Trailer Magazine

The elephant on the road

  • From the October 2017 issue.
The elephant on the road

In the lead up to its tenth anniversary in Australia next year, German trailer building powerhouse, Schmitz Cargobull, revisits the company’s innovative qualities that have made it a force in the highly contested refrigerated equipment market.

With 125 years in business under its belt, German OEM Schmitz Cargobull’s trademark blue elephant has long been a dominant force in the European trailer building market. Founded in 1892, Schmitz Cargobull started out as a forge providing a number of different services, from horseshoeing and repairs to agricultural machinery, turning to trailer manufacturing in the early 1920s once freight became motorised.

Already becoming a common name in trailing equipment, Schmitz Cargobull built its first insulated and refrigerated trailer in 1950 – a sector of the market that the company has now become known for worldwide. The refrigerated prowess is mostly attributed globally to the Ferroplast panel, a patented polyurethane hard foam technology with ‘outstanding insulation capabilities’.

“As a result of innovative development, Schmitz Cargobull moved away from fibreglass surfaces in the 1970s and the GRP surface layers were replaced by steel surfaces and direct foaming to make our own Ferroplast technology,” the company says.

First patented in 1978, Schmitz Cargobull says a major advantage of Ferroplast is the prevention of moisture penetration through vapour diffusion, resulting in less tare weight and more payload for operators, while also providing surface layers that are resistant to corrosion, mould, rotting and decay.

However, not all of Schmitz Cargobull’s success can be attributed to its innovative products – the German company is also remarkably tenacious, even in the face of the major downturn all of Europe faced in 2008-2009 thanks to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Though in Q1 2009 the company’s order books were down a staggering 94 per cent, the company’s firm commitment to continuity shone through, and it sat out the crisis and survived without too much collateral damage.

Interestingly, the German company stood out during the slump for its unceasing exploration of international markets, expanding further in to Eastern Europe, China, New Zealand (see breakout box) and Australia. The move brought the Ferroplast technology to Australian shores, with local operators revealing the panels offer up to 30 per cent more insulation than traditional refrigerated models, without compromising weight – both important benefits in the country’s low-margin transport industry.
According to Tobias Hessing, General Manager Australia, the company didn’t just bring a European trailer model to Australia. Instead, it invested heavily in research and development to ensure the ‘Australianised’ version of the European best-seller could handle the rough road network and harsh climates.

Successfully exporting its trailers to Australia, the team leading Schmitz Cargobull knew that international collaborations and partnerships were necessary for sustainable success, and actively decided to tap local know-how in promising markets like Australia.
So, in 2015, the company formed a new partnership with local trailer manufacturer, Krueger Transport Equipment, leaning on the Melbourne-based company for chassis production and final assembly, providing the refrigerated box body that it custom-designed for the Australian market.
As the company continues to focus on global expansion, its success in Australia is a sign that the right combination of tenacity and innovation are the key to pushing past setbacks like the GFC and maintaining a company’s reputation for an impressive
125 years.

Fast Fact
As part of its 10-year anniversary celebrations in Australia, Schmitz Cargobull is seeking current owners of its ‘early trailers’ that have been on the road since the German company first expanded into Australia, to demonstrate the equipment’s ‘excellent standards and longevity’.

Fast Fact
In May this year, Schmitz Cargobull secured a landmark deal with New Zealand refrigerated transport company, Hall’s Group, for the supply of 42 refrigerated vehicles. The large-scale order is said to equate to more than a third of the annual market volume for refrigerated transport equipment in New Zealand and will be used on a contract with local supermarket brand and Woolworths subsidiary, Countdown. In an Asia-Pacific first, all semi-trailers will be fitted with Schmitz Cargobull’s own refrigeration unit, complete with the company’s factory telematics solution.

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