In the trucking industry, when it comes to tough operating conditions they don’t come much tougher than logging. By nature, logging trucks and trailers must cope with a broad spectrum of conditions from muddy, rutted bush tracks to fast highway running. Therefore, the equipment used must be fit for purpose.
Typically, and perhaps more than most other sectors of the industry, logging operators tend to figure out early in the piece which equipment lives longest and then stick to a tried and trusted formula of product replacement.
With livelihoods on the line, this is no industry to be experimenting with unproven products that could fail catastrophically with the potential for similarly disastrous consequences for the company or operator using it.
One such family-owned logging and logistics company that follows this formula of sticking to products with proven performance is the Padgett Group, based at Scottsdale in north-eastern Tasmania.
The company runs a fleet of 32 combinations comprising Kenworths towing B-doubles, trailers and quad dogs. Among the fleet are eight Barker trailers equipped with Cargo Floor moving floors systems that are used for wood chip and pine bark garden mulch haulage.
The remainder are Kennedy logging trailers, collectively hauling around half a million tonnes of timber annually, comprising a mix of saw logs and pulp wood.
Padgett Group was started by Ken Padgett about 35 years ago with one truck and has steadily grown to keep pace with the Tasmanian logging industry over the subsequent years.
Today, Ken Padgett and his two sons Kenneth and Oliver are directors of the company that now employs 72 people including truck drivers, mechanics, logging machinery operators and office staff.
According to Oliver Padgett, the company has standardised on BPW axles and suspensions because they stand up to the unrelenting rigours of the logging life.
“I would say we currently have around 90 per cent of our logging trailers running heavy-duty BPW axles with dual-leaf spring suspension, and within the next couple of years it will be close to 100 per cent,” Oliver says.
Asked about the company’s motivation to rely solely on BPW for its trailer running gear Oliver’s answer is typically succinct.
“Really for us it comes down to the industry we work in – it can be pretty tough on trailer axles, brakes and suspensions, in particular.
“We run a heavy-duty BPW spec in terms of our suspension – everything has dual leaf springs – so it really just comes down to the way the gear stands up to the job.”
As the conversation rolled on, Oliver mentioned another product that BPW Transpec supplies – Cargo Floor moving floor systems in the Barker bodies and trailers used to carry bulk product including wood chip and garden mulch.
The moving floor concept enables bulk product to be unloaded horizontally rather than tipped out in the conventional way. This has a number of benefits, not least that it is much safer when unloading on uneven or sloping ground compared with a tipper.
The Cargo Floor moving floor system is composed of floor profiles installed lengthwise, parallel to each other. The system moves the floor profiles back and forth within the power stroke of the three hydraulic cylinders.
Based on the principle of friction between the loaded material and the floor, the Cargo Floor is divided into 21 aluminium floor profiles. These floor profiles are then divided into three groups, with each group consisting of seven floor planks.
The system works when the first one third of the floor is retracted, while the remaining two thirds are left stationary. The second and third sections then take their turn at being retracted individually. Once all three sections have been retracted, the three hydraulic cylinders move the entire floor as a whole thereby transporting the load. This process is automatically repeated until the load is fully discharged.
One unit in the Padgett fleet is of particular interest, a truck and Barker five-axle dog trailer combination with a Cargo Floor system fitted in both bins.
“It has a specially designed drawbar that retracts into the A-frame,” Oliver explains. “So both bins can be joined together and the doors opened up so the entire load walks out the back of the dog trailer.
“We believe it’s the only one of its kind in Australia at present, we pretty much prototyped it in co-operation with Barker Trailers and got it approved under Performance-Based Standards (PBS) to operate at 67.5 tonnes.”
Asked whether the weight saving components BPW is developing like lighter brake drums and alloy hubs would be considered for the fleet, Oliver’s response was measured.
“For us it’s always been a compromise between maximising payload and minimising downtime,” he says. “We’re pretty mindful about what we go lightweight with, especially with suspension components in the logging game.
“When you commit to something that’s going to have at least four axles on it, if you’re going to have issues they will be fairly well pronounced quite quickly,” Oliver adds. “You can’t just dip your toes in the water, you’re either in it or you’re not.
“However, we are always open to trailing the new components that BPW develops, and our operations provide a very effective testing ground.”
Oliver is adamant the company will continue to exclusively specify BPW axles and suspensions while the outstanding reliability prevails. “We won’t buy anything else as long as the products continue to meet and, indeed, exceed our expectations.”
Due to their longevity and reliability, BPW axles and suspension have been used exclusively by the Padgett Group over the last decade.