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Aug 19, 2011

Demand for lighter trailers on the rise

WesBank head of commercial vehicle finance Shane van der Merwe discusses the potential of local commercial vehicle manufacturing and assemblage in terms of job creation.
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Truck and trailer body manufacturer Serco reports that demand for its fibreglass interlink trailers has increased in excess of 50% over the past two years.

“We have seen an exponential growth in this category, as fuel and investment costs for truck tractors have risen,” Serco MD Clinton Holcroft tells Engineering News.

He says recent improvements to the flooring and chassis design, which were motivated by the aim to create a lightweight, durable trailer combination, have also contributed to the increase in demand.

“Customers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of a durable and lightweight vehicle,” he notes.

Serco has designed a lighter chassis and has fitted the trailers with new birch plywood flooring, which has made the interlink combination lighter than before.

The wood flooring and lighter chassis reduces the weight of each interlink by about 800 kg, which improves payloads.

“Previously, the floor decks were made of steel; however, this was heavy and tended to deform under pressure from pallet jacks. The coated birch plywood flooring is strong and easy to replace if worn,” Holcroft adds.

The interlink trailer bodies are made of fibreglass, have interleading doors and a ramp for through loading.

Holcroft says the fibreglass trailer bodies offer improved waterproof sealing and durability, as well as security, as the sidewalls cannot be cut open like a curtain sider.

Further, he adds that, because the trailers are interlinks, they have an increased volumetric carrying capacity of 126 m3, compared with about 105 m3 in standard triaxle trailers, which amounts to an increase of about 20% and also allows for improved payloads.

“The growing trend to maximise the volume of goods transported in a single load to reduce the cost of transport has further increased demand for interlink trailers,” he says.

The trailers also have a sliding fifth wheel that allows a forklift to drive through from the rear trailer to the front trailer, and are suitable for transportation of dry goods, groceries, electrical equipment and parcels, besides others.

New imported aluminium rollover doors, supplied by Serco, were also installed. Holcroft says the benefits include less damage than with standard barn doors and improved efficiency for operators when docking the trailer for loading and offloading. Serco also installed a new trolley strapping system in response to the growing demand for loading with trolleys.

In April and May, Serco delivered two R600 000 interlink combination trailers to independent transport and logistics service provider Bakers and diversified logistics group Manline.

The company was also awarded a R9-million supply contract for 18 draw-bar interlink combination trailers for South African Breweries’ soft drinks division, Amalgamated Beverage Industries, in July. Further,
Serco completed a R2-million expansion at its Cape Town factory in May.

Holcroft says the project involved the expansion of the facility’s undercover work area by 690 m2 and upgrading the surface of the yard.

A total of 1 974 m2 of concrete was poured to produce a new floor area to facilitate the movement of equipment.

Serco has also incorporated environment-friendly elements into the premises.

“We have been considering ways to reduce our carbon footprint; thus, large sections of the roof have been fitted with translucent sheeting to assist in reducing electricity consumption. Clear sheeting was also retrofitted to sections of the existing factory to improve the use of natural lighting,” Holcroft says.

He adds that the expanded roofed area will assist in improving efficiency, as work will be done in a covered area and not be curtailed in inclement weather.

Further, two additional water storage tanks with a combined capacity of 20 000 were installed as part of Serco’s water harvesting project for the washing of vehicles. “This will reduce demand for municipal water,” Holcroft notes.

Similar modifications were introduced during the R2-million expansion project at Serco’s Durban factory last year.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online
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