Features & Interviews News Trailer Truck

Making space in the modern age

05 June 2014 #Features & Interviews #News #Trailer #Truck

Think for a moment about how light in weight modern flat screen televisions are compared with the hulking black-and-white-only behemoths that sat in the corners of the nation’s lounges half a century ago. Think too about how light individually all those thousands of packets of salty snacks that the nation continues to consume daily are; and never mind the health warnings.

From white goods to cheese and onion crisps, the majority of items that are regularly transported around the country in trucks weigh surprisingly little. As a consequence what matters to the majority of hauliers is the volume of space they have available in semi-trailers to accommodate them; not how many tonnes those semi-trailers can shift.

So how do you maximise the amount of space available? By operating double-deck semi-trailers if at all possible advises Richard Owens, Marketing Manager at Stoke-on-Trent based body and trailer manufacturer, Don-Bur.

“If you insert a second deck then you can carry up to 26 pallets both upstairs and downstairs depending on how the trailer is designed,” he says. “That’s 52 pallets in total.”

How you get the load on and off the upper deck is a cause for concern but with a curtainsider that is easy says Owens. You open the curtains as wide as possible and use a forklift.

With a box-bodied semi-trailer that becomes a little more problematic however and you may need to install a tail-lift or a lifting deck; in other words a second deck that can be powered up and down.

Safety concerns are leading to more and more curtainsider operators going the lifting deck route says Owens but it is an approach that is not without its drawbacks. Lifting decks make the trailer heavier and more expensive.

“They can increase the un-laden weight of a standard double-deck curtainsider which usually tips the scales at 10 to 10.5 tonnes to closer to 13 to 13.5 tonnes,” he points out. “The trailer’s price is likely to rise by £20,000.”

Owens insists however that such concerns have to be set in the context of the huge savings that can be made by businesses able to run double-decks. “If you do so you need fewer tractor units, trailers and drivers and as a consequence you can reduce your costs by anywhere from 30% to 50%,” he says.

Nor is there anything to stop you operating double-deck versions of the LSTs – Longer Semi Trailers – currently subject to a 10 year trial under the auspices of the Department for Transport (DfT) assuming you hold one of the 1,800 licences issued to operators that want to use them. The longer trailers are at 14.6m or 15.65m as opposed to a standard semi-trailer at 13.6m, and Don-Bur has built two batches of double-decks at the longer 15.65m length that can shift a whopping 60 pallets apiece.

While LSTs experience no serious difficulties running up and down motorways or going in and out of the RDCs – Regional Distribution Centres – run by the big retail chains, the longer ones can struggle to access and exit some hauliers yards says Owens. That can be the case even if an LST is fitted with self-steer or command-steer axles to aid manoeuvrability.

As a consequence a 13.6m double-deck may be the best option for firms that want to maximise cube while maintaining the manoeuvrability they require. Bear in mind that there is no legal limit on the height of trailers operated solely within the UK other than the practical one imposed by motorway bridges, meaning in effect that they can run at 4.8m.

Still owned by the Burton family, and best-known for its fuel-saving Teardrop aerodynamic trailers, with a £50m annual turnover Don-Bur is a British transport industry success story. Building some 2,500 to 3,000 trailers and bodies for rigid chassis a year and with 500 employees, it is now considering extending its plant in order to keep pace with orders.

Its willingness to do so is an indication of the confidence it has that the British economy will continue to expand for the foreseeable future. Another UK trailer maker that has just as much confidence is newly-formed Tiger Trailers of Winsford, Cheshire.

Set up by John and Steven Cartwright, two members of the trailer-building Cartwright family who have decided to branch out on their own – Cartwright Group is based in Altrincham, elsewhere in Cheshire – its product line-up will again be dominated by volume rather than payload capacity and is set to include double-deck LSTs.

“We’ve already received orders for trailers and the first ones will leave the factory in September,” says Sales Director, Darren Holland.

For businesses that haul coal, steel, glass, bricks and blocks, and aggregates however, payload is a much more important consideration than space. Every kilo counts so far as they are concerned and they seem to be fighting a losing battle.

Euro-6 plus all the safety equipment required by the construction companies among others is potentially adding up to half-a-tonne to the un-laden weight of an eight-wheeler tipper according to tipper builder Aliweld.

With a plant at Ryton, Newcastle upon Tyne, it is fighting back, with an alloy monocoque body for the Mercedes-Benz Arocs eight-wheeler that still allows 20 tonnes to be transported. Further weight savings may be difficult to achieve however it admits.

Nor can operators transporting heavy, dense, cargo take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by LSTs. When the DfT instituted the trial it did not increase gross weights above the 44 tonne maximum limit.

Tipper operators face a further problem, and that is the risk that their fully-laden vehicles will topple over if the body is elevated on uneven ground. As a consequence more and more of them are switching to moving floor trailers which, though heavier and more expensive than tipper trailers, can carry more bulk and may have payload advantages.

Paneltex Martrans, another British-based firm, has developed a new moving floor semi-trailer that, it says, can handle up to 40% more payload than an eight-wheeler tipper. Weighing 7.95 tonnes it can transport up to 28 tonnes and can be discharged in approximately four minutes.

“The payload gain means it can deliver a massive efficiency boost,” says Paneltex Managing Director, Chris Berridge.

Responsible businesses that move heavy cargo are always aware of the risk that they will overload their vehicles thereby courting prosecution for either a gross overload or for overloading individual axles. Such a prosecution will result in a fine on conviction, attract the (unwelcome) attention of the Traffic Commissioner and will affect the Operator Compliance Risk Score of the company concerned; the scoring system used by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency to target enforcement.

As a consequence many businesses consciously under-load their trucks, which means they run inefficiently.

To make this less likely, and ensure compliance with the law, some operators fit onboard weighing systems that alert the driver if permitted limits are being breached.

Pursuing another approach, Hanson Building Products has installed dynamic drive-over axle weighbridges sourced from Axtec at eight of its locations.

As part of the package Hanson has also taken the Axtec Fleet Management Programme, which stores the identity and axle and gross weight limits of every rigid, tractor unit and trailer in the company’s fleet.

A key feature of this system is the capture of data on the percentage utilisation of the payload capacity of each of the 55,000 vehicles weighed annually. It is held in the programme’s memory and is used to compile reports that enable Hanson to analyse fleet utilisation and make efficiency improvements; optimising payloads for instance or using different vehicle configurations.

It is an approach that brings environmental gains too says Hanson by improving the ratio of CO2 emissions per tonne of product delivered; yet another way in which the road transport industry is helping the environment.


Update Newsletter