Part of the family

Queensland based earthmoving and bulk haulage company, VE Group, recently commissioned Drake Service and Repairs to carry out a full makeover on a three-axle tag low loader that was manufactured in 1989. It is now back earning its keep alongside a pair of Drake heavy haulage trailers.

VE Group AU was founded in 2006 by married couple Nathan and Bronwen Howell in the Callide Dawson Valley in Central Queensland.

The business has grown from small beginnings with one tandem tipper and tag-float, a three-tonne excavator and a Bobcat.

As an ISO Accredited Civil Construction, Bulk and Heavy Haulage Company servicing a vast majority of Queensland and New South Wales, the company has focussed not only on self-performance works but also supporting its long-standing clients.

Today, the company has a team of 80 people and a fleet of 30 Kenworth trucks, as well as more than 35 units of plant and machinery. These assets have helped the company maintain a strong order book of secure work including multi-year contracts with key government bodies.

Growing up with parents who ran their own transport and earthmoving business, Nathan learnt to operate heavy machinery and trucks from a young age and gained a wealth of experience in these fields as he grew older.

“It’s in Nathan’s blood, so it was only a matter of time before he started to do something himself,” Bronwen explains. “He was working at a local mine but wasn’t content with the job, so one day he came home and said to me, ‘Let’s start our own business.”

Nathan and Bronwen say they have acquired the right equipment to be self-reliant and to offer their customers a complete service package.
“If you can perform the task from end to end, it works to your clients’ advantage in regional locations,” Nathan says.

The current plant fleet consists of varying sizes of excavators, loaders, compactors and dozers. The transport division continues to complement the equipment with the ability to mobilise and demobilise as required which has been a huge advantage for the company’s clients.

As a tribute to Nathan’s parents, Neil and Lyn Howell, about 10 years ago Nathan and Bronwen decided to track down the first low loader tag trailer they bought new in 1989.

They eventually found it still working in the township of Banana in Central Queensland.

“Nathan made contact with the local contractor and advised that if he decided to sell the trailer, we would like first option to buy it,” Bronwen says.

“In 2012 the contractor called us and we purchased the float; it was still in its original working order and was a perfect complement to our current fleet.”

The company has two Drake Full Widener floats – a 3×4 and a 4×4 – as well as a pair of 2×4 dollies used for heavy haulage duties across Queensland and northern NSW.

Troy Uhle (left) with Nathan and Bronwen Howell. The couple were impressed with the transformation of the float bought new in 1989 by Nathan’s parents.

In 2021 the pair decided it was time to give the senior Howell couple’s original trailer a makeover, as 30-plus years of hard work had taken its toll.

Having purchased their two large floats from The Drake Group, the Howells enlisted Troy Uhle, Drake Service and Repairs Branch Manager, and the talented Service and Repair team to bring it back to its former glory.

“It had timber decks, a fair bit of rust in the front and the ramps were bent so it needed a lot of work,” Troy says.
“We installed three new BPW axles with 10-stud hubs and Alcoa alloy wheels to replace the original spider hubs and axles and fitted a new wiring loom and LED lighting.”

Troy explains that his team removed the rusted sections under the gooseneck and welded in new gusset plates in addition to replacing the timber deck with a gusseted steel floor.

“In addition to remaking the rear ramps, we also made up a set of aluminium ramps to enable a small machine to be driven up from the main deck onto the tabletop above the front axle,” Troy says.

After the bodywork was finished the unit was bead blasted and painted in VE Group’s colours and reassembled with the classic Drake touch.
“We have been inundated with refurbs lately,” Troy explains. “Whether it be Drake, O’Phee or any other make of trailer, we have the ability to do them all.

“All trailers eventually need a birthday,” he adds. “That along with routine servicing, maintenance or breakdown callouts – anything trailer related we’re ready and willing to tackle.”

Further to this, Troy mentions that no stone was left unturned in the VE Group trailer makeover, with his team going the extra mile to produce a finished product of which the Howells could be extremely proud.

“It looks great and it’s a functional addition to the VE Group fleet – we have done everything possible to make it into an efficient and user-friendly unit for Nathan and Bronwen,” Troy says.

Bronwen agrees, saying the refurbished trailer is a versatile asset to the business because it can be towed by the tandem-drive rigid tippers to transport the smaller machinery including 12t rollers, 14t excavators and backhoes.

“It was definitely an easy decision to invest the money for the revamp as it is such a great asset,” Bronwen enthuses.

“We are thrilled with the way it’s turned out and very grateful to Drake Service and Repairs for their expertise and attention to detail in bringing what is essentially a family heirloom back to better than new condition.”

Fast Fact
VE Group commissioned Drake Service and Repairs to perform a full refurbishment of an ’89 model three-axle low loader that was bought new by the company owner’s parents.

Drake Service and Repairs has the expertise to do a wide variety of work on all makes of trailers – everything from regular maintenance to full refurbs.

Drake Service and Repairs has the expertise to transform any make of trailer, regardless of age, into a modern classic.
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