J.Smith’s approach to loading rail equipment
- From the September 2013 issue.
In transport, only time can tell if an investment is worthwhile, so Ned Gellie’s verdict after two years of running a spread quad-axle axle-widening low loader from Queensland-based heavy equipment expert J. Smith & Sons has been much anticipated – not only by Smith’s engineering team.
“It’s a piece of art,” is what Ned told the Smith team when they asked for some honest feedback on the unit two years after they delivered it. “It’s solid and it doesn’t let me down. That’s what I need.”
Situated on the south-western region of Victoria, some 200 km west of Melbourne, Maroona is home to Gellie’s Earthmoving, a family-owned business founded by Ned and Wendy Gellie in 1983. The company currently runs a fleet of three side tippers, two tri-axle low loaders, two quad-axle low loaders one of which includes a dolly, and a new tri-axle deck widening low loader that Gellie’s took delivery of in August- all built by J. Smith & Sons.
“Starting out in earthmoving, it is essential to have floats to shift equipment around, and we now operate 24/7 anywhere in Victoria,” says Ned. “One of our main customers is Victorian state rail authority V/Line, who we have had a long standing contract with. And, I dare say the strength of that partnership is also based onto the engineering skills of the J. Smith & Sons team.”
But, how does a small country town business in a remote part of Victoria get affiliated with a transport equipment builder located in the upper regions of Gympie, Queensland?
“The partnership began back in 2006 purely by chance when we read about J. Smith in Trailer Magazine,” Ned recalls. “At the time, we needed to add another low loader to our fleet. We then decided to go on a scouting trip up to Queensland to see what the local trailer scene had to offer, and in the end, we liked the Smith design the most. Luckily, we hit it off right away from a business perspective as well.”
In 2011, after many discussions between Ned, J. Smith & Sons Managing Director, Kerren Smith and their engineering department, the decision was made to purchase a new spread quad-axle axle-widening low loader. The low loader was displayed at the 2011 Brisbane Truck Show. “I was just enamoured by the design, particularly when Kerren showed me how the unit’s axle widening hydraulic suspension worked,” Ned says.
“When they said that the low loader offers individual wheel lift, which improves fuel economy and wheel maintenance, they finally convinced me. And the result speaks for itself. From the day we put the unit into service, we were able to reduce our maintenance time considerably.
“Most importantly, though, it’s a real game changer in terms of loading rail equipment. We can now back up the trailer while the equipment is still on the tracks and simply pull it onto the platform.
“We can adjust the load angle and the width of the deck to suit the rail and use the built-in winch to pull the equipment on-board- all remotely controlled, which addresses OH&S regulations. It’s that easy.”
According to Ned, the trailer can achieve any width from 2.5 m to 3.6 m, making it a multi-purpose tool for the rail industry. Plus, the elevated platform makes it easier to work on rails and allows for more clearance when adjusting the load angle.
In addition, the spread quad-axle axle-widening low loader features two self-steering axles designed to improve the manoeuvrability in rough terrain and on tight country roads. “That’s a real plus when dealing in the rail industry, because it enables us to work efficiently even when space is tight.”
To accommodate the weight of the railroad machinery, J.Smith used heavier cross members on the rear of the trailer, bringing the load capacity up to 45 tonnes.
Two years after the vehicle went into operation, Ned’s verdict is positive. “I think this trailer has further cemented the partnership between the two companies,” he says. “They have been a big supporter of us since we turned to them several years ago and they have not disappointed us once. I think that can be attributed to the quality of their products and the solid backup service.
“In addition, we’re strong advocates of supporting local Australian businesses like Smith, which is has always been part of our partnership too. To receive another quality low loader two years after buying the first bunch says a lot about the consistency of their products. We certainly have no regrets.”