Trailer Magazine

60 years of innovation

  • From the April 2018 issue.
60 years of innovation

Based on quality and innovation, the Drake Group has cemented itself as a driving force in the Australian heavy haulage trailer industry. Over the past 60 years, the brand has pioneered a range of game-changing models that have helped to ensure its continued success.

Recognising an opportunity in the market for high quality Australian made low loaders, the Drake Group was started in 1958 by Colin A. Drake. A mechanical and electrical engineer and entrepreneur, Colin was originally from Victoria but moved to Queensland to start a trailer repair business in the town of Rocklea. “He very quickly began manufacturing flat tops and drop decks. At the time, there weren’t very many Australian manufacturers producing low loaders, so he started producing different models to address a gap in the market and that’s where it all started,” says Business Development Manager, Sam Drake, who is also Colin’s grandson, representing the third generation of the family owned and operated company. 
“Some manufacturers were making lighter duty low loaders, but we took it to the next level. When the company started producing the Swingwing and full widener trailers, it was clear that my grandfather had created some models that were revolutionising the way equipment was moved in Australia.”

The revolutionary Swingwing widening low loader was launched in 1969 and has continued to evolve. Nearly 50 years since it made its debut, the versatile design is still a popular part of Drake’s offering.
“The Swingwing was the biggest game changer for the industry. There wasn’t anything like it available at that time. No one was building a trailer like it,” Sam proudly reveals.

Colin created the Swingwing with the aim of offering his customers an easier and compliant option to carry heavy equipment. “It is called a Swingwing because the outer decks open out like wings when the trailer is widened hydraulically via its links. The Swingwing filled a gap for freight between that 50 to 100 tonne range. The model is still in high demand and has many different variations to accommodate different freight tasks, infrastructure and the different state operating regulations. The model has matured and improved but the concept and principles are still the same.”

Another important design milestone came with the launch of the steerable platform trailer in 1980. Colin and his son John Drake, who has been the company’s Managing Director since 1991, designed the first Australian built model. “At that time, steerable platforms weren’t made in Australia, so people had to buy them from overseas – but they weren’t compliant to Australian regulations, didn’t widen and had the wrong axle spacings. Drake built an Australian designed version for the Australian market. We built the first hydraulic widening steerable trailer in the world.” Sam explains. The widening steerable platform gave customers the opportunity to carry equipment compliantly and efficiently.

With its continued growth, Drake eventually outgrew its factory in Rocklea and in 1992, the business moved to a large industrial complex in Wacol, where it continues to operate today.

A desire to increase its trailer offering even further led to the acquisition of fellow Queensland-based trailer manufacturer O’Phee Trailers in 2015. “This has been a massive benefit to both businesses. Though we are both trailer builders, Drake builds predominantly for the heavy haulage market and O’Phee builds for the general freight market. Mick and Sharon O’Phee, who were the owners and founders of O’Phee Trailers, wanted to take their business to the next level. We were hungry to broaden our horizons and grow our business, and be able to offer what they built to our customers. O’Phee shares the same values that Drake does in quality and innovation,” explains  Sam.

Following this acquisition, Drake Trailers, O’Phee Trailers and Drake Collectibles were combined under the one banner, to form the Drake Group.

From the outset, The Drake Group has prided itself on quality and innovation. “These are the core fundamentals of what we do,” adds Sam. “Our reputation is based on quality, service, innovation and offering the best transport solutions in the business. The fact that we’ve been doing this for so long underpins all – our experience, quality and finish aren’t comparable to anyone else. It’s certainly what separates us from the rest. Because of our beginnings, The Drake Group has laid the foundations for quality low loader and semi-trailer building in Australia.”

According to Sam, it’s all about striving to be the best in the business by providing the most efficient transport solutions whether it be for general freight or heavy haulage. “We aren’t truckies. We don’t drive trucks or tow trailers up and down the highway for a living. We’re a manufacturing and engineering company and we wouldn’t be able to grow and develop our product without the support of our customers. They’re the ones that have provided us with the feedback and change so we can continue to improve our products and develop new models and features. It’s about working together with our customers, forging ahead and continuing to do what we do. The key to our success for The Drake Group for the next 60 years and beyond will be more of the same – maintain our high level of service and quality whilst pushing the boundaries in trailer technology and innovation.”

Fast Fact
Drake Collectables was launched in 2010 with a Drake 4x8 Swingwing and 2x8 dolly coupled to a Kenworth T909 Prime mover. This saw the beginning of a wide collectable range of high quality die cast models. The business has produced award winning museum grade models for the worldwide premium collectable market and continues to develop its range, producing more Drake models, cranes and other projects.

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