The Volvo FMX is a heavy-duty truck which not many has seen on the road. This is because the FMX is practically a FM truck with some eXtra toughness built in. It is based on the Volvo FM prime mover, which is quite a common sight on the roads ferrying containers and loads, but made for a different environment.
Launched in 2010, the Volvo FMX was specially made to tackle challenging terrains such as remote construction sites, and muddy and hilly environments. Its robust nature and easy-to-change parts makes it suitable for demanding work and is considered a game-changer in the construction, mining, logging and agriculture sectors. Since the FMX is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year as a tough cookie, we decided to highlight a company which also has to stay tough in the face of the current challenging situation.
Air-Marine Cargo Agency Sdn Bhd was incorporated in 1980 and that makes it 40 years old this year. But birthdays aside, Air-Marine is also the owner of a fleet of FMX. In fact, it is one of the first companies in Malaysia to buy the FMX, in 2011. But first, some background on the company.
Air-Marine Cargo Agency is based in Sarawak and is one of the largest Malaysian-owned logistics solutions providers there. Over the years, it had developed into a regional leader in logistics services offering a comprehensive range of services such as customs brokerage, equipment rental, conventional & container haulage for bulk and break bulk cargo, warehousing, project cargo engineering & movement, heavy haulage and heavy lifting of Out Of Gauge (OOG) cargo, load-out and load-in of offshore structures.
The Air-Marine story started back in 1980 in the small fishing village of Bintulu. At the time, two major construction projects i.e. MLNG Satu (liquefied natural gas plant) and Bintulu deep sea port were happening. Air-Marine Cargo then was just a small partnership entity comprised of a few family members and a few employees largely undertaking Customs clearance and courier services.
The two major construction projects in Bintulu helped Air-Marine Cargo grow rapidly in the forwarding, transportation and equipment rental businesses. It was then that founder, Mr. William Chiew, decided to incorporate the partnership as Air-Marine Cargo Agency Sdn Bhd. By then, business had expanded as more commercial vehicles, cranes and logistics equipment were added to its fleet. This allowed the company to offer competitive prices to its clients in Bintulu as well as the neighbouring towns.
The company subsequently expanded into other services such as heavy lifting, haulage and engineered transportation of overweight & over-dimension project cargo (Out Of Gauge), weighing, ballasting, load-out and load-in of offshore structures & modules in the upstream oil and gas sector. Currently, its core business includes services like freight forwarding, customs clearance, equipment rental, heavylifting and other logistics services mentioned above.
The company bought its first fleet of Volvo trucks in 2004. And in 2011, it made its first purchase of the FMX trucks primarily for the transportation of bulk cement tankers, haulage of construction materials, heavy & bulky construction equipment and machinery for the Bakun & Murum hydroelectric dam projects. In all, the company owns 91 Volvo trucks with the FMX making up 29 of them. Air-Marine Cargo has experience with other brands too but decided the Volvos suited its needs after experiencing firsthand the performance of Volvo prime movers under harsh road conditions in the Bakun dam project.
According to Mr. Robert Chiew, Executive Director of Air-Marine Cargo Agency, the Volvo prime movers are durable, and have low cost per kilometer (CPK) and higher uptime. The company had worked together with Volvo Malaysia to ensure the suitability of its trucks for the challenging Bakun and Murum projects.
The Volvo FMX offered safety and durability, which inspired confidence as well as ensured productivity. The company benefitted from the FMX’s engine braking system, fuel efficiency for better mileage, and better torque delivery for greater climbing power when negotiating steep terrain. These features were very useful to the company for off-road usage. The toughness and heavy duty specification of the Volvo FMX also meant it could withstand these challenging circumstances.
As an example, Robert had highlighted that the trail leading to the Murum project site was unpaved compacted earth. This 80 km stretch of basically a logging track follows the contours of the mountainous terrain and turns either slippery or dusty depending on the weather. In the rainy season, it could take days to reach the work site. As such, the company decided on the use of FM and FMX trucks which are tough, safe, durable and reliable for these treacherous conditions.
As a testament to the durability of Volvo trucks, Air-Marine Cargo Agency is still operating trucks it had purchased as far back as 2004, despite all the punishment the trucks endured. The company attributes this to having a strict discipline of routine servicing and maintenance. The company had signed up for a maintenance contract with Volvo Malaysia for periodic service maintenance to keep these trucks in good running condition. With investment into routine maintenance, it is benefitting from the higher return on investment on its trucks since it is able to keep them operating and generating revenue.
But as we are aware, revenue is hard to come by these days due to the current health and economic situation. Air-Marine Cargo will have to remain resilient and ride it out like the FMX rides the mountains and valleys. The company is of the view that the most important criteria for a business to have are prudent asset investment & management, an employee-centric culture, and healthy customer relationships. The company has traversed 40 years of ups and downs, and will probably go on for more.
For when the going gets tough, the tough get going. So till things start to brighten up, we need to continue doing our part in the local economic cycle, reinventing and innovating if we have to.