CATTLE CLASS

Curley Cattle Transport had its origins in Cloncurry, north-west Queensland, in the early 1970s when Mick Curley bought his first truck to pull two stock trailers. He grimaces at the memory of that truck – a Dodge powered by a Cummins C-160, a naturally aspirated 464 cu.in. (7.6-litre) inline six delivering 160 hp at 2800 rpm.

Today, five Signature 600 versions of the 15-litre Cummins ISXe5, generating 600 hp and 2050 lb ft of torque, are the latest additions to the Curley fleet of 30 roadtrain triples. All the prime movers are Kenworth – T650, 658 and 659 models – and all have Cummins Signature power, spanning Gen II, EGR and e5 variants.

Mick Curley’s son Steve is managing director of the business today, although Mick still keeps an eye on proceedings and is obviously proud of a business that has endured in what is still a challenging environment where the demands are obvious – achieving cost-effective life from equipment, maintaining and supporting the equipment in a harsh, remote environment, and attracting and retaining good people.

When asked about the five ISXe5 engines that entered service early in 2016, Steve Curley delivers a laconic response: “I like them.” He says they’ve already done a lot of hard kilometres and are showing a pleasingly high level of reliability.

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Dave Pringle… describes the ISXe5 as a “big step up” from previous iterations of the 15-litre Cummins he has driven.

Reduced fuel costs with ISXe5.

Fuel costs, which account for around 25 per cent of Curley’s operational costs, are another factor that have constant focus.

While he points to driver influence as having a major impact on fuel economy, Steve Curley reveals the ISXe5 itself is contributing to reduced fuel costs. “There’s little difference in consumption between the ISXe5 and our earlier generation Signature engines when running loaded,” he says. “However, when running unloaded, which is basically 50 per cent of the time, there’s a big difference in favour of the ISXe5.”

He reveals that engines are changed out according to fuel burn which, in the case of the Curley operation, is at 600,000 litres or around 600,000 km.

An engine has achieved good life at this point, he insists, especially under the harsh operating conditions of constant heavy loads and high ambient temperatures.

Empty stock crates create enormous wind drag, so engines are constantly working hard since most trips are 50 per cent unloaded. An empty livestock triple isn’t on the light side either, weighing in at over 60 tonnes.

Fitting new engines at the 600,000 km mark maintains reliability and ensures that maintenance costs don’t blow out.

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Curley Cattle Transport MD Steve Curley (left) with Mick Curley and Nathan Usher, Cummins automotive national accounts manager.

Running at peak performance.

Steve Curley also believes that maintaining engines to run at peak performance underpins both fuel economy and driver satisfaction. “We do engine tune-ups every season which is money well spent,” he states.

Maintenance intervals are strictly adhered to with the high engine load factors dictating oil change intervals of 14,000 km or 14,000 litres of fuel burned. “We over-service our equipment but that’s not a bad thing considering the conditions we operate in,” he says.

He has high regard for Cummins’ support. “There are issues at times, but you expect that,” he remarks. “It’s how you get over the issues that count.”

The demand for high standards of care during transport to ensure animal welfare and customer satisfaction is another critical aspect of livestock haulage, and it’s here that driver attitude plays a crucial role.

Thoughtful and quietly spoken, Dave Pringle is loading his Curley triple with young Brahman bulls when we catch up with him at Elrose Station, a renowned Brahman stud and commercial cattle enterprise 70 km south of Cloncurry. The right levels of commonsense and calmness are an obvious Pringle attribute, as are his pride in the job and the way he pilots the ISXe5-powered Kenworth T659.

The load of young Brahman bulls is valued at around $1 million by the owner of Elrose Station, Rodger Jefferis, who tells us he has a valued relationship with Curley – a relationship that started during the early days of Mick Curley’s cattle cartage business.

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Steve Curley with Cummins Cloncurry technician Hugh Westcott.

Striving for fuel economy.

Dave Pringle strives for the best possible fuel economy, and during a break at Elrose Station he flicks through the pages of a small notebook in which he has recorded all the fuel figures for the ISXe5 over its 85,000 km to date – figures that emphasise the severity of livestock haulage.

A recent loaded trip of 1100 km – 300 km of which were on dirt – shows consumption of 880 metres/litre at a gross weight of around 130 tonnes. Recent empty running shows consumption figures of 1.12 to 1.17 km/litre. He’s constantly looking at ways to improve economy. “If I can save 20 litres a trip or 140 litres a week, that amounts to big dollars over a season,” he insists.

He describes the ISXe5 as a “big step up” from the previous iterations of the 15-litre Cummins he has driven – Gen II and EGR. “It’s very good in slow, rough going when you can let it pull right back in the revs,” he states.

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Curley triple leaving Elrose Station with a load of young Brahman bulls valued at around $1 million.