Future bright for truck firm as emergency response vehicles roll out

A YEAR after laying off staff, SEM Fire and Rescue has rolled out a symbol of its turnaround with two new emergency response, six-wheel-drive Mercedes beasts to be sent to Papua New Guinea for Exxon. 

Back on a roll: Product manager Jon Julian and engineering manager Alex Heiden in front of one of the trucks to be sent to Papua New Guinea. PICTURE: JUSTIN WHITELOCK

Back on a roll: Product manager Jon Julian and engineering manager Alex Heiden in front of one of the trucks to be sent to Papua New Guinea. PICTURE: JUSTIN WHITELOCK

It comes during a strong period for the Wendouree-based company, which was recently commissioned to complete another 31 trucks for the Country Fire Authority, adding to the 107 already made in the last round of commissions. 

“We’re changing the factory around now so it will become more of a production line to get the CFA trucks done. We should finish one every four days,”  engineering manager Alex Heiden said. 

In comparison, the emergency trucks made for Exxon took much longer because they were one-off designs. 

Exxon has conducted final testing and SEM is waiting for the shipping order to send the vehicles to the LNG mine in PNG. Mr Heiden said the vehicles had been out on the roads once, and he was surprised that didn’t result in any accidents. 

“People were stopping and taking pictures, phones out. I’m glad no one actually crashed,” he said. 

SEM had made a big investment in research and development in the last year, Mr Heiden said. 

“R and D (spending) has gone from 0 to 100, really,” he said. SEM was in a perilous position when the CFA stopped an order last year, but it opened up to private clients and the CFA has come back to the company. 

“Our forward orders are going well, and we’re winning some tenders by being pro-active,”  SEM vehicle product manager Jon Julian said. “Government contracts are always going to be the mainstay. These projects are important, but on the side.” 

SEM employs 75 people at its factory, and Mr Julian said the company would always go local for components when possible. 

“We like to support local businesses by sourcing components locally, and it also helps our R and D because the turnaround’s much quicker,” he said. 

SEM and the CFA will celebrate the handover of the 100th truck next month.

alex.hamer@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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