An essential part of Banks Mining business is Banks Transport’s based at the Thrislington depot in County Durham which operates a fleet of 13 articulated heavy goods vehicles (HGV) tipper trucks and a low loader. I wanted to understand a bit more about how the Banks Transport works so I joined Ian Raine who, with 35 years employment with Banks, is one of our most experienced and longest serving HGV drivers on a delivery of coal from our Shotton surface mine to the rail loading facility at Battleship Wharf at the Port of Blyth.
Banks HGVs are a familiar site on the roads of the North East with a distinctive yellow and blue livery on the cab and a blue trailer with our most important messages “Development with Care” and “Delivering with Care” written on the side. The HGVs have become part of the ‘public face’ of Banks over the years so it is important that they are driven safely and courteously. I got in the cab and met Ian, who is responsible for transporting coal from Banks surface mines to our customers across the North East and beyond. Ian explained that on this ‘run’, we were taking 0-50mm coal to the Port of Blyth. This product is used for raw steel manufacture and is an important industrial mineral supply for UK industry, particularly with the expected development of infrastructure in the UK after 2020.
Banks Transport use Volvo wagons with newly developed technology to increase safety, fuel efficiency and driver comfort. Ian explained to me that the trucks weigh 15 tonnes, but with a load of coal they can weigh up to 44 tonnes. As the coal was being loaded, it was carefully dropped into the trailer by the loading shovel operator and the automatic sheeting system ensured that the loaded trailer was fully covered. The automatic sheeting system has been fitted to all the Banks Transport tipper trailers. This means that sheeting loads is quicker and safer than old systems where the driver was required to manually cover the loaded trailers with a tarpaulin. After the coal was loaded, the HGV is driven through a wheel wash, which ensures our wagons do not take any mud or debris out onto the public roads. The wagon then drives onto the weighbridge, where a summary sheet is given to the driver, with data including the tare weight, total weight and the type of product. Also, the wagon has a sign in the cab window with the name of the product, just to ensure the correct product is loaded into the wagon.
Pictured above: Steve Simmons, receiving his data sheet on his way out of Shotton, from Kevin Scott on the weighbridge
Ian and our other drivers are specially trained to drive economically – increasing miles per gallon and decreasing fuel consumption, to ensure we maximise our efficiency and reduce emissions. Ian explained the feature where taking pressure off the accelerator automatically sends the wagon into a fuel saving gear, which is important on flat roads. The key to efficient driving in an HGV is similar to a car; being gentle with both the accelerator and brakes, anticipating traffic and avoiding high speeds. Reducing our fuel consumption has been a key area of focus in the last few years and we are committed to keeping our fuel consumption as low as possible. We use some of the most efficient trucks, as well as tracking all journeys using ‘Dynafleet’. Dynafleet is fitted to all our trucks and produces a report on all the journeys made by our HGVs. Using these reports that include driving characteristics, routes driven, emissions and fuel consumption, we can tailor our approach to reducing our emissions. Because Dynafleet is controlled by driving style, it acts as an incentive for our drivers to increase their efficiency, which can lead to savings of £150 of fuel per week. Dynafleet is another example of Banks using technology to be proactive in increasing efficiency. In the past few years, Banks Transport has used technology and training to reduce fuel consumption by 20% and we will look to increase this even further in the coming years as part of our resource efficiency programme. Weather and road conditions can influence fuel economy especially during windy and wet conditions which effect aero-dynamics and road friction, which is why we always hope for warm and dry conditions for optimum economical driving.
In recent years, safety has been hugely increased by the addition of new technology to Banks Transport’s fleet of HGVs. For example Banks Transport’s vehicle I was a passenger in was a 2018 Volvo FM11 fitted with an array of safety features: These included automatic emergency brakes; audio visual alarms to warn the driver if s/he strays into a different lane and side cameras fitted for checking the sides of the vehicle are clear when the driver indicates and wants to change lanes or make a turn at a junction.
When we arrived at the Port, we unloaded the coal from the trailer into the stockpiles for that product and we were off again within minutes. This product was to be transported via rail to one of our largest customers in the steel industry. Without coal, the steel industry would not function at all. Steel is a huge part of technology and infrastructure, and so is an essential material for development. Ian told me that drivers do up to 10 runs a day to various customers and explained the importance of making deliveries safely and reliably and providing a consistent high standard of service to our customers.
Pictured above: One of our wagons arrives at Port of Blyth
Banks also own a heavy haulage tractor, again tracked by Dynafleet and used to transport items of plant equipment up to 40 tonnes from our sites to manufacturers using a step frame trailer. The tractor can work externally for other plant companies when not being used by Banks, for example, the low loading tractor has transported military equipment in the past, another way we have diversified our business.
Being in the HGV and seeing the runs it does was a great opportunity for me, and I’m really impressed by the work of everyone in Banks Transport, which is an essential part of our operations. The Banks Transport fleet provides a reliable link between the Banks surface mines and our industrial customers. The drivers and transport staff are dedicated to their job of delivering the product in a safe, responsible and efficient way.
By Harry McCabe, earth science placement student, one of The Banks Group bloggers