Amid Scottish pomp and ceremony, the Rokbak articulated hauler range has been launched for the extractive industries worldwide. As Paul Douglas tells Quarry, the revamped product is underpinned by a rich and proud Scottish history of resilience and perseverance – qualities that will drive its future.
The city of Motherwell lies between Glasgow and Edinburgh, in Scotland’s south. The city is famously the closest the Roman Empire ever came to occupying the Scottish homeland and its name derives from a well – the Lady Well, which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Motherwell was an agrarian community until the mid-19th century when it became part of the Industrial Revolution. From 1848, when the railway was introduced, to the 1930s, Motherwell was a hub for iron and steel works and a producer of munitions and components for trams, railways and bridges. Motherwell’s steel industry was nationalised in the 1950s and at one time was producing three million tonnes of steel per year. By the 1970s, more than 13,000 people were employed in the steel works.
Motherwell also became renowned for its automotive works, producing cars, trucks and buses. A British national steel strike lead to the decline and eventual closure of most of Motherwell’s automotive works in the 1980s and in 1996 the city’s steel works closed, bringing to an end almost 400 years of Scottish iron production. Motherwell and the neighbouring town Wishaw are today homes to a thriving service-driven economy.
However, amid the industrial gloom of the late 20th century, an automotive stalwart survived Motherwell’s overhaul and continues to thrive today.
In 1950, Euclid Great Britain, a subsidiary of US earthmoving equipment manufacturer Euclid of Ohio, had opened the doors to an off-highway truck manufacturing plant in Motherwell.
In just four years, Euclid’s Motherwell factory constructed more than 1000 off-highway trucks and continued to grow. By 1968 Euclid’s earthmoving division had rebranded itself to Terex and by 1982 Motherwell engineers had designed, tested and manufactured Terex’s first ever model 3204 articulated dump truck (ADT). Terex Trucks (as it would become more popularly known) launched its renowned TA (articulated) range in 1998 and 10 generations of this ADT, fitted with Scania engines, have been distributed around the world, including Australia.
In 2014, Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE), which was eager to obtain rigid hauler expertise, bought Terex Trucks, setting up the former Terex brand for an exciting new era – and continuing the Motherwell factory’s fascinating story. Since April 2018, the Motherwell factory has been producing Volvo CE’s rigid hauler product line (with Terex Trucks’ former rigid hauler products being integrated into the new Volvo CE line). In early September, Terex Trucks and the factory were rebranded under the new moniker of Rokbak.
REBRANDING AN ICON
Paul Douglas, the managing director of Rokbak, is a Motherwell native who has very fond memories of the former Euclid/Terex manufacturing facility. “I was born five kilometres from the Motherwell factory,” he told Quarry. “I started my career in this industry 35 years ago in the factory. My parents still called it the Euclid plant for a long, long time, and over that journey, it’s been a fantastic employer. You’re talking tens of thousands of people who have worked here.”
Douglas gained plenty of experience working inside and outside of Motherwell. He has worked across the off-highway plant and equipment market for the whole of his 35-year career. “I spent 16 years with Komatsu, then with Terex Trucks and now with Rokbak,” he said. “I’ve had other roles in manufacturing and production planning, and the aftermarket segment. I ran the aftermarkets division of Terex for a couple of years, and then in 2005, I came back into the trucks business at a senior management level. I’ve spent 11 years running the business. I have a long association with the team, and the off-highway industry.”
He said the acquisition of the old Terex Trucks business by Volvo CE marked a huge opportunity for the division and also a new lease of life for the Motherwell factory. “We came out with an owner that was prepared to invest in the people and the products,” he said. “That was the start of the journey to the Rokbak rebrand. Volvo CE allowed us to make major improvements in every part of our business. Millions of pounds have been invested in improving our products, modernising our facilities, expanding our network, and developing our people. It has been a process of continual evolution.”
Douglas said the Rokbak trucks will have an important part in the Volvo Group of companies’ overall ambition to reduce the total emissions of Volvo products by 35 to 45 per cent by 2030 and achieve zero emissions by 2040. Further, Rokbak’s Motherwell factory now gets all its electricity from 100 per cent renewable energy sources and is following a science-based path to reduce carbon emissions in its manufacturing processes.
Douglas said that upon acquiring the former Terex Trucks division, Volvo CE was careful not to rush into a major branding overhaul. “Volvo took a long look at where the business was at,” he said. “It didn’t want to destabilise the company or make many sudden changes too soon. It assessed what had to be done to make the company safe and stable, and best utilise its personnel. When we were carved out of the Terex Corporation, there were certain functional gaps because the resources we used were part of the greater Terex company, and they didn’t come across with us. We had to add resources in the sales and the marketing area, and it was about ensuring that we had the right people and the expertise. Part of the acquisition was also looking at the product agenda. What was the multi-generation roadmap? It was also important that our dealer network wasn’t destabilised. In the first three years, dialogue had started with the dealers about rebranding the product.”
Douglas said that work on the rebrand escalated in 2018. “The development of a new brand is exciting, and what surprised me was that Volvo had never previously created a completely new brand from scratch,” he said. “I had no idea how extensive a rebranding exercise would be. There’s many financial and legal dimensions. It’s a huge project and it took more than two years. From late 2018 and into 2019, we started to knuckle down and decide what the new name was going to be.
“We had a long list of 52 names and, with a lot of great work, whittled that down to a shortlist of three. We had to make sure the name would translate safely into other languages. Rokbak came out of that work as the strongest. It’s a great name, it really pops out, particularly the way it appears on the truck. It’s a clean brand name, it’s not being used elsewhere in the world. In the test forums Rokbak resonated with some of the dealers and their customers. It conveyed the impression of the product of being ‘rock solid’.”
While the name is a departure from the usual Terex Trucks and Volvo CE labels, it should not be construed that the Rokbak products are radical departures from the 28-tonne payload TA300 and 38-tonne payload TA400 articulated haulers. In line with the new branding, these haulers have now been recast as the RA30 and the RA40 respectively, complete with new shades and livery – a sand colour, compared to the white of the old TA trucks.
The RA30 has a heaped capacity of 17.5m3, is powered by a Scania DC9 engine with gross power of 276kW and its maximum torque is 1880Nm at 1400 revolutions per minute (rpm). The RA40 is powered by a 331kW Scania DC13 engine, its maximum torque is 2225Nm at 1300 rpm and it has a heaped capacity of 23m3.
Both vehicles feature fully automatic transmissions with manual over-rides and retarders and heavy-duty axles with fully floating axle shafts and outboard planetary reduction gearing. The RA30 is equipped with eight forward gears and four reverse gears, ranging from five kilometres per hour (km/h) to 55km/h, while the RA40 has six low and high speed forward and reverse gears, from 6km/h to a maximum 64km/h. The three axles are in permanent all-wheel drive (6×6) with a differential coupling between the front and rear axles. All hydraulic braking systems are fitted with multiplate-sealed and oil-cooled brake packs at each wheel, with independent circuits for front and rear brake systems.
Douglas described the RA30 and the RA40 as more “model upgrades” on their predecessors than a complete revamp. “We’ve done transmission changes on the 28-tonne and 38-tonne models. There were changes in the cooling and exhaust systems that will comply with Tier 2 and Tier 4 emissions systems. We’ve updated the Haul Track telematics system and the on-board weighing systems.
“These are soft packages,” he stressed. “They are not new trucks but they are model upgrades. There will be major upgrades in the future.”
The new transmissions and engines are expected to make this latest generation of trucks up to seven per cent more fuel-efficient. Douglas said the incremental changes made to the trucks are designed to address the costs of ownership and were adopted in response to customer feedback about the old Terex Trucks brand.
“Most of the improvements are driven in fuel efficiency – by about five per cent – on the RA30,” he explained. “The EU Stage V engines offer another three per cent fuel efficiency for European customers. The customers want lower fuel costs, more efficient machines. For the telematics system, the customers requested more connectivity and wanted information sent to their central systems more easily, so we had to integrate the on-board weighing and the telematics systems.
“There have also been some refinements to the cab. The operators are now having more of an influence in the product purchase because they’re the ones who know the vehicles inside-out. It’s about providing comfort and well-being for the operators that are working in them for up to 10 hours a day. There was also a request that the product be kept simple in its operation and maintenance.”
Given there is already a quite competitive global market for articulated haulers, including from Volvo CE’s own popular ADT range, Douglas concedes the customer is very spoiled for choice. However, he believes Rokbak has numerous upsides as well.
“We have a strong focus on uptime and a low cost of ownership,” he said. “Under the Volvo Group we have invested substantially in both our products and the manufacturing process. Our focus is always on ensuring we deliver the highest quality.
“Another factor to consider is that we only build articulated haulers and we have a small range. So what we do, we do very, very well. We also put a lot of focus on relationships, and we are always there to support customers and dealers.”
This support will extend to the owners of legacy Terex Trucks, which will be supported by Rokbak’s dealer network. Even if the truck owners do not automatically upgrade their vehicles, they will continue to be valued members of the Rokbak “family”.
“Most parts will be interchangeable,” Douglas explained. “When you introduce a new model, there will always be some crossover between the old and new. We’ve opened a spare parts hub in America, so along with the Motherwell factory and our dealer network, there will be several main logistics hubs that we will use for parts support.”
The first generation Rokbak haulers introduced to Australia will feature Tier 2 engines as standard, in compliance with Australian diesel fuel regulations for non-road vehicles. However, customers will also have a choice of US EPA Tier 4F or EU Stage V engines. Porter Group, which has been the distributor of the Terex Trucks articulated haulers since 2017, will represent Rokbak in Australia and New Zealand.
“We have a very collaborative relationship with our dealers and from about 12 months before the brand launch we were consulting with a number of them in select markets,” Douglas said. “We asked Porter and others for their perceptions and feelings around the new brand, and it helped guide our thinking through the process.
“We don’t have a huge number of dealers in the Asia-Pacific region, so I’m optimistic we’ll get great coverage from Porter. Their feedback has been excellent.”
As part of the virtual brand launch program in September, Porter Group’s Australian national sales manager Michael Carter said in a message to Rokbak’s customers, dealers and personnel that Porter had enjoyed growth with the old Terex Trucks brand and was looking forward to building on that experience with Rokbak.
“Since our appointment, we’ve introduced a lot of our customers to the product,” Carter said. “We’ve sold machines throughout Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, into a range of segments, including quarrying and mining, as well as recycling. Our general feedback on the trucks is that they are a very well built, reliable product, with tonnes of power.
“Porter Group has invested significant amounts of money and time in training of our staff, including sales, service and parts departments. We’ve also put a lot of parts on our shelves to keep our trucks going for our customers. The result of this is improved sales and in fact year on year our market share has doubled. At present, we have trades from many of our competitors including Komatsu, Volvo, Bell and Moxy, as well as Terex. This shows that we are making significant inroads.
“The Porter Group has also invested in the product through its hire department,” Carter continued. “Between Australia and New Zealand there are over 50 trucks being hired at the moment and they comprise both TA300s and TA400s.
“The Terex brand had a reasonably chequered history in Australia prior to our appointment and because of that we are excited for the change of brand and we are looking forward to the future with Rokbak,” Carter concluded.
RETURN TO MOTHERWELL
Douglas said that a key factor for Rokbak in growing its business worldwide is to build a stronger dealer network in the markets where sales have not been quite as favourable. “We are very strong in some markets – including North America and New Zealand – but in other markets we definitely see opportunities for improvement. This was actually part of our thinking with the new brand.
“We are ambitious in our goals and want to grow, so we’re targeting increased market share as we move forward. Our investment in our products will continue too, as that will be a crucial part of helping us achieve our ambitions.”
Douglas said he would like Rokbak and Porter to work more closely to engage the interest of Australasian customers in the new Rokbak haulers in the future. However, the global pandemic of the past two years has been a source of frustration for the company, with many events and promotions in the final quarter of 2021 having to be postponed or cancelled. Douglas expressed his hope that some of these events and promotions may be rescheduled for 2022, and that even customer tours of the Motherwell factory might resume again.
“We have started to make preparations for the factory to start receiving visitors again,” he said. “When those visits resume, then we would love to bring the Porter customers to the factory and show off our passion that the Rokbak products are being made.”
It would not only be a celebration of the achievements of the almost timeless Motherwell factory over a period spanning more than 70 years but a glimpse into an exciting future for the Rokbak business. Much like the town that spawned it – and the robust products that it produces – Rokbak is proving to be an example of Scottish endurance, resilience and ingenuity in an era of global disruption and uncertainty. There are plenty of companies and nations that can draw inspiration from Rokbak’s and Motherwell’s examples.•
To learn more about the Rokbak brand, visit rokbak.com
For more information about Porter Group, visit porterce.com.au
This article appears in the November issue of Quarry Magazine.