Since it was introduced to the transport industry in the late 1980s, the now ubiquitous B-double has earned its stripes as arguably the single biggest driver of improved productivity in the road freight industry over the last three decades.
That being the case, it stands to reason that the BAB-quad ‘Type 2’ road train – essentially two identical B-doubles connected by a tri-axle converter dolly – could potentially double the productivity gain once more, along with providing the inherent safety benefits like improved highway handling dynamics that stem from the roll-coupled nature of B-doubles.
Trailer spoke with R&K Bulk Logistics’ driver Sonny Forrest who drives a unique Kenworth T909 Director Series prime mover splashed with a spectacular mural of the late great Slim Dusty.
Also unique to R&K is the dashing blue trailer combination – the company’s first BTE BAB-quad road train – that looks like a perfect match with the T909.
Sonny has been in this role for the past two years in which time he has covered more than 500,000km, often doing a weekly run between Port Augusta and Darwin hauling mostly grain and cattle feed pellets for a feedlot operator.
For the first year he was towing an older set of steel tippers in a triple road train configuration and he admits that when his boss, Russell Strasburg, called to say he was upgrading to a new set of BTE trailers that was the first he’d heard about the BTE brand.
According to Sonny, it only took one trip for him to realise the many benefits of the new BTE combination over the previous outfit. He says the new combination, with an overall length of 52 metres, has a payload capacity of 90 tonnes, around 18 tonnes more than the previous triple which was 48.7 metres in length.
“One of the big benefits is the modular nature of the combination,” Sonny says. “When I get to Port Augusta I split it and take each B-double to get loaded – I do about 1,100km just doing that. So where I used to have three trips to load the triple, now I only have two.”
The second big benefit, Sonny says, is the exceptional tracking and stability of the combination both on and off the highway.
“It tows like a dream, I just sit there with two fingers on the steering wheel and it tracks along as straight as an arrow behind me,” he enthuses, adding that BTE built the entire combination including the tri-axle convertor dolly.
Sonny also says he is extremely impressed with the solid construction of BTE’s chassis tipper, which he believes is a more robust design with better stability when tipping than the tip-over-axle type.
An important factor for conscientious drivers is to be listened to in regard to how best to set up equipment for individual needs. Sonny claims Scott Arnold, BTE Toowoomba Operations Manager, went out of his way to find out what he needed and made sure it happened.
“With the nature of our work I’m often splitting the combination in the dark so I requested lots of work lights. Scott had them fitted on both rear corners of each trailer which makes my life so much better, particularly when I need to reverse the lead double and dolly to hitch up to the rear set.”
Sonny is also impressed with the general finish of the BTE trailers and the thought that’s gone into vital aspects like positioning of steps and air, hydraulic and electrical connections between trailers – operations he frequently has to perform at night or before daybreak.
Another special feature BTE added at Sonny’s request were landing legs with larger diameter feet for added security when he unhitches in a farm paddock, for example.
“The whole setup has just made life so much easier than what it was with the old trailers,” he says. “Everything is right where I need it to be – I really can’t fault it.”
Sonny goes on to elaborate, saying the long distances he travels in remote regions calls for ultimate durability in trailer design.
“I’m out here to work and I can’t be running around getting things fixed,” he says. “Apart from a couple of very minor teething issues that Scott was straight onto, we’ve had no dramas whatsoever with the BTE trailers.”
Started by Russell Strasburg in November 1970 at the small town of Jondaryan between Toowoomba and Dalby, R&K Bulk Logistics has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the ensuing half century. The business currently has 25 of its own trucks along with 30 full-time subcontractors and 10 tow operators.