More space, more savings
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Fearnley, the company transpor manager, who arranged for me tc accom pay a vehicle on a delivery to at egg-packing station with accest problems typical of those throughow his distribution network.
The vehicle used was a DAF FA 220( DU 5.25m (17.211) rigid demonstratoi which was being evaluated, by Mi Fearnley, for possible fleet use. Platec for operation at 16 tons gvw or within C and U Regulations to 32 tons gcw as drawbar, the truck was fitted witt Pengeo demountable body equipmen. and was coupled to a Pengco trailei built for drawbar operation. Tht trailer's convoluted air-spring suspen sion also doubles as the lifting mediun for demounting.
Unladen weight of the outfit, exclud ing body, is 9.2 tonnes and fully ladet with egg cartons, for our brief test, thi maximum length vehicle grossed jus 21.7 tonnes (21.4 tons).
The round trip between the depot ant the drop covered 134km (83 miles) ant for the most part the route consisted o good road of up to "A" class standard There were some narrow stretches witl barely room for two vehicles to pass bu the driver, who had not driven a DAI before, had no trouble in threading th long vehicle past any obstructions.
When we arrived at the drop-off poin we were told that the load was to be spli between two stores; but, unfortunatel for the driver, the trailer load was to b( discharged at these premises. I sa■ unfortunately because there wx insufficient room at the road outside t( transfer the trailer body to the rigid an( thus drive the body straight in, and till confined access path to the loadini hatch made it impossible for thi complete vehicle to be manoeuvred in The driver opted to split the vehicle an nose the trailer in, and then leave it to bi unloaded while he took next drop. the rigid to the However, appalling rain coupled with randomly parked cars on the dog-leg shaped approach road made shunting extremely difficult. It took about one hour before the trailer was correctly positioned-against a receiving hatch set in the customer's warehouse wall.
Uncoupling the trailer on the road was easily and quickly accomplished. However, without the help of at least one assistant to see the Vehicle through the yard, the driver would have been hopelessly lost. With the trailer directly, in front and in-line with the rigid the driver can see only down the offside provided he leans out from his window. Even when the trailer is at an angle to the rigid, the driver can see, though sometimes just partially, along one side only. During the manoeuvre he was continually bobbing from his window and across the passenger's seat to get a view of the path ahead.
The truck needs to be continually shunted to obtain the correct lock on the trailer steering axle and on one occasion the rigid was uncoupled in order to allow it to be repositioned relative to the trailer to get an Improved shunting line.
It was suggested that an offset towing hitch at the front of the rigid would be beneficial, but from my experience, I doubt whether it would be.
Although the exercise took a long time, a full-length artic would not have reached the loading hatch and two separate deliveries would have taken longer and proved more expensive.
Although the body demount facility was not used, I watched a demonstration staged by Hartmann Fibre staff in their own yard. It is clear that fast demounting of a drawbar outfit calls for a lot of space, otherwise complications arise when lining up chassis and bodies. Also it pays to follow an established routine; for instance when loading a drawbar it is easier to load the trailer first, uncouple and load the rigid and then recouple. Alternatively, if the rigid is already loaded, the trailer should be nosed under its body. Adopting these methods gives the driver a clear view to line up his chassis and body, and in the long run it saves time.
Our demonstration was completed at night under the dim lights of the yard and the operatives needed torches to see the bodies on. An operator would be well advised to specify some form of chassis lighting which would prove a boon especially to a driver trying to deliver in darkness at remote and often unlit customer's premises.
When Mr Fearnley joined Hartmann Fibre Ltd in 1971 the company was running a fleet of 42 vhicles, 35 BMC Lairds, plated to 12 tons gvw and four Ford D1000 at-tics plated for operation at 24 tons gcw and coupled to a 12.2m (40ft) semi-trailer. The company also hired in extra vehicles and drivers from outside contractors.
Mr Fearnley formulated a plan involving the use of drawbars and set a target that vehicles should move at least 2.5 loads per week. In this way the com pany fleet could move all the company production without resorting to hiring in.
His calculations show that the use of drawbars instead of maximum length attics on a delivery run between Yar mouth and Aberdeen can be expected tc save over £5,300 a year. Although th( operating cost per mile of the drawbar 13 per cent more expensive than that o the artic over this particular route, th( increased volumetric payload possiblt with the drawbar swings the overal savings for one year very much in it favour. These expected savings can bt correllated to other similar operation: within the fleet.
The company now standardizes E Pengco demount equipment with 7.32rr (24ft) bodies for optimum interchangeability between vehicles. However. although Mr Fearnley is expecting tc replace over 30 vehicles in the nes' future, he is to stick to a 4 to 1 truck tc trailer ratio. Again for maximum inter• changeability each rigid will be plated for operation at 32 tons gcw and will bc fitted with a towing hitch.
The drawbars will be usefuIl employed on long-distance work, when there is sometimes a need for the rigic vehicle for access in certain difficul areas. Multiple drops will be avoided b■ drawbars and in the case of deliveries tc densely populated areas the compan" will send two rigids instead of th( drawbar.
The use of drawbar outfits but witl dollies and small semi-trailers instead o integral trailers is being considered b" Mr Fearnley. But he is waiting for sorra legal clarification on the 'towing twc trailers issue' before committing himsel to any expense.
Mr Fearnley's aim is to set up nationwide system of strategical'', placed distribution depots where hi: drawbars, fitted with various sizes o box, can be split for further loac redistribution in particular areas. Alsc he wishes to operate a full-shift systen to get maximum utilization from hi( vehicles. He would prefer them to trave during the night to . arrive at tilt customer's premises during the day. Ai the moment, he says, his vehicles arc travelling when they should be at thc delivery point. Fleet maintenance is carried out by at outside contractor and the vehick schedules are so designed that a vehick due for its service/ inspection is routed past the garage when another vehicle it due to be picked up. The bodies arc swopped and the driver is left to finish his run with the already serviced vehicle.