If you believe new data from the Australian Road Transport Suppliers’ Association (ARTSA), Australia’s transport equipment community has arrived at a crossroads: With heavy equipment sales forecast to remain subdued for the foreseeable future, it has to diversify and embrace the lower-margin rigid segment to remain competitive, or risk becoming obsolete.
“For a long time, the high-margin prime mover market was firmly at the centre of attention,” says ARTSA Chairman, Dr Peter Hart, who recently analysed the nation’s 4.5-12-tonne truck segment in collaboration with Prime Mover magazine. “But there is now a shift in focus to the rigid truck market, probably because of growth in local freight deliveries. This could be where future business will be made – especially now that retirement rates are rising and new equipment will be needed.”
According to Peter, some 210,000 medium-duty rigid trucks and about 170,000 heavy-duty rigid trucks are currently delivering freight in Australia. “In comparison, there are 52,000 registered single-trailer prime movers and 40,000 multi-combination prime movers, so rigid trucks outnumber prime mover by about 2 ½ to one.”
The potential for nimble and inventive equipment suppliers to tap into that market is obvious, Peter says, “they just need to embrace it.”
One of the businesses tuned into this market shift is innovative Melbourne vehicle branding specialist, Fleetmark, which has just launched a new quick release curtain that is said to pair the OH&S benefits of buckle-less technology with the reliability of a classic, mechanical solution.
According to Fleetmark Director, Dean Coates, the company’s all-new Pronto product does not rely on powered mechanisms, pneumatics or hydraulics like most of the competing products currently available, but was designed with simplicity in mind. In fact, “it is so simple we had to apply for a patent to protect it,” he explains.
“Pronto is taking the buckle-less curtain trend to the next level. There’s a lot going on in that field at the moment, but most of the products we have seen are complex in nature and leave too much risk of a malfunction,” he adds.
“The approach we have taken is much more simplistic. We wanted to create a product that is easy to use and can be fitted to just about any rigid, regardless of brand, size or age. That way, we believe we will bring a whole new dynamic to the buckle-less curtain debate we’ve seen unfold in 2015.”
Dean explains the new Pronto curtain is based on a simple integrated tensioning action built into the end tensioner of a curtain-sided body, with the actual tensioning solution part of the curtain itself. The result is a product that is simple to install, easy to handle with one quick action and virtually maintenance free.
He adds, “We took a holistic perspective during the development process that not only looked at production and sales from a Fleetmark point of view, but also included everything that’s happening down the value chain – from installation through to daily use. The result is a product that will create benefits for everyone involved across the supply chain.”
According to Dean, a “handyman owner-driver” is able to install the Pronto curtain kit over the weekend with minimal effort and be ready to get back to work on Monday. “It’s a simple and dependable product,” he says. “An individual may take a day, while a large-scale workshop will do it in half a day or less. When we deliver a Pronto curtain to a body builder it’s as easy for them to fit as fitting a standard curtain. No special or extra design or fabrication work is needed. So, whatever the application, customers will experience almost zero downtime during the installation process. That’s added value on every level.”
As such, Dean adds that the Pronto curtain has the potential to benefit from the growing demand for rigid trucks in Australia, but also leave a mark on the global stage. In fact, Fleetmark is already working on a European distribution plan and hopes to launch in the Northern Hemisphere during the second half of 2016.
“Functional simplicity is the ultimate achievement in engineering, and I think we have found the best way to apply that concept to the quick-release curtain market. We have no doubt the Pronto curtain will become an international success, both with body builders and fleets looking for ways to improve on efficiency.”
In Australia, Dean says the mere amount of rigid trucks on the road – and the imminent renewal wave – leaves no doubt there is a market for Pronto. “We’ve predicted a lot of growth potential in the rigid truck market and wanted to bring something to the table that can truly make a difference to operators and body builders here in Australia. With Pronto, we have found the perfect balance between innovation and reliability, which we think is important for rigid truck customers in a market as rough as Australia. High-tech that doesn’t last won’t help anyone.”