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SPECIALIST FABRICATIONS

HeavyTorque Issue Fifteen: Specialist Fabrications

FITTING FOR PURPOSE

SPECIFYING A HEAVY HAULAGE TRACTOR UNIT TO MEET AN INDIVIDUAL OPERATOR’S REQUIREMENTS CAN BE A TIME CONSUMING AND PAINSTAKING PROCESS, WHETHER IT IS A BRAND-NEW CHASSIS CAB STRAIGHT FROM THE FACTORY, A USED VEHICLE THAT NEEDS MODIFYING, OR AN EXISTING FLEET VEHICLE THAT REQUIRES UPDATING TO MEET A CHANGING WORKLOAD. BOB BEECH REPORTS.

Some operators have both the facilities, capability and resources to achieve a great deal of this work in-house, but the complex specification of modern vehicles, increasingly strict legislation and the likely expense have to be taken into account. Also allocating workshop time to carry out this type of project, while handling normal service and repair activity, means that many turn to specialist fabrication and engineering companies to carry out this type of work.

Some of the truck manufacturers offer quite a wide range of tailored options for their heavy-duty chassis, but these tend to be limited to features such as fifth wheels, towing couplings, air, electrical and hydraulic systems. This might suit operators looking for a relatively straightforward specification vehicle, but perhaps not if a customer is looking for a bespoke solution to their individual requirements. Which is where the specialists step in, handling everything, including installing the heavy duty fifth wheel, fitting additional fuel tanks, lockers and other equipment, so the truck is virtually ready for work.

Whole Vehicle Type Approval has had a considerable effect upon this market, particularly with new vehicles. The specialists have to ensure that their work meets the requirements of both the legislators and the truck manufacturers. Changes from the approved specification might make the truck non-compliant and unable to be registered unless subject to an Individual Vehicle Approval, which can add considerable cost and time delays to the process. As a result, some of the larger companies in this sector have invested heavily to overcome these issues and they are able to provide a complete service which streamlines the process. This is a lot easier with a vehicle that has already been registered, but care must be taken to stay within the framework of the legislation.

Most operators now specify storage lockers, full-width catwalks, chassis infills, chain storage trays and other purpose-built fabrications, particularly on tractor units. Heavy haulage crews now carry a wide range of extra equipment that was rarely ever seen 20 years ago, extensive PPE is a case in point, it requires full clothing and safety equipment, which takes up quite a bit of space even with full size exterior cab lockers. Years ago, a pair of overalls, some boots and maybe a hard hat where enough, now you need a full wardrobe!

Well-prepared crews carry a host of other equipment, including straps, ratchets, chain tensioners, marker boards, additional lights, beacons, hand tools, tape measures, adjustable height measuring poles, jump leads, hydraulic fittings, air lines, the list is almost endless. Everything has to be safe and secure, but easy to access, the only way to achieve this is to have spacious lockers mounted both on the side of the chassis and transversely behind the cab.

We looked at some of the options available from recognised specialists in this field, some of the larger companies offer a comprehensive range of services, other smaller operations offer a more specialised service.

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