Moving cattle between livestock crates has been fraught with danger. PowerTorque reports on how Rytrans Manufacturing is making that task a lot safer.
Livestock transport is not a glamourous game. Chasing stock up and down narrow ramps, at all hours of the day or night, and in any weather, is not a job that everyone would enjoy. It takes a certain type of person to not only drive trucks, but also look after the well-being of the stock in transit. Driving trucks is dangerous enough in itself, but the unpredictability of livestock, and the slippery working conditions, mean a livestock carrier is more likely to come to grief during the loading, unloading or cross-loading process.
Cross loading, in basic terms, is the job of moving a load of stock from one truck to another. To achieve this, the trucks are usually parked up very close together, and the cattle or sheep walked across from one to the other. The most common reason for cross loading is to transfer stock from road trains and B-triples onto smaller combinations, in order to do deliveries into those areas where the larger combinations either aren’t allowed to go, or simply will not fit. In recent times, cross-loading platforms have become popular, offering a more stable platform for the stock to cross, and allowing a driver to be out of harm’s way.
Rytrans Manufacturing in Toowoomba has come up with its own cross loading platform design, designed with the stock and the stockmen in mind. As Ashley Daley, director of Rytrans explained, “We were approached by Peter Rodney, from Rodney’s Transport, to build the first one, because he was looking for an alternative for his company,” he said. “We talked to the users, and came up with our design.”
The Rytrans cross-loading platform incorporates many features to make the task of cross loading not only safer, but easier. The platform is designed to allow both top and bottom decks to be transferred without needing to adjust ramps or floors, and provides a solid platform either side for the driver to access the walkway along the top of the trailer.
All ladders have full-length handrails, and the driver’s working area is also protected by railings and inward swinging access gates to prevent falls. Sliding gates on the stock crossings mean the operators don’t need to be in the path of the cattle to control their flow. Designed for longer combinations, the cross-loading platform has the ability to unload road trains through the side door, while the smaller combination backs onto the other side of the platform, as it would with any other ramp.
Workplace Health and Safety was a big factor in the design, with Ashley saying that previous designs had some serious shortfalls in terms of operator safety. “There were no safety gates on them. If there was no trailer underneath it, there was no stopping someone from walking or falling backwards off it. We designed ours around Australian standards in relation to ladders, stairwells and safety gates, and we had them certified by an engineer to show that they comply.”
Rytrans was extremely proactive in its design, knowing that once the platforms went out into the field, the operators were on their own. “Once it’s out there being used, we have no control over the people using it, so the best thing to do was to make it as safe as we could,” Ashley said. “It’s been widely accepted. They love it.”
The second cross-loading platform Rytrans built was also built at the request of a customer, though this one was a very different story.
“I was approached by Stuart Moreland, who owns IOR Petroleum,” Ashley said. I know what you’re thinking – what would a petroleum company want with a cross-loading platform? As Ashley explained, “He basically asked me to build it because the cross-loading pad in Port Augusta is right near his depot. He could see this being done, and knew of the dangers involved. Some 90 percent of those people are IOR customers, so he came to me and said we’ll build them one and put it on my block in Port Augusta. He was basically looking after his customers. He didn’t want to see them have accidents right next door to his place”.
It’s a long way from Port Augusta to Toowoomba, and given the number of engineering workshops in between, it is testament to Rytrans that they were approached to do the job. “They understood that we knew what we were doing. He actually brought a guy over from the Territory to have a look at it when it was finished, and they couldn’t fault it”.
While the development of the Rytrans cross-loading platform was driven through a desire to improve safety levels for drivers, there are also benefits for the stock, with a reduced risk of injury and a faster transfer time resulting in less stress for the animals. This helps to ensure they arrive at their final destination more relaxed and in good physical condition. In the end, the famer, purchaser, and the end users (those who eat meat) also benefit from the use of a cross-loading platform. Another clever design feature of the Rytrans cross-loading platform is that it is easy to transport to site.
The design allows it to be broken down into a few separate sections that will all fit within a standard 2.5 m wide trailer, with no risk of being over width or over height. Once manufacturing is complete, the unit is assembled to rectify any issues, before being dismantled for transport and then re-assembled on its permanent site. The livestock transport industry, statistically, is one of the most dangerous in Australia. The fact that this idea came about through industry demand shows how serious the industry is about making the job safer. While cross loading is only one aspect of the job, it does present a clear risk to operators, and the use of a cross-loading platform is a huge leap in the right direction in terms of operator safety. Rain, hail or shine, those involved in the cross-loading process have good grip, sturdy handrails and the ability to remain, for the most part, clear of the stock being transferred