When you own a heavy haulage business, being able to quickly and efficiently adapt to a wide variety of haulage tasks is definitely the key to success. This is a prime reason Matty Winterfield of Mount Gambier based Winterfields Float Hire reckons a hybrid 4×4 float is the best thing since sliced bread.
So much so that this is actually his third hybrid steering widener, featuring a uniquely designed and engineered platform that Matty says combines the stability of a full widener with the manoeuvrability and reduced tyre wear, thanks to twin steerable BPW axles, of a deck widener.
According to Matty, after owning three of these revolutionary units there’s no way he’d go back to either a full widener or a deck widener, such is his belief in having the best features of both without the inherent drawbacks.
The hybrid, for stability, has the forward two axles that widen with the deck as per a full widener, while the rear pair of axles remain fixed in deck widener fashion.
However, the real secret weapon with the rear tandem set is its steerability, with all four duals either self-tracking when travelling forwards or command-steerable when reversing into tight confines.
According to Matty, the innovative arrangement works a treat and he reckons it saves him a motza through reduced tyre wear alone; claiming it achieves roughly three times the tyre mileage compared with his original full widener.
“This is the third hybrid quad float I’ve owned, and I’ve found it to be a really good option, the best of both worlds,” he says. “You get the stability benefit of a full widener without the negative of tyre scrub.
“It’s also very useful when you’re travelling on a skinny road and have to pull over to pass an oncoming vehicle or to let following traffic pass. That’s because the left sets of wheels on the rear two axles can remain on the tarmac which helps maintain stability, with only the forward left wheels having to run off onto the gravel.”
Matty knows all about rapid and expensive tyre wear on full wideners, having owned one prior to buying his first hybrid. The difference in tyre life he describes between the full widener and subsequent hybrid units is nothing short of remarkable.
“On average, 55,000km was the most I got from a new set of tyres on the tri-axle full widener I used to own, whereas with the quad hybrids I’ve been consistently achieving around 170,000km. This means the extra cost of the steering axles is recovered inside 12 months.”
He does, however, add that there’s a caveat for achieving this phenomenal rubber longevity, timely tyre rotations including turning of the steering axle tyres on the rims.
“It’s necessary to move the tyres from the steering axles to the forward fixed axles because the steering action tends to wear the inside shoulders after a while,” says Matty. “We turn the tyres on the rims initially and then we move them to the forward axles to ensure we get the maximum life from them.
“We don’t do big kilometres, we average around 120,000km per year, a lot of which is around town in tight subdivisions, and a lot of forestry work where narrow tracks make access for full wideners very difficult. The hybrid is definitely the best option in these situations.”
Matty adds that he likes the fact that the rear steer axles are BPW because of the simplicity and reliability, with spare parts readily available off the shelf. He says that the direct mechanical link between the wheels is far less complicated compared with the plethora of valves and hoses that hydraulic steering systems on full wideners require.
The most important thing, Matty says, is to keep the grease up to the kingpins.
“In our experience, if you grease them regularly, they have a very long service life,” says Matty.