O’Phee A-double skel maximises productivity for FCN Logistics

Brisbane based FCN Logistics has called upon the considerable engineering skills of O’Phee Trailers, part of The Drake Group, to provide a high productivity Performance-Based Standards (PBS) solution for its ISO tank and container haulage operation.

“Our goal was to achieve a specific payload capacity of 59 tonnes on a 30-metre drop-deck A-double skel combination,” said FCN Logistics Director, Terry Cubit, when asked about the circumstances surrounding the company’s recent O’Phee A-double acquisition.

“We needed the trailers to be drop-decks but the trailer manufacturers we approached were not able to provide a workable solution for us to achieve our goal.”

The main problem, according to Cubit, was imposing sufficient weight onto the prime mover. This can be difficult with the drop-deck design which limits the forward location of the fifth wheel because of the necessary swing clearance between the prime mover and lead trailer.

“We walked away thinking we wouldn’t be able to continue with the project, but then about a month later Mick O’Phee from The Drake Group called us with a solution,” said Cubit.

True to form, O’Phee and the design team at Drake had engineered a way to close-couple the combination by designing a perimeter frame for the front half of the trailers, thus eliminating the vertical centre section of the step.

This meant that during turns the rearmost corners of the prime mover had enough clearance to swing within the trailer, with the fifth wheel mounted sufficiently forward to throw the correct weight onto the tandem of the prime mover.

The perimeter frame of the skels was suitably strengthened to compensate for the loss of material in the forward and step sections and the combination length came in at just under 30 metres. Aside from the Ringfeder coupling installed on the lead unit, both trailers are identical.

The trailers run 19.5” wheels to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible, a must when hauling liquid in ISO tanks. The dolly, however, runs 22.5” wheels which are the same size as the prime mover’s wheels.

A new Mercedes-Benz 2663 was purchased to tow the combination, with Cubit saying the prime mover was furnished with the necessary equipment to enable compliance with PBS obligations.

“So far it’s performing very well on a Brisbane to Warwick service that initially involved three trips per day but has since been scaled back due to the Covid-19 situation,” said Cubit, adding that the versatile combination is also used for carting containers to and from the port of Brisbane.

He also said the fuel consumption of the prime mover has been exceptional, averaging between 1.7 and 1.8km/litre (around five miles per gallon) while grossing at least 80 tonnes.

Cubit has a long history with O’Phee trailers, having purchased his first unit – an O’Phee convertible tipper – when he moved to Queensland from Tasmania some 30 years ago.

“We haven’t had any issues with the build or servicing of the new combination – it hasn’t missed a beat,” he said.