A little extra thought can make the world of difference to the tray you buy
When it’s time to purchase a new ute most buyers will do their due diligence by checking on engine capacity, power and torque output, plus the safety considerations of ABS, traction control, electronic stability programmes, trailer sway control and the number of SRS airbags that contribute to the crash safety rating.
If there’s available time and enthusiasm on the part of the buyer, it’s prudent to drive demonstration models at each of the local dealerships, checking on driving position and comfort, ease of access, service intervals and all remaining aspects that combine to contribute to the total cost of operation (TCO).
But there’s one major consideration that is often ignored, and that relates to the quality and standard of the bodywork for the tray construction. Are you aware that the buyer has a choice that extends far further than just whether you want a ute or a cab/chassis with a tray? It is the buyer’s call as to the strength, construction and features of the tray selected, and a little bit of forethought can make a lot of difference to owner satisfaction as you work with the vehicle through its operational life.
Triple M Holdings is an Australian company based at Stapylton, Qld. Since its formation in 1967, it has specialised in designing and manufacturing a unique range of tray bodies, suitable for the products of nearly all the different vehicle manufacturers and importers.
The modern Australian “tradies” tray is the result of significant research and development. In fact, the current range of Triple M trays resulted from a $500,000 investment programme involving CAD/CAM technology (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing) to ensure total compliance with Australian Design Rules.
Triple M customers range from the one-ute plumber to supplying vehicle manufacturers and dealerships with a range of different trays to suit varying applications. As an original equipment manufacturer to companies such as Isuzu Ute, Mazda, Toyota and Nissan, chances are you will have already used a Triple M product at some stage in your career.
The important thing to know as you order your ute is that you can tailor your tray body to suit the work you do. Options vary from a standard lightweight alloy dropside tray with light-duty alloy flooring that makes up 55 percent of sales, or a medium-duty alloy construction with extra support ribs under the tray deck that make up a further 30 percent of sales.
The final 15 percent of buyers go for heavier-duty materials, choosing a steel checkerplate floor for greater strength and durability, a smooth steel floor that facilitates easier sweeping out, or a hardwood floor insert that reduces noise transmission.
There are advantages and disadvantages of opting for hardwood timber flooring, as timber is a natural product and requires attention from time to time with oiling to prevent the timber from drying out and cracking. This type of flooring remains popular in country areas as it is also less likely to absorb heat, an important factor if a farmer carries his dogs in the tray as a dog can suffer heat stress and damage to the pads of their paws from hot metal flooring.
“Timber has an advantage in being quieter when carrying a load, but we are seeing a slow trend in rural areas away from the traditional hardwood floor to the use of a steel checkerplate floor with a rubber mat on top,” said Michael Fletcher, Triple M’s design manager.
Dimensionally, the trays are similar between vehicle makes, but the mounting kits supplied with the trays are individually designed to ensure the right ground clearance is provided to give adequate movement to shock absorbers, tyres and suspension when travelling fully laden over rough terrain.
“The big point of difference we have is that we design directly with the vehicle manufacturer. The confidence a Triple M customer has is that everything has been designed with the manufacturer of the vehicle from the ground up,” said Michael.
“We start working with the manufacturer in some cases up to 20 months prior to vehicle launch. This includes working on ADR compliance and rebound heights for suspension clearance and also lighting, rego plates, mudguards, viewing angles of taillights and towbar clearance.
“Individual components undergo specific testing with automated shaker rigs in our development centre. With an item such as a fold down step, it has to be capable of carrying a weight of 150 kg for 50,000 cycles on the shaker rig. We validate our products by offering a three-year/100,000 km warranty,” added Michael.
With most of the world’s ute and cab/chassis production taking place in Thailand, Australia is the number-one destination for a wide range of vehicle manufacturers. The Australian market is also the largest in the world to use vehicles in these segments that are fitted with tray bodies. Although the ute market in other countries, particularly North America, is extremely buoyant, most of the products are supplied with ute “tub” bodies, rather than purpose-built, dropside tray bodies.
“Our sales team cover the Asia-Pacific rim countries together with North America, and as a “Tier One” supplier we supply to either the auto-makers or direct to dealerships under the authority of the manufacturer,” said Michael Fletcher.
“We supply to overseas markets in knock down, flat packed form to be shipped in containers. This is something we are very proud of, to be exporting back to the countries that manufacture the vehicles. The deck is pre-assembled and we lay the headboard and dropside panels onto the deck to make a complete individual kit, complete with fixing.
“A point of difference of our designs is that being bolted we can replace any part. It’s a superior system to riveting and offers more flexibility,” he added.
It’s become commonplace over recent months, especially with the demise of local manufacturing on the part of Holden, Ford and Toyota, to presume that Australian companies are no longer able to compete on a global scale.
Having produced over 300,000 individual tray bodies in categories from utes to light trucks, Triple M Holdings is proof indeed that with the right approach to design and development, plus the backing of an enthusiastic and involved workforce, there are global opportunities for Australian manufacturers.
“Australia is the largest tray body market in the world. We compete so well because we can supply national support. We can provide the service to have the tray fitted anywhere around the country,” said Michael.
“Our core business remains the domestic market in Australia. But with 12-14 global manufacturers we have the resources to conform to TS16949 Global Quality Assurance Certification in addition to being ISO 9001 and 14001 compliant.
“Many customers just want a standard tray body. Tradies are generally more aware of their own requirements and tend to go for a heavier-duty fabrication. The initial purchase price is not the total cost of ownership. To spend a little more at the start may end up producing a lower TCO overall.
“We have aftermarket products for the higher weight light truck segment and have been supplying companies such as Isuzu with tray bodies for the NPR and NLR models for the past 13 years. European light trucks are now starting to make inroads into this segment, and we already supply tray bodies for the Renault Master and are looking at extending that relationship with Mercedes-Benz and IVECO,” added Michael.