A leader in the A-double revolution

In a concerted effort to significantly and safely boost productivity on eastern seaboard linehaul runs, Visy Logistics has enlisted the expertise of Vawdrey Australia and Smedley’s Engineers in the unique design and construction of Performance-Based Standards–approved 30-metre A-double combinations.

The A-double in PBS guise is starting to make inroads in Australia as operators realise the substantial gains in payload capacity that can be achieved.

However, for Visy Logistics, one of the largest logistics service providers in Australia, achieving worthwhile payload benefits required a good deal of ‘out of the box’ design and engineering due to the high centre of gravity nature of some commodities it transports.

The firm currently uses its own equipment for 40 to 45 percent of its work, with the remainder done by subcontractors. The plan is to flip this figure as the company continues to grow, with the new A-double fleet being a strategic element in this growth plan.

“As we continue to grow and win additional contracts, we will replace subcontractors with company owned assets and fully utilise those assets,” says Angela Kranjcic, GM Sales and Business Development at Visy Logistics. “Intrinsic to this is a change in our equipment model and obviously the advent of the A-doubles encourages further internalisation of our transport task on linehaul corridors where it’s commercially feasible to use these advanced pieces of equipment.”

A key product carried by Visy Logistics, for which specific engineering and design elements of the new A-doubles were imperative, is large reels of paper that are transported on their ends; when loaded they stand three metres high and weigh three tonnes apiece.

“It is a very awkward commodity to transport, and it posed one of the biggest challenges in terms of meeting the static roll threshold or high-speed off-transient manoeuvre test requirements for PBS approval,” says Visy Logistics Fleet and Equipment Manager, Glen Fulton. “This was particularly challenging because we were going from a roll coupled (B-double) to a non roll coupled (A-double) combination, so coming up with a design that would satisfy all the criteria was difficult at the start.

“It took several attempts and a lot of work in close collaboration with specialist PBS engineers and Vawdrey Australia to come up with a solution that would work for us,” Glen says. “But in the end it was all worth it because we managed to achieve around a 20 per cent payload gain over the B-doubles we were using to transport the paper reels, with the opportunity to increase that figure further moving forward by adding some smarts in relation to vehicle design.”

As for the considerable PBS-specific design and engineering work that went into the project, Robert Smedley, Managing Director of Melbourne-based Smedley’s Engineers, says lofty goals were achieved by incorporating some groundbreaking solutions.

“This is the first time a Concessional Mass Limit (CML) of 17 tonnes has been approved for PBS operation of a tandem axle dolly with standard 385/65R22.5 (low profile) super-single tyres,” Rob says. “This is an absolute game-changer for the industry and along with the wide-track axles and suspension – which haven’t previously been used on trailers in Australia – enabled us to achieve the unprecedented level of stability that was required for the high payload height loads.”

Rob adds that a lot of testing and validation work went into ensuring the super single wheels on the combination would be allowed the same mass limits as dual wheels.

When it came time to start building the curtain-sided trailers, Vawdrey faced some frontiers of its own as compared with regular trailers the European sourced wide-track axles and suspension required wider spacing of the chassis frame rails. Vawdrey Australia Director, Paul Vawdrey, takes up the story.

“We’ve designed and engineered unique frames to suit the cutting-edge axles and suspension that enables these units to meet the stringent PBS criteria – both the trailer frames and dolly frames were clean sheet designs for us,” he says.

“The internal payload height and the minimal tare weights we were able to achieve were really, really good.”

Paul is adamant that the Visy A-doubles are game-changers in the industry. He says that the latest super single tyres are technically far superior to the units of yore that failed to gain widespread acceptance largely because their maximum weight allowance was significantly less than duals.

“These new super singles are a magnificent piece of engineering,” Paul says. “The fuel savings and the weight savings they provide, along with the extra payload height we were able to achieve – all these benefits would not have been possible with dual wheels.”

Glen adds that in addition to the mandatory Electronic Stability Control (ESC) technology, other cutting-edge features include intelligent Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) that ensure correct tyre pressures are consistently maintained across the entire combination.

“All of our prime movers feature state-of-the-art fatigue management and all-around visibility camera systems and each of our drivers completes a specialised and comprehensive DECA training program to familiarise them with the new A-double combinations and the technology before their first journey,” Glen says.

With a batch of Vawdrey A-double combinations set to be progressively introduced over the next six months or so, Visy Logistics is effectively raising the bar by a considerable margin in the safe and efficient transport of its commodities.