ICE CUBE | TRAILER REVIEW – Vawdrey Iceliner improves thermal efficiency while reducing weight

Changes to the Vawdrey Iceliner improve thermal efficiency while reducing weight

  When you consider the size of the Australian transport industry, and the limited scope for sales of new equipment, it is surprising to see the number of manufacturers offering products to the market.

In terms of trailers, the number of manufacturers fighting for market share has grown dramatically over the last ten years, with long-established manufacturers now battling against industry newcomers from both here in Australia and particularly from abroad. This competition not only provides potential buyers with the power of choice, but also leads to manufacturers improving their offerings in order to keep ahead of the market. While some segments of the market are flooded with options, there are a few where more specialised equipment is needed, meaning that the choice of manufacturers is sometimes limited. In these industries, quality is often more important than the price tag, and refrigerated trailers provide a perfect example of this.

Vawdrey Australia is a very well-known name among the Australian transport industry, having been in the trailer building game since 1974. Offering a variety of different trailer designs and combinations, Vawdrey has built a reputation among both small and large fleet operators for the quality and durability of its product. Still owned and run by the Vawdrey family, the company now produces all manner of trailing equipment, including the recently updated Iceliner freezer vans.

While Vawdrey may not be the first name that springs to mind when you think of refrigerated trailers, the company has been producing the Iceliner since 2006.

As Justin Simmonds, national sales manager for Vawdrey Australia explained, “I think last year we built about 180, and overall it’s important as part of our mix”.

The list of companies that have taken delivery of Iceliner vans is many and varied, with quite a few well-known refrigerated fleets putting their trust in the Vawdrey product. Many of the recent units have been PBS approved 26 and 28-pallet quad axle units, produced alongside more standard single trailer and B-double combinations.

The recent appointment of Robert Eppel in the role of national refrigerated equipment manager has seen a lot of work going on beneath the surface to improve the Iceliner product. With a long history in the field of refrigerated transport, Robert brought with him a lot of experience in the design and manufacture of refrigerated bodies, and set about finding areas of the Iceliner that could be honed to provide benefits in efficiency and tare weight.

“We wanted to pull some tare weight out of our freezers, and just take it to the next level,” said Justin. “Robert has refined the processes and upgraded materials, and tweaked all these little areas to take it where we want to take it”.

In Robert’s own words, “We’ve made more changes (to the Iceliner) in the last eight months than there have been in the last ten years.

“We took weight out of areas that weren’t important, and reinforced other areas that are more important, like the skid plate,” he said. “We took a lot of weight out of the front wall, because it was over-engineered. Some parts were over-engineered, other parts were probably under-engineered, so we took whatever was over-engineered, took a lot of weight out of that and put it in the right places”.

Even with the work that has happened to strengthen the weaker points, a standard 22-pallet B-trailer still comes in at under 10 tonnes tare weight with a full-length chassis.

“We also changed the aluminium rails along the top and bottom of the trailer, we’ve changed the side walls and floors, and we’ve changed the scuff bands along the bottom between the floor and the walls,” Robert said. The walls themselves have also come in for attention, and, as Robert explained, “The thickness is still the same, it can only be so thick, but we’ve changed the way we make them and what’s inside the walls. This not only provides benefits in thermal efficiency, but also makes them stronger and easier to assemble.”

The assembly of the insulated walls is carried out on-site at the Vawdrey factory in Dandenong, using products imported from Italy and the UK. A new three-part adhesive system, the first of its kind in Australia, provides a better bond and reduced production times, without sacrificing long-term longevity. Assembling these panels on-site also means they can be made to measure.

Things have also changed under the floor, with a new manufacturing technique resulting in better insulation, improved strength and reduced weight. As mentioned earlier, all Iceliners are built with a full-length chassis, to maintain strength and structural integrity over the life of the trailer.

“We’re firm believers in strength, reliability and durability, so all of our freezers are still built on a full chassis,” Justin said. “It offers that long-term, robust performance”.

Suspension and axle selection is left to the buyer, with Justin saying, “We’ll fit BPW, Hendrickson, whatever the customer wants, including drum or disc brakes”.

In the April issue of PowerTorque, we reported on Queensland-based company SuperCool Asia Pacific that conducts the validation and testing of refrigerated vehicle bodies. This test procedure relates to the validation of thermal efficiency in fridge and freezer vans, and its effects on both refrigeration efficiency and product integrity. The level of thermal efficiency is measured by a “K-Factor” rating after testing and validation.

With the latest version of the Iceliner on display at the Brisbane Truck Show, as soon as the show was over it’s next appointment was to head straight for the test laboratory of SuperCool for its final K-Factor validation.

“We have a K value worked out by formula, but we’re going to get the actual K value on that trailer,” said Robert.

Having the testing done by an independent company such as SuperCool, with all the right equipment, will enable Vawdrey to advertise the thermal efficiency of its vans. This is something that not many manufacturers currently make public, and it is important to note that the K-Factor can change as the result of any alteration in trailer design, such as when increasing capacity from 22 to 24 pallets.

It would seem that Vawdrey has left nothing to chance in the redevelopment of the Iceliner. By employing a long-time industry expert to lead the way, the improvements on the Iceliner have been many and varied without any cost in terms of tare weight or performance. Given that the entire trailer is manufactured on-site, aside from suspension components, the quality control is easily managed, resulting in high-quality finish and traceability should any concerns be raised.

The fact that Vawdrey is going through the process of K-value testing also demonstrates just how serious it is about proving the virtues of the Iceliner, and providing its customers with a top-quality product.

With the ability to manufacture one new unit out of the factory on each working day, the Vawdrey Iceliner also offers purchasers the convenience of reduced lead time between order and delivery. As the latest Iceliner establishes its credentials for improved thermal efficiency and a lower tare weight, it will be interesting to see how the company’s competitors steps up to the challenge to match these latest gains in efficiency and productivity.

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