Drake builds Hybrid Steering Widener for Winterfields

Specialist heavy haulage trailer builder, The Drake Group, has supplied an innovative 4×4 Hybrid Steering Widener to Mount Gambier-based Winterfields Float Hire.

The Hybrid Steering Widener features a unique Drake-designed and engineered platform that combines the stability of a Full Widener with the manoeuvrability and reduced tyre wear – thanks to twin steerable BPW axles – of a Deck Widener.

This is Winterfields’ third Hybrid Drake trailer, with the company keen to keep updating to the latest technology in float design for which The Drake Group is renowned.

The Achilles Heel of Full Wideners is the excessive scrubbing of the tyres on turns due to the wider track of the axles when the unit is fully widened. However, the wide track of the wheels provides ultimate stability of the trailer when carrying heavy and wide equipment.

On the other hand, the Deck Widener has a fixed axle and wheel track width which means when the deck is widened the outer extremities of the deck protrude well beyond the wheel track, making the unit much less stable when carrying wide and heavy equipment compared with the Full Widener.

Enter the Hybrid Steering Widener – a clever design by Drake that effectively negates the aforementioned drawbacks of each design by combining the positive attributes of both.

The Hybrid, for stability, has the forward two axles that widen with the deck as per a Full Widener while the rear pair of axles remain fixed in Deck Widener fashion. However, the secret weapon with the two BPW rear axles is their steerability – either self-tracking when travelling forwards or command-steerable when reversing into tight confines.

According to Winterfields Float Hire Managing Director, Matt Winterfield, the arrangement works a treat and he says it saves him a significant amount of money in reduced tyre wear.

“This is the third Drake Hybrid quad float we’ve owned and we’ve found them to be a really good option – the best of both worlds,” said Winterfield. “You get the stability benefit of a Full Widener without the negative of tyre scrub.

“It’s also very helpful when you’re travelling on a skinny road and have to pull to the left to pass an oncoming vehicle. All the wheels on the rear two axles remain on the tarmac which keeps the unit very stable – only the four forward wheels on the left run off onto the shoulder.”

Winterfield said maximised tyre life depends on moving the tyres from the rear axles to the forward axles before they wear too much on the inside shoulders due to the steering action.

“We turn those tyres on the rims before they wear too much and then run them on the forward fixed axles which enables a good lifespan of the tyres,” said Winterfield.

“In my experience, on average we used to get 55,000km from a set of new tyres on a tri-axle Full Widener we used to own, whereas with the Hybrid, with the timely tyre rotation, we’re getting 170,000km. This means the extra cost of the BPW steerable axles is recovered inside 12 months.”

The locking mechanism for the steer axles and also the command-steerability is operated from either inside the prime mover cab or at the rear of the trailer.

Other features of the Hybrid that Winterfield appreciates are the 13-metre deck length and bi-fold ramps, both of which assist in the loading and carrying of long equipment like crushing and screening plants.

“The bi-fold ramps are longer with less ramp-over angle that is handy when loading long gear with low ground clearance; and the longer deck enables us to position the loads better for ideal weight distribution over the axle groups,” said Winterfield.

Accompanying the new Hybrid float, a new 2×8 Drake dolly was also purchased to replace a 2×4 unit, raising the payload capacity from 50 to 60 tonnes.

“We carry some machinery that bumps over the 50-tonne mark so it’s necessary to have the extra capacity of the 2×8 dolly,” he said.