Duncan Stockcrates of Forbes has made its reputation by providing exactly what the customer wants.
The vastness of Australia has contributed to the growth of specialist businesses based in regional areas, rather than just in major metropolitan centres. Expertise is not just confined to a capital city industrial estate, it exists in small towns and family-owned workshops, often resulting in a final product that the major manufacturers would be unable to match.
Stuart Duncan was originally from the Albury area, but, because of financial recessions that Australians have been told we had to have by politicians of all denominations, his family moved to Forbes, where land prices were cheaper and opportunities greater.
“We started business in the Forbes area in 1987,” said Stuart. “There was Mum and Dad, my younger brother and myself. I started off as a foreman for a trailer manufacturer, and when I got married I was going to set up a mobile welding plant out of Albury.
“Mum and Dad came through Forbes and decided to stay and set up a welding shop, and we moved up and joined them. The wool prices crashed in 1990 and things went very quiet.
“At that time we were doing shearing sheds, taking all the materials out to a property and building on site. I always had an interest in stock crates, and I’d get all the stuff ready to build one and then had to rely on Mum coming ‘round to hold a plate steady while I welded it.
“We made a crate for a customer at Bathurst, and Dad asked him if he’d mind if we took it to display at the Orange Field Days. That’s where our business really took off and we’ve been busy ever since. About 75 percent of our customers are return customers. That’s a good way to be.
“A lot of our ideas came from Dad, having been 38 years on the road carting stock. My brother and I had both done our trade as apprentices with companies that did everything with welding, so nothing really fazed us.
“We work things out that others don’t think can be done, and improve on the idea as we go,” said Stuart.
The intervening years have seen Duncan’s Stockcrates develop a strong following amongst its regular customers, such as Steve Shaw, featured in the June issue of PowerTorque with his B-double Duncan stockcrate coupled to an IVECO PowerStar.
When PowerTorque caught up with Stuart Duncan at his Forbes manufacturing base, he and the team were on the shop floor finishing off the touches to a B-trailer fitted with the latest EBS (Electronic Braking Systems) with BPW axles.
In the adjoining workshop was an existing A-trailer that had been purchased some years earlier without EBS fitment.
“There is no mandated requirement for an A-trailer to be fitted with EBS, but when connected to a trailer that is fitted with EBS it must be capable of correct electrical connection to enable the EBS system to function on the B-trailer. The customer has the option of upgrading the non-EBS equipped trailer by retrofitting EBS, or an alternative solution is to add the appropriate cabling through the A-trailer to power the EBS system on the second trailer,” said Stuart.
“We now have a lot of experience with EBS-equipped trailers, and in our view all trailers should have it fitted. If it’s there and fitted, then why not use it. We can see the day coming where insurance companies are going to insist on EBS fitment to all trailers because of the increased safety levels they provide.
“Operators have come to the realisation they have to have EBS. There were a few that were sceptical, but they accept these are the times we have to go with it. The customer determines the specification in other areas such as the choice between BPW and TMC axles, hydraulic winches, lift out posts, effluent tanks, and toolboxes with lights in them, even dog boxes with lights in them.
“There is a degree of lack of information in remote farming areas, such as what happens if a fault occurs with an EBS system, do the brakes still work? What happens when a registered older truck without ABS or EBS couples up with an EBS-equipped trailer? Again, will the brakes work?
“The answer is that of course the braking systems still work. If a fault develops with EBS it defaults to non-EBS brake application, working exactly in the same way as a non-EBS equipped trailer. If the operator prefers a simpler, less technological solution they can still choose the alternative of load-proportioning valves, which they might understand better. We do whatever the customer wants. They are the ones paying for them.
“We use BPW axles and EBS systems as a preference. When operating in remote areas, every component from wheel sensors with EBS to load height valves with non-EBS systems can suffer from rock damage. By reducing the risk of rollover you are saving the lives of animals and people, plus by incorporating EBS you can take advantage of other benefits, such as on-board weighing, that are part of the EBS system.
“It’s much the same with the choice between disc and drum brakes. With EBS and disc brakes the braking distance is reduced and braking efficiency is increased. Disc brakes automatically adjust, whereas with drum brakes you must fit automatic slack adjusters that require regular greasing.
“We do everything ourselves in-house through the entire construction process, including painting and right up to laser alignment of the final trailer. Our own people are certified to commission the EBS system and to programme the Electronic Control Unit with the necessary operating parameters,” added Stuart.
As Stuart continues to grow the business, with a planned expansion to the factory due to commence shortly, he has been joined by his son Rodney.
“Rodney always had an interest doing welding, but with both my sons I wanted them to have other qualifications. Rodney qualified as an accountant but has now gained accreditation as a qualified tradesman welder, and his brother has qualified as a quantity surveyor in the construction industry. When running a business such as ours it’s a good combination to have on board, I don’t know of many accountants that can weld,” said Stuart
“On a national basis, as a benefit to our customers, I would like to able to fill out the trailer registration form in other states as well as for operators from NSW. At present, a customer from another state cannot even get a permit to carry a load home after they collect their new stockcrate, until they hand in the registration form in their own jurisdiction. All they do when they arrive at their own registration department is have someone compare the Vin number against the paperwork. That means they have to return to Victoria or Tasmania without a load and incur considerable unnecessary expense,” added Stuart.