When a South Australian machinery transporter couldn’t find the right equipment to do the job, he went out and designed his own to improve productivity and functionality.
The world of agricultural machinery transport is not the easiest market sector to work in. The loads are invariably awkward. They are big and indivisible, as well as heavy. Carting this equipment interstate introduces countless issues of over-length, over-width, over-height and sometimes over-weight. Vehicle dimensions and bridge formulas also come into the equation.
All of these issues mean any operator in this field needs to be on top of all of the permit requirements and know how they vary from state to state. Running outside of the normal prescriptive mass and dimension rules requires a permit of some sort. While some of these are periodical and simply need to be renewed on a regular basis, others are needed for each one-off movement if the load is outside of certain permit allowances.
The strategy adopted by Ken Pitt, All Size Equipment Transport (ASET) Managing Director, has been to adapt prime movers and trailers to minimise size and weight to get as many loads inside prescriptive or periodical permit restrictions and as few as possible requiring special permits or pilot vehicles.
As farm machinery has grown in size and mass, it has become harder and harder for the operation to keep within these rules without customising its equipment to get a few millimetres of height here, an axle there, or a few kilograms shaved off the gross combined mass (GCM).
If a load can be arranged on trailers so a pilot is not required, as the dimensions fit within the rules, the costs of doing a job can be dramatically reduced. It can be worth spending an extra day loading on a specialist trailer and avoiding the use of a pilot after loading conventionally.
Ken is a hands-on operator, an innovator, constantly reviewing the equipment used and tweaking it to get improvements. The ASET yard has a number of ongoing engineering projects at different stages of development as new ideas are worked out in the metal.
The trailers designed and built by Ken and his team are widening, lengthening and have a gooseneck at the front. This means they are adaptable to a wide variety of loads, both those that pay well and those that pay less well. This enables a higher utilisation rate, when compared to more highly specialised trailers, which are often only good for certain jobs. For example, being both lighter and lower means jobs can be done without a dolly, or with a less restrictive permit.
“We treat weight very seriously,” says Ken. “Everything we look at we try and bring weight down. Agricultural machinery is getting heavier all of the time. There’s envelopes everywhere. As long as you can stay within those you’re OK. As soon as you step up to the next size you need thousands of dollars to do the job.”
Some customers insist on their machinery travelling on the custom-made trailers. For ASET, the issue is only a few of their trailers are set up to handle the difficult loads, and this means customers may have to wait to get their load shifted. As more trailers are built and come on stream, more customers will be able to get a more flexible service.
The trailers are tri-axle as standard, but Ken has designed a special module, which can be fitted to the rear of the trailer to turn it into a quad-axle float. When the trailers run as a quad the axle spacing is typical. Again, higher utilisation is possible.
Unfortunately, due to the design of the module, when it is running as a tri-axle, the spacing is uneven. The rules in South Australia (SA) had specified even spacing in the past, but were changed in 2012. On many occasions, roadside enforcement have seemed to forget the rules had changed and breached trailers during checks. This has forced the ASET to appeal each breach.