Rock Solid | TRAILERTORQUE – Bruce Rock Engineering

Bruce Rock Engineering is a standout performer for trailer buyers that rank reliability and durability as the key to profitability – Words and images by Chris Mullett.

There’s no doubt that Western Australia does things differently from the rest of the country. This view may largely be because of the continuing rise and fall of the mining industry, making long-term planning comprise of sometimes unrealistic expectations, but predominantly it’s because of the heat, dust and generally harsher operating conditions that equipment has to contend with.

Dirt roads, haul roads in mining areas and maximum weights of triple and four-trailer road trains exceeding 200 tonnes all contribute to the need for solid engineering. And, when you add ambient temperatures that can reach 60 degrees Celsius, it sets equipment suppliers in the west a tougher challenge than the operating conditions faced by their competitors on the east coast.

TrailerTorque was recently invited to visit Bruce Rock Engineering, a West Australian trailer builder with a 40-year history that remains today a family-owned and operated company.

It would be a reasonable assumption to believe that Bruce Rock Engineering was named after its founder, but the reality is that Bruce Rock is indeed a town and a Western Australian shire in its own right.

Founded in 1913 in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia, the town of Bruce Rock is named in respect of a low granite outcrop that lies to the east of the township, that in turn was named after a sandalwood cutter named John Rufus Bruce.

Bruce Rock Engineering was founded by Mike and Gay Verhoogt in 1980 and has since grown to include six business units, today managed by their three sons with Damion as managing director, Keenan as mechanical and tyre division manager and Brenton, who runs the Transbeam operation at Forrestfield.

The company bases its design, manufacturing and production centre at the town of Bruce Rock, adjacent to the Continental Tyre service and distribution centre that operates as a separate division of the company. Understandably, with the number of tyres purchased annually by the Bruce Rock Engineering Group, it made sound business sense to establish an in-house tyre supply and specialist fitment centre to provide a holistic truck and trailer maintenance solution for their clients.

The Group sales, service and maintenance sites are located at Forrestfield, a suburb of Perth, plus Port Hedland, which supports the company’s clients in the Pilbara. It’s important to note that Bruce Rock Engineering is the only trailer OEM represented with its own facilities in this region.

The Forrestfield location is a relatively recent development that opened two years ago and provides sufficient ground area for further expansion. It houses CNC plate processing equipment that is integral to the company’s manufacturing ability. It is also the home to Transbeam Industries, a division of the group that fabricates specialist welded beams, overhead cranes for factories and major construction projects. It also supplies Hardox wearparts and cutting edges for earthmoving equipment.

Lee Maddison, sales manager for Bruce Rock Engineering, explained that with an annual production in excess of 250 trailers, the product split is currently 60-70 percent in favour of side tippers, followed by 15-20 percent of trailers for varied applications.

“Our traditional client base is centred on agricultural logistics and bulk haulage, and the demand for trailers and equipment is influenced by seasonal variations as dictated by weather and crop performance. As a consequence, our total product range is diverse, with skels, deck wideners, extendable flat-tops and drop-decks along with regular end tipping and side-tipper designs,” said Lee.   

Ryan DuPlessis is the senior engineer for the design team based at the Bruce Rock manufacturing facility.

Bruce Rock Engineering fits electronic stability systems with rollover mitigation are standard on all semitrailers and dog trailers that we build, with optional fitment on dollies. We install, commission and certify the installation of EBS and all the ancillary systems”, said Ryan.

“A typical example of the unique WA operating arena is a PBS-approved 60-metre length super-quad road train. These have a payload is 145 tonnes with a gross weight up to 199 tonnes,” said managing director Damion Verhoogt.

“These combinations comprise a tri-drive prime mover, with four, full-sized, tri-axle dog trailers linked by an additional tri-axle dolly.

“Our experience in design and manufacturing for this high efficiency unit resulted in our unique patented design of drawbar. This provides superior strength and coupling performance with exceptional stability, especially with multi-combination units. We have also completed seven-axle dog trailer combinations that extend gross weight to 217 tonnes GVM, again at 60 metres overall length,” said Damion.

“There are obvious similarities between transport requirements on opposite sides of the country, and in North Queensland we are represented by our dealer John Barnes and his team at Barnsey’s Trailer and Truck Sales of Rockhampton,” added Damion.

There is strong logic behind the current expansion plans of the Bruce Rock Engineering Group, with the company looking hard at opportunities available on the east coast to introduce operators to the lightweight steel trailer designs that have earned it such a high reputation amongst its customers.

“Our grain tippers are renowned for being of high quality and the lightest tare weight, steel bodied, full chassis tippers in Australia,” said Lee.

“In fact, our grain tippers are often the same tare weight as some tip-over-axle trailers with aluminium bodies. The weight advantage comes from the same features that also give our grain tipper bodies their strength. The unique rounded bowl design gives strength without extra steel and also provides an exceptionally clean discharging tipper with no hang-ups. Tare weights range from 6.1 to 7.2 tonnes,” he added

As typified by a recent B-double grain tipper slider combination delivered to Sullivan Bulk Haulage of Maryknoll, Victoria, the light-weight, high-efficiency rolled steel bowl design of the body with a full 2.5 m width resists any sticking of product inside the trailer when discharging loads such as fertiliser and stockfeed.

“After seeing the Bruce Rock Engineering product during my time in WA, I knew they would easily cut it on the east coast as a great trailer set that tares off at 14.2 t for the A and B trailer,” said Matt Sullivan, managing director of Sullivan Bulk Haulage.

“In 2008 we converted to using ultra high-tensile steel in our chassis as standard, using Swedish steel “STRENX” of 700 MPA for all our chassis work. This has enabled the weight of a steel grain or quarry trailer to be highly competitive with those of aluminium, while offering substantially extended life,” said Damion.

“There are no pillars around the tailgate to restrict discharge and the smooth flow also reduces the risk of contamination between different loads,” added Damion.

Recent deliveries to the West Australian fleet of building and construction material supplier Hanson have resulted in operational benefits of lower tare weight and optimum strength.

The order centred on supplying eight tri-axle semi-trailers and seven truck and dog tipper combinations to deliver sand and aggregate products throughout Perth. The order continues a decade long supply agreement between Hanson and Bruce Rock Engineering for trailer equipment to carry crushed rock, sand, gravel, crusher dust, road base and premixed concrete.

A joint venture with trailer manufacturer Wabash National Corporation in the United States has resulted in the Bruce Rock Engineering Group being appointed the Australian distributor for Wabash products across Australia, adding a high-quality range of refrigerated and dry freight trailers offering high levels of thermal insulation efficiency with low tare weights.

Wabash National Corporation is the largest producer of trailers in North America, and the second largest trailer producer in the world.

“Wabash refrigerated trailers are constructed completely from aluminium, foam and composite materials and do not contain fibreglass or timber. Available in a variety of lengths, they conform to the latest MUA-rating for insulation thermal efficiency,” said Lee Maddison.

“With a tare weight that is some 25 percent lighter than conventional designs, each fridge van is imported fully assembled into the country as a roll-on-roll-off trailer from Lafayette, Indiana. It can be ordered with all the running gear fitted or as a base unit to which we add fridge units, axles and suspension according to customer preference.

“The Americans don’t have a roll-back trailer design as they don’t run B-doubles, so we bring in the base unit to our requirements, and at Bruce Rock Engineering we build the chassis, suspension and roll-back system,” Lee added.

“Another new addition to the Bruce Rock Engineering portfolio is the representation of Etnyre trailers of North America, to distribute products such as the Etnyre Falcon, live-bottom belt discharge trailer through WA, SA and the Northern Territory,” said Lee Maddison.

“Live-bottom rear-discharge trailers are gaining recognition for their unique unloading capability offering greater stability and easier control of product discharge in areas such as road paving or construction. Operators can also vary the unloading speed and stop product delivery during the unloading cycle.

“The integrated hydraulic drive horizontal conveyor enables the discharge of asphalt and bulk products in a controlled and efficient delivery solution without having to raise the body for tipping. This allows the trailer to work in tunnels and under bridges, powerlines and other overhead infrastructure where access may be difficult.

“With light tare weights in the region of 7.3 tonnes for a tri-axled unit, they deliver a more regulated flow of material when interfacing with the paving machine. The belt is high temperature and the body has external insulating material to ensure asphalt temperature is maintained for longer.

“The Etnyre Falcon complements our own range of Bruce Rock side and end tippers by offering clients a solution that is not provided by traditional equipment,” added Lee.

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