A man’s quest

Graeme Elphinstone loves a good challenge. If he comes across a component he doesn’t deem well thought-out, he has to find a way to improve, refine, or completely reinvent it. Be it a wiring harness, a fifth wheel bracket, or an entire B-triple, to Graeme, no product is ever perfect. Innovation is but a perpetual challenge to him, and is never meant to come to a close.
Driven by that constant urge to innovate – as well as a healthy dose of competitiveness – the mastermind behind the world’s first folding skeletal trailer and self-loading B-triple has earned himself a reputation as one of the most gifted transport equipment designers in the country.

In the logging industry, the Tasmanian native’s status is especially pronounced. After half a century of supplying the sector, the Elphinstone name is now almost synonymous with innovative jinker design, and many a milestone in the segment can be traced back directly to Graeme taking initiative – not just in the field of trailer design, but also in on-vehicle weighing.

Graeme’s quest began in 1976, when he imported Australia’s first on-board weighing system and fitted it on a log truck with his brother. The following year he designed and built the first Elphinstone folding pole timber jinker, followed by a folding tri-axle model in 1981 featuring a special
‘tri-beam’ suspension.

In 1986, Graeme dreamt up the Fold-A-Skel, a folding skeletal trailer, before designing Australia’s first B-double timber jinker with a tandem bogie lead and tri-axle rear trailer in 1988. In 1994, Graeme improved his folding skel design with a unique hydraulics mechanism; and in 1997, he came up with the first Easyloader model – a self-loading tri-tri B-double that was soon complemented with a tandem-tandem version.

At the same time, Graeme kept refining his knowledge about on-board weighing technology, which inspired him to develop his own electronic control systems in 1988 and venture into load cell design in 2001. Since then, he has morphed into a global authority in the field. “We’ve placed load cells in just about anything over the years,” he says. “From skip-loaders to weigh bridges, you name it. We’ve gained a global reputation for being able to get them into places nobody else can – and keep them protected and in working order where others fail.”

A farmer by trade, Graeme can draw on an intimate knowledge of handling heavy equipment both on and off-road, so his ability to detect areas of improvement is especially fine-tuned, he explains. “I’ve been working in the forestry and agricultural industries for decades, so my equipment is always designed with the application in mind. I know exactly how tough it can get in the field and which challenges Australian operators are facing every day.”

As such, Graeme is all about designing equipment that will go the distance – be it load cells, jinkers or fifth wheel sliders. “Whatever I do, I do the right way. I’m conscious of the cost, but the easiest or cheapest solution is not always the best one,” he says – indicating that he can’t see his quest coming to an end any time soon. “Technology is changing all the time, so you have to keep up and evolve with it.”

Graeme says his latest project, a Performance-Based Standards (PBS) tri-tri 26m B-double capable of handling 19m single length loads, has been so successful that he’s now looking at an exciting new application for it – which is just another example for applying his unique way of thinking to a new transport problem.

Industry Icons
Made possible by Smedley’s Engineers, Industry Icons is a new series dedicated to honouring the unsung heroes of commercial road transport.

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