Drop-deck trailers can substantially improve turn around times for delivery and pick-up of plant and equipment. Words by Brenton O’Connor.
Some 26 years ago, George Fendyk and business partner Fabian Burder combined forces to establish Burder, in Wangaratta, Victoria.
Burder was originally set up as a manufacturer of front-end loaders to suit a wide variety of agricultural tractors. The Burder designs subsequently quietly revolutionised Australian-built tractor implements due to their unique features and benefits, which included self-levelling loader frames.
Starting from humble beginnings of just five staff members, Burder now employs 60 personnel, with full-time staff manufacturing not just front-end loaders, but various other implements and attachments such as forklifts.
It’s been some years now since Fabian Burder left the company, but, in 2005, George’s son Adam joined the business in a full-time capacity as general group manager overseeing all aspects of the running of the family-owned business. George is still involved full time in the business, and has taken a key role in research and development. In particular, George’s interest has been in another arm of the company called Titan Custom Trailers, building a variety of unique solutions directly for the transport sector.
Titan’s revolutionary drop-deck trailer is certainly a new concept to the market. In a world of increasing OHS red tape, and even stricter compliance measures, any design that can increase safety for company employees is going to be of great benefit to all concerned.
An area that’s always been a point of concern is the loading and unloading of plant and equipment off machinery trailers (floats). This concern is due to a variety reasons, including the potential for back injury caused by lifting heavy ramps and the risk of falling from heights that can occur while climbing onto the deck of the trailer to chain the equipment to the deck. Furthermore, there’s a significant risk of a machine falling off the ramps while being driven up onto the deck, due to the angle of the ramps plus the potential for ramps to collapse, when not of sufficient strength to carry the weight of the equipment driven onto the trailer.
To combat all of the above challenges, George’s new Titan drop-deck trailer solves all these problems, making the loading and unloading of plant and equipment both safer and easier. Power for the trailer comes from an electro/hydraulic system, via a 12 V battery that is trickle charged via the standard seven-pin trailer plug when being towed. Using the drop-deck trailer is very simple, through the operator switching on the battery-powered electric motor and using a remote control with a simple up and down toggle switch for the raise and lower function.
The operation of the trailer is extremely simple. Apart from two safety shut-off valves on the hydraulic lines running to the main lift rams, there are no other pins to pull or locks to remove in order to either raise or lower the trailer. Once lowered, the trailer deck is flat on the ground, which means that equipment can be driven straight on without the need for ramps. For example, a local council could use this trailer to shift ride-on lawn movers from site to site, and once they reach the new site, the operator simply lowers the trailer (as described above) and then once tie-down chains/ropes are removed, the operator can simply back the mower off the trailer, as simple as that, and all risk of falling off the ramps, ramps breaking, or the operator injuring himself/herself climbing off the load deck are removed.
In current guise, the deck can lift up to 3500 kg, which would be suitable for a variety of equipment not limited to ride-on lawn movers, small tractors, bobcats, or company excavators. In a recent order for a local council, Titan has manufactured the trailers in galvanized steel to prevent corrosion and has also installed large lockable lockers at the front of the trailer so that the user can securely store tools, jerry cans of fuel and other accessories such as a chain saws safely and securely to avoid the risk of theft.
The Titan drop trailer uses fully independent suspension on all four axles, and, as such, this allows the deck of the trailer to be lowered down between the four wheels. The centre axle, where the deck platform pivots off, will sit directly on the ground. When fully raised, the trailer still has an impressive 300 mm of ground clearance allowing it to traverse off the bitumen and into golf courses and building sites, all likely places for the trailer to spend its life.
Braking is done electrically back to the towing vehicle through the seven-pin electrical plug, and also includes a breakaway system in the unlikely event the trailers connection via the 50 mm ball coupling becomes dislodged. Operators can either leave the trailer connected to the towing vehicle when lowering the trailer, or they can disconnect the trailer from the towing vehicle allowing for a fully-flat bed in order to load the equipment.
Another unique innovation Delivery was privy to was George’s new single-axle fixed dolly he has installed underneath a conventional three-axle side-loader trailer. Those operators in the business of container distribution will know all too well the problems of overloading when carrying a 40’ container fully loaded on a side-loader trailer. Even with mass management, allowing a gross combination weight of up to 46 tonnes, overloading can still be an issue. To help solve this dilemma, George has fitted a single-axle dolly under the front of a conventional tri-axle side-loader.
Whilst some trailer manufactures have gone down the path of quad-axle trailers with steerable rear axle, George’s conventional tri-axle trailer with a dolly fitted has several key advantages. George explained that quad-axle semitrailers can potentially cause increased damage to the roads due to higher weights being carried over a small area, and they are also more difficult to tow due to increased cut in, particularly relevant around suburban streets of Australia’s capital cities. Furthermore, higher tyre wear can be expected due to the increase tyre scrubbing effect of a four-axle group configuration. With the dolly setup George has built, all of the above problems are solved, and to overcome a common criticism of trailers with dolly’s – increased difficulty in reversing – George has fitted a dolly lock, so that the trailer can be reversed easily as would be the case with a conventional semitrailer.
George and Adam Fendyk’s business of Burder and Titan are testimony to Australian innovation, design and manufacturing. Whilst we have lost our Australian-made car industry, it’s reassuring to see local businesses still innovating and producing high quality products here in Australian and employing Australian men and women.