GOING FOR BULK

Thinwall Trailers help keep the feedlots full for Waterfall 

Bulk haulage can be a hard industry. With most payments made by the tonne, the incentive is there for operators to go in search of equipment that will allow maximum payload without sacrificing on strength.

Some operators have a different incentive though, with the emphasis more on the demand for bulk commodities than the dollars being made between the farm and the delivery point.

Waterfall Feedlot in Goomeri, Queensland, is one of those operators that run trucks primarily as a way of ensuring reliable and efficient supply to support their main business. With the feedlot using over 100 tonnes of grain a day during the busy times, reliable transport is imperative to the ongoing success of the business, and the wellbeing of the valuable livestock.

Waterfall operates three trucks to maintain a steady flow of product into the feedlot, with a Western Star 4800 and two Kenworths – a T659 and a T909.

The latest addition to the fleet is a B-double set of Titan Thinwall aluminium belly-dump trailers, used to cart grain direct from farms to the feedlot.

The Thinwall design minimises tare weight by utilising aluminium throughout the design, with the exception of the B trailer suspension sub-frame, and removing the need for hydraulics on either trailer.

The new Thinwall trailers are paired with the Kenworth T909 and driven by Ken Wheildon, a long-termer in the bulk haulage industry. This is not the first time Ken has unloaded bulk commodities through the floor, though he recalls it was a bit different in his younger days.

“I’ve been in the grain carting industry for a long time,” Ken said. “Things have come a long way in the last 30 years. I remember back in the old days when we just had bogie trailers with holes in the floor. You used to have to shovel and broom it out”.

There are no such problems with these trailers though, with everything operated via remote control, including the tarps.

The Thinwall trailers have been doing the rounds for a little over two months, with Ken swapping an older set of Moore tippers for the new Thinwalls.

“They are easy, there’s no doubt about that,” Ken said. “There was a bit of a transition period to get used to how everything worked. You’ve got to load them a little bit differently, and they’re certainly different to unload”.

Ease of operation aside, the Thinwall trailers are providing other benefits, including a significant increase in payload, with Ken saying, “I’m saving 4 tonnes in tare weight between the Moore trailers and these, so that’s an extra 4 tonnes of payload on every load. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to work out the difference”.

At an average of five loads a week, Ken stands to move an extra 1000 tonnes a year, without doing any extra miles, and with no fuel penalty over the older trailers.

The Titan Thinwall Unibody Hopper Trailer design originates in Canada, where all-aluminium trailers are far more common than they are here in Australia. The design uses extruded, double walled, interlocking aluminium panels that are welded both sides to provide good strength in the side walls. This also provides a smooth wall surface, both internally and externally, allowing for a clean unload and easy washing of the trailers. The extruded walls also provide plenty of room to run electrical and air lines within the walls, making for a clean and tidy appearance while reducing the risk of damage.

The floor is made up of angled panels, which direct the load to the individual outlets, in much the same way as pressurised tankers, allowing for good weight spread and quick unloading over a pit.

In the case of Waterfall’s B-double combination, there are four chutes along the length of the trailers, with one in the A-trailer and three in the B-trailer – behind the landing legs, ahead of the rear suspension, and between the rear axle and the back of the trailer.

Unloading time over the pit, as I witnessed, is remarkably fast. So fast, in fact, that the tarps need to be partially opened to allow for airflow and avoid being sucked into the trailer. The rate of discharge can be controlled by how far the hatch is opened, and can be anything from a trickle to a rapid gush of product, depending on the capacity of the pit.

“It’s great having the electric, remote-operated hoppers, because you can stay out of the dust,” Ken pointed out. “You just stand back, press the button, and the thing opens up”.

The hoppers can also be operated manually, should an electrical fault occur, meaning an operator will never be stuck with a loaded trailer. Being electrically operated also eliminates the risk of potential contamination caused by burst hydraulic hoses.

The Thinwall trailers also feature easy-to-access aluminium ladders, and standing platforms to improve safety while loading. Using these platforms, it is easy to stand and watch the product being loaded, without the need to hang over the wall of the trailer and without the sore calf muscles caused by standing on a ladder for long periods of time. Waterfall’s Thinwalls also have digital load scales fitted, allowing for accurate measurement of the weight on each axle group. This ensures that Ken can make full use of the extra payload ability, and still remain legal.

It’s a far cry from Ken’s early years, when he says, “You used to just stand up on the trailer and have a look in the back and say ‘Yeah, that’s enough’. You’d ask the farmer what the grain was weighing like, and try to load it accordingly. It didn’t always work though,” he laughed. “All the mod-cons we have now, all the computers and weighing systems that they’ve got, they’ve certainly taken a lot of the guess-work out of it”.

While the belly-dump idea might not work for everyone, Ken says it works well in their line of work. “For our system that we’ve got, with the pit to unload over all the time, they’re good, they work out fine”.

He did point out that they had measured underneath, and that a hopper for an auger should fit underneath to allow unloading in a shed, but as yet he hasn’t needed to put that plan into action.

Ken has the best of both worlds in his job, with good equipment and the opportunity to be home almost every night in his own bed. With a need for year-round grain supply, the feedlot does a lot of buying from farms around the South Burnett region, but occasionally the trucks travel further afield when local supplies dry up. When they do, Ken says the T909 is just right for the job.

“You’ve got to give them credit, they’ve set the trucks up really well. They’ve got the big sleepers and all the gear in them – Ice Pack, microwave, fridge, inverters and so on”.

In terms of productivity, the Canadian Thinwall design certainly has a lot to offer those looking for maximum payload, but it wins out in a few other areas as well.

With OH&S being one of the leading factors in new equipment purchases, the ease of operation, stability during unloading and the ability for an operator to be well clear of the dust zone are three very big boxes to tick. With all of the systems on the trailer being electrically operated, and the battery charged through the lighting circuit, there is no need for truck-mounted hydraulics, saving operators more dollars up-front, and a little more tare weight. Only time will tell how they last on our roads, but it would seem the Titan Thinwall trailer has a lot of potential as an efficient, profitable and safe alternative to conventional tipping trailers.

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