New tankers and base for Fonterra

TIM CRONSHAW
Last updated 10:51 16/11/2012

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Darfield driver Rowly Stewart has clocked the equivalent of a trip to the Moon while driving a milk tanker the last six years for dairy giant Fonterra.

The lunar distance washes over easily for Stewart who does 500 kilometres a day in a tanker - about 400,000km since he began driving for the farmer-owned co-operative.

Stewart says he rarely tires of driving and the tanker team often address themselves as "paid tourists".

"I guess it's just the life of a truck driver. The office view changes every day so we get the good and the ugly from beautiful sunrises and sunsets to rain, hail and snow. There is plenty of variety."

Darfield has become his home base since stage one of Fonterra's $500 million new two-stage site became operational.

Stewart has exchanged his older Scania model for one of 12 new Volvos, more fuel efficient with lower running costs, to be based at Darfield with Fonterra setting aside $30m for 79 new tankers nationally in August.

"They seem to be getting easier and easier to drive, not like the old days of crunching gearboxes. It's not the old jandals and shorts job any more."

A tanker can hold about 25,000 litres of milk and can drop its load off at the Darfield site within 10 minutes.

Drivers are routinely expected to log into home base regularly, and a monitoring system ensures they drive safely and efficiently, and provides daily and monthly feedback on their performance. Technology spaces out drivers evenly to avoid bottlenecks, knows the milk needs of each plant and optimises milk collection at farms.

Stewart says drivers take pride in their driving performance and have personal competitions to see who has the highest score.

Some central Canterbury drivers have over 20 years experience and have notched up more than one million kilometres on the road.

National transport and logistics manager Barry McColl said the co-operative upgraded the 500-strong fleet because of the vast kilometres they did - about 1.6 million kilometres - on the road.

Most of the older tankers will be sold for less intensive use and dismantled for parts or go to rural fire services.

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