STEP FRAME LOW LOADERS ARE THE OBVIOUS CHOICE FOR MOST OPERATORS IN THE 44 TO 80 TONNE SECTOR. BOB BEECH LOOKS AT THE MARKET AND HIGHLIGHTS THE MANUFACTURERS LATEST DEVELOPMENTS.
The first part of this feature looked at tractor units suitable for operation under both Construction and Use regulations at up to 44 tonnes gross and working at up to 65/80 tonnes gross under Special Types Cat 2 regulations. These dual purpose outfits are the backbone of many fleets, versatile combinations that can handle many types of work and are used by many specialist hauliers.
For most operators the modern step frame trailer is the obvious choice in this weight range for the majority of tasks, they have pretty much taken over from the knock-out front end low loader in this sector, except where either height restrictions, or very high point loadings on the load bed are a regular issue. The three and four axle step frame can be specified to handle most type of construction equipment, be it tracked or wheeled; they are equally useful for transporting machine tools, large bulky fabrications and almost any cargo that will fit on the load bed within their load capacity.
In the past load capacity was limited by tyre technology, but modern tubeless low profile tyres, capable of carrying high imposed loads at highway speeds, have allowed many step frame trailers to operate with axles rated at up to 12.5 tonnes at lower speeds under STGO regulations. As a result, a suitable three axle trailer is capable of operating at up to 60/65 tonnes gross with a three axle tractor and a four axle trailer at up to 80 tonnes gross, again with a suitable three axle tractor.
Whilst it is relatively easy to arrive at the basic specification of the trailer required, ensuring that it meets the exact requirements of the individual operator can make a big difference to the operating cost of the complete outfit. Many hauliers are looking for maximum flexibility from their equipment, whereas own account operators are able to fine tune the specification to meet their exact needs.
There are a vast range of options available, fixed or extending beds, various bed widths which may include extending outriggers, stepped or sloping beds, fixed or steered axles, friction or power steered. Ramps are another vital part of the specification, fixed or loose, hydraulic side shift and/or double flip for extra length. Otherwise, fold flat designs offer real fuel savings as do mesh type in-fill in place of solid steel/timber construction, the options are virtually endless, so in order to try and clarify matters we spoke to most of the major trailer manufacturers in this sector.