Krueger Trailers proves that being Australian owned has a great future – Words by Brenton O’Connor
There are many commentators that consistently decry Australian design and manufacturing, but for the transport industry there’s nothing better than dealing with people that know our roads and systems and produce equipment that outlives expectations.
Following our recent stories on the Volvo Group local production in Wacol, Queensland, and PACCAR (Kenworth & DAF) production in Bayswater, Victoria, TrailerTorque visited another company manufacturing high-quality products for the transport industry right here in Australia. One key difference being that the products built by Krueger are both 100 percent Australian designed and owned, with the Krueger family still in full ownership of the business.
John Krueger established Krueger trailers back in 1976 when he built his first trailer for his own transport operation. From humble beginnings 42 years ago, Krueger has now grown into a major player in the construction of trailers from its base in Laverton, Victoria, and distributing its products across the country.
The Krueger business is still fully owned by John Krueger and his family, and John is still involved in the business on a fulltime basis, along with his four children, each of whom is involved in the day-to-day operations.
Continuing expansion resulted in Grant Douglas joining the company in the role of general manager to oversee all operations and divisions of the business. This enabled John to focus on his real passion, which is research and development and the continuous innovation of his product.
Grant has been with Krueger for two years and joined the company from a diverse background in finance and the transportation industry. Grant’s skill sets were gained from his management of large profile transport companies and provided him with the ideal background to come to the manufacturing/supply side of the transport business, where he has gained a unique understanding of the needs and wants of transport operators.
Krueger’s range of trailing equipment covers a broad variety of configurations; however, the main product lines produced are flat-tops, drop-decks, Kurtainers (Krueger talk for curtainsiders), container skels and fridge vans, with dry vans due to be released in the near future.
In addition to the trailers produced locally, Krueger has a relationship with European trailer manufacturer Schmitz Cargobull, whereby it assembles Schmitz fridge vans supplied in kit form from Europe that are mounted to locally designed Krueger chassis. This is particularly useful for B-double applications, given Europe doesn’t produce what we in Australia refer to as an A-trailer.
The spike in sales in the transport industry over this current year of 2018, and last year, 2017, has seen Krueger increase production strongly, with production doubling in the past two years. The factory, located a few kilometres further down Boundary Road, Laverton, from the head office, has increased its production to 1.5 shifts per day in order to keep up with demand. Head office includes administration and general management staff, spare parts, and the workshops for the repairs and refurbishment of trailers. The factory further down Boundary Road includes office space as well as the main production facility for Krueger trailers.
Grant Douglas provides many reasons he feels are the impetus behind the large-scale increase in demand for both trucks and trailers in recent years, linked to the huge infrastructure projects underway in our capital cities. For example, in Melbourne the Westgate Tunnel and the new city loop for the metropolitan train network.
In Sydney, projects such as the light trail and WestConnex, plus expansion to many of the arterial roads and the large-scale government projects due for commencement including Snowy Hydro 2.0, Badgerys Creek Airport and the in-land rail have generated a level of activity not seen by governments for many years.
Further examples of growth stem from the upgrading of aged equipment, given Australia’s average fleet age, particularly for trailers, is much higher than the rest of the developed world. Fleet replacement activity is also benefiting from low interest rates, making investment in new equipment more attractive for owner/operators and large-scale fleets.
In addition to its new trailer manufacturing business, Krueger operates workshops capable of repair and full refurbishment of all trailers, not just those wearing the Krueger name. Grant is proud to explain that customers with any brand of trailer are welcome into their workshops and are treated with the same level of service as a Krueger trailer customer.
Krueger also operates a rental trailer division called Advantage Trailer Rentals, where customers are able to hire trailers for both short-term loans as well as extended loans to cover breakdowns, spikes in workload or for short contract periods. This rental business helps supplement Krueger’s other division – that of used trailers – as it provides a steady supply of good quality, low kilometre, and late year model used trailers into its used trailer business.
The manufacturing process at Krueger Trailers is unique in the way it builds its products in a static position on the shop floor, rather than on a moving production line. Components are assembled in a jig that is able to rotate to facilitate all the various positions required for 100 percent welding efficiency, together with simplifying the fitment of the suspension and axle systems. The use of the jig system is superior to other options such as the use of string lines to keep all components in correct symmetry during the welding process.
After initial assembly, the trailer is sandblasted and then painted in the customer’s colour scheme, before moving to the fitout bay where airlines, electrical systems, mud flaps and tyres are fitted to complete the trailer prior to customer delivery.
Build specifications can be customised to individual preferences and requirements to include specific componentry, especially with axle and suspension equipment. Standard axles are K-Hitch, with available alternatives such as Hendrickson, SAF and BPW.
Grant explained the unique nature of Australian customers, most of whom require very specific and individual equipment. As such, it’s rare to ever get two trailers the same, with each customer highlighting different needs and priorities including the choice of axles and suspensions, heights, lengths, fridge motor choice, airbag or spring suspension, disc or drum brakes and EBS or ABS braking systems. When queried on the take-up of ABS/EBS since it was made mandatory on all new trailers, Grant stated that the far majority opt for EBS arrangements; however, the build preference is still split evenly when specifying disc or drum brakes.
Krueger has developed a unique feature in conjunction with Hendrickson EBS with the automatic lowering/raising of axles dependent upon load weight, which is particularly relevant for the container industry. For example, if a B-double skel delivers a 20’ and a 40’ container, at maximum weights to the wharf, all axles are automatically lowered onto the ground. When a skel is loaded with two empty boxes, the EBS system will automatically lift up two axles on each tri group, enabling the combination to be driven with just one axle of each tri group, which reduces fuel use through reduced drag and tyre wear.
Grant believes this availability of uniquely tailored transport solutions through the use of Australian designed and built trailers will remain the preferred choice, especially when compared to fully imported trailers where, typically, one size fits all. Furthermore, Grant believes Australian built product has a distinct advantage in the construction and strength required to carry heavier loads, over worse roads and longer distances – often being kept for longer periods of times than normal in other fleet markets.