Versatility to a T

As a single float operator, Mount Gambier based Winterfields Float Hire needed a heavy haulage unit that was sufficiently versatile to carry a wide variety of standard and oversize loads. According to the company’s owner, Matty Winterfield, a new Drake 4x4 Hybrid Steering Widener is the ideal unit.

A Mount Gambier native, Matty Winterfield has been driving trucks for around 25 years, having previously been a diesel mechanic after completing an apprenticeship in the trade.

His first driving job in the mid ‘90s was with forestry company K.C & M.R. Boult, initially hauling B-double loads of woodchips and logs, then later transitioning to float work after the company bought a Drake tri-axle Deck Widener to shift its woodchippers and log harvesting equipment.

Then 11 years ago he decided to start his own heavy haulage business, purchasing a second-hand tri-axle Full Widener and dolly along with an ex-K&S Freighters Ford LTL9000 powered by a 400 Cummins to tow it.

As time went by machinery got bigger and he took on more customers, necessitating the replacement of the trusty LTL with another ex-K&S unit – a considerably more powerful Kenworth T904 that had been hauling road trains in WA.

“That was a really good truck too but we were still getting busier so I started talking to Drake and we were soon the proud owners of our first new Drake Hybrid 4×4 float, and a second-hand Kenworth K104B to pull it,” Matty says.

He employed driver Peter ‘Darky’ O’Dea, who remains a highly valued employee today, to drive the cab-over while he continued driving the T904, eventually replacing the original Full Widener with a second Drake Hybrid 4×4 trailer pretty much identical to the first one.

Sometime later the Kenworths were progressively supplanted by a pair of Scania R 730s and the business continued to flourish. More recently, work has slowed somewhat which gave Matty cause to sell one of the Scania and Drake Hybrid combinations.

When you own a heavy haulage business, being able to quickly and efficiently adapt to a wide variety of haulage tasks is definitely the key to success, which is why Matty reckons his latest Drake Hybrid 4×4 float is the best thing since sliced bread.

According to Matty, the Hybrid Steering Widener is an ideal compromise between a Full Widener and a Deck Widener, in short, the best of both worlds.

The Hybrid, for stability, has the forward two axles that widen with the deck as per a Full Widener, while the rear pair of axles remain fixed in Deck Widener fashion. Furthermore, a big benefit of the BPW Transpec rear tandem axle set is its steerability – with all four duals either self-tracking when travelling forwards or command-steerable when reversing into tight confines. The command steering is controlled by a radio remote that can be used either in the cab or at the rear of the trailer.

“This is the third Drake Hybrid quad float I’ve owned, and I’ve found it to be a really good option – the best of both worlds,” he says.

“You get the stability of a Full Widener along with the manoeuvrability of a Deck Widener.

“It’s also very useful when you’re travelling on a skinny road and have to pull over to pass an oncoming vehicle or to let following traffic pass. That’s because the left sets of wheels on the rear two axles can remain on the tarmac which helps maintain stability, with only the forward left wheels having to run off onto the gravel.” Another feature of the Hybrid with twin steer axles that Matty appreciates is the reduced tyre wear.

“I’ve been consistently achieving around 170,000km from a set of new tyres. This means the extra cost of the BPW Transpec steering axles is recovered inside 12 months.” He does, however, add that there’s a caveat for achieving this phenomenal rubber longevity – timely tyre rotations including turning of the steering axle tyres on the rims.

“It’s necessary to move the tyres from the steering axles to the forward fixed axles because the steering action tends to wear the inside shoulders after a while,” Matty says. “We turn the tyres on the rims initially and then we move them to the forward axles to ensure we get the maximum life from them.

“We don’t do big kilometres, we average around 120,000km per year, a lot of which is around town in tight subdivisions, and a lot of forestry work where narrow tracks make access for Full Wideners more difficult. The Hybrid is definitely the best option in these situations.”

Matty adds that he likes the fact that the rear steer axles are BPW Transpec units because of the simplicity and reliability, with spare parts readily available off the shelf. The most important thing, he says, is to keep the grease up to the kingpins.

“In my experience, if you grease them regularly, they have a very long service life,” he says.

All up, for Matty Winterfield there is no substitute for high quality equipment, such as his Drake Hybrid 4×4 float, that enables him to do his job in the most efficient, safe and cost-effective manner possible.