In any transport business the cost of maintaining and servicing trucks, trailers and related equipment adds up to a significant proportion of overall running costs.
Yet operators of Drake Trailers consistently say that the quality of engineering and manufacturing that goes into them makes for a bullet-proof package that lasts for an incredibly long time if maintained and operated correctly. These same qualities also mean Drake products generally hold their value remarkably well, which is a huge advantage if they need to be on-sold.
An operator who wholeheartedly subscribes to these theories is Garry Morris, who started Morris Heavy Logistics (MHL) in 2015.
Garry is no stranger to Drake Trailers, having purchased several new units over the last six years.
His new Swingwing 4×8 is definitely a ‘hamburger with the lot’ and ticks all the boxes for the operation.
For a start, it features a remote-control unit that operates multiple trailer functions including starting the powerpack, repositioning the gooseneck, widening and narrowing the deck ‘wings’, adjusting the hydraulic suspension up and down and command steering the eight sets of dual wheels at the rear of the trailer.
“The only thing we can’t operate with the remote is the ramps,” Garry says, “although they do have automatic chain tensioners which make light work of undoing the chains and ensure they stay tight during travelling.”
As for the steerable rear axle groups, Garry is mightily impressed with the way they reduce tyre wear and enable him to negotiate tight confines common with around town work.
“You can steer yourself in and out of really tight places which is a Godsend when working around town,” he says.
“Otherwise, you would be destroying your tyres and damaging road surfaces and driveways.
“This new one steers beautifully with a 50-tonne payload,” he says – adding that the remote starting of the powerpack and actuation of the steering means he can steer the trailer into a job site in reverse without having to leave the cab.
Importantly, the axles self-steer when travelling in a forward direction and therefore require no hydraulic input from the powerpack.
The deck incorporates a plethora of chain-down points with which Garry is more than happy, saying “You can never have too many.”
Another feature Garry insists on with every heavy-haulage trailer he buys is bi-fold ramps.
“All of my Drake trailers – including the new Swingwing, two 4×4 Deck Wideners and a tri-axle Lowboy (a heavy-duty drop-deck widener) – have bi-folds and I wouldn’t buy a trailer without them,” he asserts. “We carry a lot of asphalt pavers, road profilers and other low ground clearance machines which require the longer ramps and low breakover angle so they don’t bottom out when loading or unloading. It’s also better for the track machinery because they don’t have as far to come down when they reach the tipping point.”
Garry says his philosophy of buying new top-shelf equipment pays dividends because downtime across the fleet is virtually zero and this is what is demanded by his clients.
“We spend very little, if any, time broken down and this is what is expected of us,” he says.
“We do around the clock work for several major road building and maintenance contractors who simply can’t afford delays in their equipment turning up on jobsites.
“Apart from regular greasing, the trailers get maintained at Easter and Christmas when they’re off the road, and the rest of the year it’s all systems go.”
Garry says that unlike prime movers, Drake trailers are an investment because they last so well and hold their value regardless of how old they are.
“On paper the initial purchase price looks expensive but it’s really not when you factor in the lifespan potential of these trailers,” Garry says.
“If they get to 10 years old and need a refurb – that’s what you do. You can rebuild the running gear, sandblast and repaint them and you virtually have a new trailer again.”
Having a good business model, according to Garry, means that investing in good gear like highly specified Drake trailers is a wise choice in the long run.
Spending a bit extra on the additional features that makes the lives of him and his drivers easier and improves operational efficiencies is well worth it.
A new Drake 4×8 Swingwing with rear steer is the pride of the MHL fleet. Having the rearmost two rows of eight wheels command steerable makes a massive difference in improving manoeuvrability and reducing tyre wear.