It’s interesting the way certain brand names end up becoming the generic name for a product. Think Band-Aid and Hoover. Usually, it’s the most popular or widely used item in its field that receives the honour.
This is certainly true of Ringfeder couplings, although the generic name has morphed slightly to ‘ringfeeder’, perhaps because it rolls off the tongue easier or maybe reflecting the fact that the ring of the trailer or dolly drawbar feeds into the bellmouth of the coupling unit when hooking up.
Ringfeder’s bullet-proof reputation and subsequent elevation to generic name status is well deserved as over the years it has proven to be a robust and reliable solution operating in a harsh environment where only the tough survive.
This is precisely the reason why BGC Transport has chosen to standardise on Ringfeder 303 AM/RL air release couplings across its fleet of more than 500 trailers including flat-tops, tippers and dry powder cement tankers.
Most of the trailers are hitched together as 27.5m pocket road trains which consist of a six-axle dog trailer connected via a Ringfeder to a tri-axle semi-trailer behind the prime mover. With WA’s generous axle mass allowances this enables a gross combination mass (GCM) of 100 tonnes when an 8×4 prime mover is used.
BGC Transport services the vast construction industry in Perth and wider Western Australia. As such, the company carts a significant range of building materials such as bricks, blue metal, clay, sand and cement.
Speaking about the Ringfeder 303 AM/RL couplings that the company uses, Darryl Powell, Workshop Manager at BGC Transport, says the air-operated pin retraction has been an important factor in dramatically reducing work-related injuries among the drivers.
“Our primary driver for moving away from the manual release Ringfeders is to lower the incidence of driver injury leading to worker’s compensation claims and lost work time,” Darryl says.
“Nowadays, the average age of our drivers is late 40s early 50s because younger people aren’t coming into the game as much as they used to.
“With the manual version, it only takes a pin that sticks temporarily because the combination is not on level ground for you to have drivers yanking on the handle trying to release it and potentially injuring themselves.”
Darryl goes on to explain that the beauty of the air release Ringfeder is that the driver can gently rock the truck back and forth if the pin doesn’t release straight away.
“Some of the sites where we load and unload are not completely level so this feature is a real asset to the drivers who may have to unhook their trailers five or six times a day,” Darryl says – adding that the drivers have found the system easy to learn how to use and say they wouldn’t want to go back to the manual release version.
Darryl says he likes the fact that the drivers need to alight from the cab and walk to the back of the truck to operate the air release Ringfeder, which enables them to check what’s behind them and ensure everything is in order.
To open the Ringfeder 303 AM/RL unit for uncoupling, the operator first removes the trailer air supply and electrical lines. A control box situated near the coupling supplies air pressure with a force of 3kN to raise the coupling pin. When the driver opens the tailgate to tip, the Ringfeder pin is reset via the control box ready for hook up.
If the coupling pin doesn’t retract immediately, the driver can slightly move the truck to release the tension and when the right position is reached it will pop up and the vehicle can then be driven forward and separated from the trailer.
On the topic of durability, Darryl says he is very happy with the longevity of the Ringfeder units in the BGC Transport fleet.
“The Ringfeder coupling has been the brand that on average lasts the longest across the fleet and the main driver for us going to the air release version was to ease the driver’s workload and reduce worker’s comp injuries,” Darryl says – adding that driver retention is another important factor.
“The better you have the trucks setup the more the drivers like them and are more likely to stay with you,” he says.
“That’s why we have been spending a lot of money fitting air operated Ringfeders and other automated systems such as tarps across the entire fleet.”
Wanting to take care of its highly valued drivers as best it can, BGC Transport is in the process of fitting Ringfeder 303 AM/RL air release couplings across its large fleet of multi-combination vehicles.