Higher payloads lead to tri-axles drifting out of favour . Words and pictures by Torque It Up
As I stand well outside the tipping exclusion zone observing a quin-dog trailer unloading its cargo of ancient sand, thousands of years in the making, I’m struck by a statement that really puts the evolution of transport equipment used within the bulk aggregates sector into remarkably simple terms.
“That quin-dog trailer carries as much payload as the complete truck and tri-axle dog combination it replaced,” said Menai Haulage’s transport manager Kyle Bunning.
It is perhaps, just that simple. What was a completely viable and productive piece of equipment not so long ago could be rapidly facing extinction or at least retirement to lesser duties courtesy of regulatory changes to transport.
Truck and tri-axle dog trailer combinations have been used for a long time and made a lot of money for their owners, but with the emergence of quad-axle dog combinations and subsequent higher mass loadings available via the PBS scheme, the little tri-axles are fast becoming less favourable.
For Menai Haulage, formed as an offshoot of parent company Menai Civil in around 2005, monitoring changing legislation and industry practices has driven the company to pension off two of its four tri-axle trailers in favour of quin-dog trailers running on PBS.
“We had in our fleet six quad-axle truck and dog combinations, four tri-axle truck and dog combinations and a tip-over axle semi-trailer,” Kyle said.
“After some changes in our business structure and evaluation of our equipment utilisation, we decided that the tri-axle dogs were not as economically viable as they once were. Additionally, the work being done by our tri-axle units is for the most part able to be carried out by our quad-axle units with greater payloads.
“We have had quad-axle dogs for around five years now and I can count on one hand the amount of times we couldn’t access a site with a quad or were requested to send a tri-axle unit. After a lot of research and investigation into PBS regulations and routing available within the HML and CML networks, we opted to go with two quin-dog trailers to hitch to the back of the existing trucks we had pulling the tri-axle trailers.”
Not wanting to be left behind, Menai Civil believes higher productivity equipment is certainly the way of the future. Quarries are being pushed further away from the city and the subsequent need to transport products greater distances is heavily influencing equipment choices.
Kyle believes that the quin-dog combination in conjunction with the company’s existing fleet will help better service the client base and open up new opportunities.
Building on the company’s long-standing business relationship, Menai Haulage called upon Muscat Trailers to manufacture the new quin-dog trailers.
Muscat Trailers and Kenworth trucks have featured heavily in the building of the company’s success, from the early days of Menai Civil in 2002.
“The attention to detail and build-quality from Muscat’s, along with the after-sales service, is second to none,” said Kyle.
The new quin-dog trailers feature Hendrickson axles, WABCO EBS and ABS and George’s Canvas auto tarps. These two new trailers are the first for the Menai fleet to feature lift-up axles. The total length of the combinations measure 22-metres, negating the need for long-vehicle signs and increasing the available road network on which to operate.
The 19.5-tonne tare weight yields a payload of around 43.5-tonne at a gross weight of 63-tonne on the HML, Level 2A network.
“The 22-metre length gives us the flexibility if needed, to operate the trucks on the CML network and still realise payloads of around 40-tonne,” Kyle said.
With a strong focus on safety, Menai Haulage with the help of Muscat Trailers has incorporated some safety features not commonly seen.
The trailers have been fitted with tail-gate indicator lights which convey to the driver the status of the tail-gate lock from within the cab. The lights are on both sides of the trailers providing a clear view, regardless of which side the trailer has been kicked out.
Initially, the design of the switching was to have a pressure switch in the air line to indicate the tail-gate status, however Kyle said they were not convinced this would always offer a true indication of the lock-bar position. A more reliable design was engineered to have a plate welded to the lock bar which then operated a switch mechanically.
To further enhance safety, trucks are fitted with high-voltage detection systems which, when the PTO is engaged, will emit a visual and audible alarm inside the cab to alert the operator to the presence of power lines.
One of the new quin-dogs is fitted with rock lining to match the truck in front of it and provide greater scope of work and flexibility. The other is not rock-lined and is used on regular quarry runs, with greater payload, to Menai’s concrete plant customers. Both units have quicksilver lined floors to facilitate faster product discharge at lower bin heights, thus improving stability during unloading and reducing the chance of tip-over.
Kenworth T408 and 409 models dominate the Menai Haulage fleet, which Kyle attributes to the reliable build quality of the Kenworth product. “They’re just bullet proof,” he said.
Interestingly all the trucks feature 18-speed manual Roadranger transmissions. “We had some of the very early AutoShift transmissions some time ago which weren’t good, this is why our trucks are predominantly manuals. In the future we will possibly look towards Kenworth T610s with UltraShift Plus transmissions as they have come a long way and we have had good results from our K200s with them in other areas of our business.”
Netstar has been chosen by Menai Haulage to provide the certified telematics systems for the Intelligent access program (IAP) required by the RMS for HML accreditation and monitoring.
“We have had great support from our customers during our equipment upgrades. They are pleased with the extra product delivered with fewer truck visits and they are as keen as us to improve productivity and help us service them better, to the benefit of both parties. Our reciprocal partnership has only been strengthened during the COVID-19 outbreak, with our lines of communication open, the pandemic has taught us how we can work and support each other better,” Kyle said.
“We have been pushing harder than ever during this difficult time, keeping in contact with clients and maintaining relationships.”
Kyle said the company’s goal is to provide greater serviceability to its clients which is the reasoning behind the equipment upgrades. “To be able to provide the best possible service, you have to have the best gear to back it up.”
With this philosophy in mind, Kyle has not ruled out the company adopting Tridem trucks in the future. Although the extra payload advantages will need to be weighed up against the restrictions of having to stay on 26-metre HML routes, loaded or empty.
The future for Menai Haulage, according to Kyle, is to diversify and secure sustainable, all-weather work.
“We manage to keep our drivers busy most of the time but a couple of weeks of wet weather can really impact available work, so we will be focusing on that in the future,” he said.