A new trailer manufacturer in the Sunshine State is going gangbusters, thanks, in part, to the remarkable surge in demand for new trailers over the last 12 months or so. Paul Matthei sits down with James Yerbury, owner of Robuk Engineering, to discuss the details of his thriving new business.
It would seem that the Covid pandemic and various other factors have thoroughly polarised the business landscape in Australia of late. Depending on the type of business, it can be either boom or bust … or perhaps something in between.
Fortunately for anything transport related, the former is generally the case, and this is certainly true of Robuk Engineering, which was established in June 2020 and specialises in the manufacture of high-end bespoke tippers and dollies.
“We started the business in Gympie just over a year ago with the plan of having a small, tight-knit bunch of employees, concentrating on servicing a select few customers,” says James. “However, it didn’t take us long to work out that the market was going crazy as we were overwhelmed with enquires from operators wanting us to build trailers for them.”
At the same time, there was an influx of people who were keen to work for the fledgling company, meaning the premises at Gympie was outgrown within three months of inception.
“We ended up with a crew of 12 and for the first six months we were doing split shifts with each of us doing at least four 12-hour days, with an overlap on Mondays and Fridays, to get the business on its feet,” says James. “We were also working many weekends in order to meet deadlines and because of this we actually all lived together in a tiny shed on the premises and became a very tight-knit group.”
This created a family culture of sorts in the business due to the fact that every team member was working hard for the common good of establishing the business and building a solid reputation as a manufacturer of top-shelf equipment for its customers.
“We were eating meals together and talking trailers into the wee hours which built an incredible camaraderie within the team,” says James. “Some of the innovations we’ve incorporated into our builds came out of these late-night discussions.
“We came up with a unique two-way hinge arrangement for the tailgates and also a plate tailgate design. We wanted our tailgates to stand out from the crowd and we’ve gone for a very high-end folded-form sheet design which also has the benefit of saving 10 to 15kg in weight.
“It is also quicker to build, involving less welding which minimises distortion, we call it our stronger, safer, lighter tailgate.”
The two-way tailgate option on tippers is not as common as it once was, due to a number of factors including reliability and longevity, which often left a bit to be desired on earlier versions.
“They tended to sag over time, particularly when used regularly to backload palletised loads where the tailgate was being swung open all the time,” says James. “Also, the extra height in modern tippers means the opening at the rear is larger which makes it easier to unload the likes of cottonseed which packs down during transit and doesn’t flow out as readily as other materials. This was another reason why two-way tailgates were popular in earlier times.
“However, some operators still want a two-way tailgate, which is why we have done a lot of work engineering ours to be stronger, safer and more durable than earlier versions.
The two-way hinge design doesn’t require the operator to climb up onto the rear of the trailer to change to the swing-out mode and it uses the same spanner that loosens and tightens the finger locks at the bottom. The design also automatically picks the tailgate up and pulls it in, making the job of closing it easier and safer for the operator.