved.


The article was reproduced courtesy of Prime Mover Magazine (September 2023).

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