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When you’re on a good thing…

Having been in business for more than 30 years, TopStart Trailers has built a sound reputation for producing a range of innovative car carrier, curtain-side and flat-top trailers. The company has standardised on Fuwa K-Hitch (FKH) running gear including axles, suspension, turntables, king pins and landing legs. 

Austate Services was founded a little over two years ago by General Manager, Victor Vella. The comp

The history of TopStart Trailers dates back to the mid-1980s when Peter Bouzinelos, an engineer originally from Europe, was running his own transport company in Victoria. He was having so many problems with damage to cars caused by the poor designs of car carrier trailers built by other companies that he decided to make his own.

After being told by several sources that his design was impossible to manufacture, Peter put his engineering expertise to the test and, in his own backyard, built the first eight-car transporter with the ability to transform into a flat-top trailer for carrying containers.

His design proved well up to the task and reputedly saved his company thousands of dollars in car repairs and is said to have provided an estimated 60 per cent improvement in loading times.

From there, it seems, the die was cast and TopStart Trailers commenced operations. Over the ensuing years the company has forged a reputation as one of the pre-eminent specialised trailer producers in Australia, manufacturing a range of trailers from car carriers to curtain-siders, drop-decks and flat-tops. With an emphasis on quality and durability, the company uses high tensile steel to ensure maximum strength combined with optimised tare weight.

These days the company operates from a large-scale factory in Dandenong South. Peter’s son, Jimmy Bouzinelos, is the Operations Manager. Jimmy has worked hard with his father from a young age.

“Our core business has always been car carriers,” Peter Bouzinelos explains. “We build a lot for the big players like Patrick, Toll and PrixCar as well as for the subcontractors who work for them.”

Any trailer is only as good as the running gear keeping it rolling, and in this regard TopStart Trailers has for a long time relied on Fuwa K-Hitch.

According to FKH Regional Sales Manager, Diaa Bishara, FKH has been supplying the trailer builder with its VDL and KT air suspension systems with eight- and 10-stud drum brake axles, complete with anti-lock braking system (ABS), auto slack adjusters and axle lifts (if required) for around 10 years.

“The VDL is an air suspension system that allows flexibility for TopStart Trailers when fitting our full range of axle sizes including 17.5- 19.5- and 22.5-inch drum and disc brake variants,” Diaa says.

“We weld and assemble the suspensions to the axles at the nominated chassis rail centres at our factory in Derrimut, as well as pre-install equipment such as ABS pole wheels, sensors, brake boosters, and automatic slack adjusters.

“Using this method, the customer receives a modular suspension ready to install to the chassis, which takes away the hassle and risk of them performing critical welding and bolt torqueing procedures.”

Diaa mentions that FKH also supplies TopStart Trailers with a number of other Fuwa products including landing leg sets, spring brake boosters, skid-plate and ball-race turntables, drawbar kits and tow eyes, which he says makes life as easy as possible for the company from a supply perspective.

“This is achieved while offering extremely competitive pricing and what we believe are industry-leading stock availability and production turnaround times,” Diaa stresses.

“In fact, generally we can have the components to our customers within five to seven working days after ordering, giving them greater flexibility in planning their own production schedules. For anything outside of this we are only a phone call away and ready to assist wherever possible.”

It’s a service that Peter Bouzinelos is happy to endorse as he describes the strong partnership that has developed between TopStart and FKH over the last decade or so.

“Around 90 per cent of our trailers are now specified with FKH components,” Peter says. “They’re good products and the people at Fuwa are easy to deal with, which are the primary reasons why I’ve stuck with them.

“I like to stay with one brand and I value loyalty so once the Fuwa products and people had proved to be top notch I had no reason to look anywhere else. The products they supply are bullet-proof.”

Peter says TopStart trailers are designed and built to last, just like the FKH components that are integral to the build. He points out that due to quality manufacturing procedures and innovative designs, many TopStart trailers that were built two to three decades ago are still being worked hard and earning good money for their owners.

To this end, Peter says he has standardised on the heavy-duty 11-tonne rated FKH drum brake axles and suspension to ensure ultimate durability.

“You pay a bit more compared to the nine-tonne rated axles but the 11-tonne units have bigger bags and shocks which means they stand up better to the punishment in the long term.”

Peter agrees that this might be considered by some as over-engineering, but says ultimate durability and productivity are the principles upon which TopStart Trailers was founded.


Fast Fact: FKH says generally it can have the components to its customers within five to seven working days after ordering, giving them greater flexibility in planning their own production schedules.

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Filling a niche

Austate Services has formed a strong relationship with Fuwa K-Hitch which supplies it with axles, king pins and suspension systems for the trailers it builds.

Austate Services was founded a little over two years ago by General Manager, Victor Vella. The company specialises in manufacturing made-to-order truck bodies and trailers, truck and trailer servicing, refurbishment and repairs, trailer hire and trailer sales.

Prior to this Victor was Regional General Manager at his family’s transport company, Vellex, responsible for VIC, SA, TAS and regional NSW operations.

“I started as a truck driver when I left school working in our family business, which was formed in 1981 with one truck,” Victor says. “I eventually became Supervisor then Manager of the main depot as my knowledge, and the business, grew. I was also involved with the purchasing and maintenance of all fleet equipment for the company.”

All those years of experience in transport taught Victor well and when the opportunity presented in 2016 to buy Austate Services, he grabbed it with both hands.

“I’ve always had a passion for building things and as an end user (in the family trucking business) I could see what was lacking in terms of equipment design and believed I could do something about it,” he says.

“For example, traditionally curtain-sided trailers had 100mm x 100mm swivelling vertical channels in the front corners where the curtain pole and ratchet are located to tension the curtain. Due to the restricted space it’s common for drivers to bark knuckles or jam fingers when removing or replacing the pole. We developed an open design instead of a channel which eliminated the problem.”

The business has 22 employees including Victor’s wife, Joyce, and their two sons, Aidan and Jake. Joyce works beside him taking care of administration duties while Aidan and Jake, both of whom are qualified mechanics, work on the floor and help oversee operations. There is also a full-time chief engineer who Victor says is kept busy designing bespoke features of the trailers and bodies to suit customer requirements.

“This is a comparatively small business but we’re trying to be innovators and to keep it flourishing by running it like a big business in terms of safety and security for our employees and in the development of new ideas.”

Victor explains that the company manufactures a diverse range of specialised products including smaller (2 – 5 car) car carriers, vacuum tankers, rigid bodies as well as dog, pig and semi-trailers. He says having a talented engineer and team of fabricators enables the efficient production of unique designs that the larger trailer builders may not necessarily want to tackle.

“We bring the customer in and make sure we understand exactly what he wants then halfway through the build he comes in again and we go through it step-by-step to ensure the finished product will precisely meet his expectations,” Victor explains.

As the conversation continues, he proceeds to relate the circumstances that led to the strong relationship the company now has with Fuwa K-Hitch.

“Not long after we started we were building a highly specialised trailer for transporting racing pigeons. The modules came from Germany and we needed to find axles that suited this design. K-Hitch was able to supply what we needed and our relationship with them has flourished ever since.

“K-Hitch has taken the time to understand our business and has been very responsive to our needs,” he continues. “It’s a good partnership and that’s what it’s all about – having the right partners to help us move forward.”

In addition to landing legs, king pins, axles and suspension, Victor says he is using more components supplied by Fuwa K-Hitch as the company continues to expand its product line. He says the quality of the products is very good which fits well with the quality and longevity of the finished products.

“So far we’ve had no issues with any of their products, we’ve found the quality to be very good.”

Further to this, Victor says Fuwa K-Hitch has been more than helpful in providing Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawings to his engineer and fabricators to ensure best practice is adhered to in the installation of the components.

Looking at the next five-year period, Victor says he expects the company to continue to grow strongly in synch with the burgeoning market it supplies.

“My long-term goal is to grow as big as we possibly can,” he affirms. “I believe it’s imperative to keep growing with the market because if you try to stand still you end up going backwards.

“There’s going to be a lot more for our little business in the future,” Victor adds. “Every opportunity that comes our way I’m going to grab with both hands.”

 


Fast Fact: Austate Services fills a niche in the road transport equipment market by manufacturing products that are exactly tailored to each customer’s individual requirements.

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Connecting to the Midland

Dedicated to engineering Australian made trailers Midland Pty Ltd maintains an exclusive partnership with axle and suspension specialist Fuwa K-Hitch.

Fast becoming recognised as a key player in the trailer scene, Midland, operating out of Parkes in Central NSW, has been building its brand as a producer of high-end trailers for transporting plant and equipment machinery. The family run business services the road infrastructure industries.

Midland produces between 70-100 trailers a year. Plant and Equipment trailers comprise 91 per cent of Midland’s business model according to Managing Director, Martin Larsen, who runs the company with his brother Ben.

“That would be the bulk of our business,” he says. “We cater for heavy equipment transportation such as earth movers and asphalt companies and government bodies.”

As industry demands have necessitated larger trailers, Midland has diversified their range from tag trailers, dog trailers, drop decks and machinery float trailers. Over the journey, midland has constantly released many models, one being Hydraulic Deck Wideners, trailers designed for carrying larger excavators, rollers, road profilers and asphalt paving machines.

“It’s become very popular in the marketplace for us,” Larsen says. “The customer response has been very pleasing.”

Long-time partner Fuwa K-Hitch supplies Midland with a majority of its axles. The 19.5 inch axle coupled to the heavy duty Weweler suspension is a commonly used kit by Midland, especially for its low loaders.

“We’ve gone to that suspension purely because we’ve had an excellent run with it,” Larsen says. “It’s rugged and excellent in the harsh environments that these trailers are often going into it. We have tried other suspensions in the past and they haven’t been as successful as the Weweler.”

Larsen estimates that 90 per cent of the axles of his Australian owned business originate with Fuwa K-Hitch. The increased attendance of imported products in the transport marketplace has not curtailed the demand among his customers for Australian manufacturing.

“We’ve continued to use Fuwa K-Hitch because of their product support and the background help and should there be an issue they are there to assist,” he says. “They’re always willing to talk to our customers directly and help them out.”

He adds, “Their flexibility as an axle supplier has helped our flexibility and allowed us to pass that flexibility onto our customers in regard to making a variety of axle sizes and suspension kits available.”

Since expanding the Deck Widener range in the market, Midland has received numerous requests from its clients to offer customised trailers within the specific range. It’s been a significant factor driving growth.

“We feel the Deck Widener has become well accepted in the market,” he says. “Listening to our customers has been a game changer for us enlarging our presence in the growing trailer market.”

With its home base located in close proximity to Parkes National Logistics Hub, a multi-modal transport facility that Larsen’s company uses for dispatching its trailers, Midland supplies trailers nationwide. A Midland trailer has been delivered to every state and territory.

It currently allocates its products between a customer base comprised of individual contractors and major players like the three major national asphalt-spray seal companies. The drive to provide trailer models to fulfil the growing demand for extra carrying capacity has contributed to their expansion according to Larsen.

“Although Midland first entered the market to design and build Tag and Dog trailers we always had the vision of getting into larger float trailers,” he says. “Making larger trailers for the plant equipment transportation was a key part of our evolution. Everyone needs to have their equipment moved as soon as possible to avoid the pitfalls of down time and the machines are getting bigger. It’s the underlying reason why more private operators are buying their own transport equipment now instead of using contractors.”

Chris Barrett, National Sales Manager, Fuwa K-Hitch, adds that Midland is an important continuing partnership.

“From my perspective,” he says, “Midland build a quality product with quality people and we are proud to align with them.”

 


Fast Fact: Fuwa K-Hitch commenced its relationship with Midland in 2009. Aside from air suspension and axle packages, Fuwa K-Hitch has also supplied landing kegs, king pins and mechanical suspensions.

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Running with quality

For versatile and effective trailer builds, Austruck Truck Bodies aligns its business with component specialist, Fuwa K-Hitch.

The Australian Bureau of Statics released a report on road freight movements* that showed articulated and rigid-bodied trucks in Australia have moved over two billion tonnes of freight over a distance of 17 billion kilometres in the 12 months to October 2014, with just under three quarters (71.2 per cent) of the total tonnes originating in either New South Wales, Victoria or Queensland.

Also, over 95 per cent of the total tonnes carried by road were carried within the same state of origin and destination. A spokesperson from the ABS said that “sand, stone and gravel was the most common commodity moved across all states and territories, making up about 23 per cent of the total tonnes moved across Australia”.

Following positive trends with freight activities across Melbourne, original equipment manufacturer, Austruck Truck Bodies has supported local business with a variety of trailing equipment and rigid-bodied designs including curtain-siders, dog trailers, insulated vans, tippers and beaver tail trays since 1988.

There is an increasing demand for locally sourced axles and suspension systems, according to Austruck Truck Bodies Director, Frank Sellars. “Fleets are looking for the best return on their investment, and that also means specifying trailers that are optimised for versatility and longevity,” he says – adding that it is his long-term partnership with Fuwa K-Hitch that has helped him maintain a successful and enduring enterprise. “Part of my responsibility as an equipment manufacturer is to educate businesses on how to get the most out of their trailers. Whether a company needs to cart concrete pipes, consumable goods or even caravans, containers or larger, industrial gear, they need running gear that is spec’d for the task.”

Frank says that he supports local industry by investing in Fuwa K-Hitch axles and suspension systems, sourcing what the client needs. “The other advantage of specifying Fuwa K-Hitch is having access to reliable technical support. The team there understand precisely what I need, especially when I am looking for advice on how to get the most out of a particular trailer build.

Fuwa K-Hitch Regional Sales Manager, Diaa Bishara, says that Fuwa has been supplying the trailer builder with VDL Weweler air suspension systems with 8-stud drum brake axles that are fitted with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and auto slack adjusters for almost three years. “The ultra lite model supplied is a U-bolt type of suspension that allows flexibility for Frank when fitting the full Fuwa K-Hitch range of axle sizes such as 17.5”, 19.5” and 22.5” drum brake and disc brake models,” Diaa says. “Fuwa K-Hitch welds and assembles the suspensions to the axles at nominated chassis rail centres in Derrimut, Victoria, as well as pre-installing additions such as ABS pole wheels, fit brake boosters, sensors and automatic slack adjusters,” he says – adding that this method allows Frank to receive a modular suspension that is ready-to-install, alleviating costly labour and the need to perform critical welding while adhering to torque requirements.

Following positive trends in manufacturing and general freight, Frank says that investing in Fuwa K-Hitch running gear important for fleets to remain competitive and serviceable. “Downtime is never ideal, especially when a business relies on trailers and rigid-bodied equipment to get the job done,” he says. “I have aligned the Austruck Truck Bodies with suppliers like Fuwa K-Hitch because they are excellent, and everyone in the industry knows them by their solid reputation for quality. In terms of stock availability, Fuwa-Hitch turn stock around quickly, which is essential for forward-planning production and supplying fleets with.”

*Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Road Freight Movements, Australia, 2014


Fast Fact: According to Fuwa K-Hitch Regional Sales Manager, Diaa Bishara, in addition to providing axle, brake and suspension systems, the component specialist also provides a full range of products including pneumatic kits for airbags, hubodometers, spring brakes, manual raise/lower accessories, dump valves and landing legs, which he says makes life as easy as possible for original equipment manufacturers from a supply perspective.

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A quintessential combination

To manufacture productive and versatile road train trailers for Jamieson Transport in Western Australia, Bailey’s Body Builders specifies axles and suspension from Fuwa K-Hitch.

Iron ore was Western Australia’s highest value commodity during 2015-16, accounting for more than $48 billion (71 per cent) of total mineral sales*. The state’s figures cemented its position as the world’s largest exporter of iron ore, with sales volumes reaching 756 million tonnes, up from 719 million tonnes in 2014-15.

To meet the transport demand from the mining industry, David Bailey – owner of Bailey’s Body Builders – has been supplying the commercial road transport industry with road train trailers and heavy haulage equipment since 1989.

Semi-retired – and coordinating operations with his son, General Manager – John Bailey, from their facility in Armadale, he has seen many changes in trailer design since the advent of the Performance-Based Standards (PBS) high productivity scheme.

“In 1992, we thought a standard quad combination hauling 92 tonnes was big,” David says. “Now, we are manufacturing impressive road train combinations that can move 139 tonnes, utilising clever design coupled with reliable running gear. Even though the industry has seen many changes over the years, one constant is the requirement for high-productivity equipment that is built to last.”

One of David’s regular customers is bulk haulage business, Jamieson Transport, which has one of the largest fleets in the Pilbara region, with a significant selection of transport equipment built by Bailey’s Body Builders.

Jamieson Transport Workshop Manager, Willie Brennssell, says that he has recently taken delivery of a quin road train combination from Bailey’s, which has PBS approval to run 720km round trips between Port Hedland and authorised mines in Western Australia, hauling iron ore, manganese and copper concentrate. The quin has a Gross Combination Mass (GCM) of 200 tonnes and a payload capacity of 139 tonnes.

“This is our third quin to join the Jamieson fleet,” Willie says. “With one lead A-trailer and two connected B-doubles, we need suspension systems that will last the trailers’ lifetime and meet PBS requirements.”

To satisfy PBS requirements for lightweight tare, David confirms about 80 per cent of his customers specify Fuwa K-Hitch axles and suspension systems, which are also cost-effective and serviceable.

Willie explains that iron ore payloads in a standard trailer will typically transfer weight from the front to the rear axles in transit, which affects long-term suspension durability. “The quin combination is designed to transfer payloads more evenly via its multi-bin system, allowing for up to 23 tonnes per axle group. This balances out payload weight across the entire trailer combination.”

David also says that the multi-bin system ensures better stability and payload weight accuracy. “Separate bins can load within a close margin of accuracy – as opposed to one large bin. Also, by separating the payload into multiple storage points across the trailers, the stored materials are easier to manage, which is ideal in terms of safety, promoting significant efficiency gains, too.”

While the quin is limited to its PBS routes, Jamieson can unhitch the A-trailer, allowing the trailer combination to function as a quad, expanding its road network access capabilities – highlighting its diverse practical applications.

David says the quin is built for productivity with lightweight tare because a fleet simply cannot compete in the market without optimised heavy haulage equipment. ”Bailey’s Body Builders has worked with Fuwa K-Hitch for over 15 years, and its aftersales support has always been impeccable.”

Fuwa K-Hitch State Manager for Western Australia and the Northern Territory, Ryan Ussher, says that his team provides running gear that is suitable for the region’s harsh conditions, and has maintained a great long-term partnership with the team at Bailey’s.

“The quin trailers use our Pan 19 disc brakes with parallel bearings, 10×285 PCD axles in tri-axle groups and three-leaf suspension while all fixed trailer connections use Fuwa K-Hitch 90mm heavy duty ballraces,” he says. “Fuwa running gear is built to withstand Western Australia’s harsh conditions, and we understand the importance of minimising downtime that’s why we offer quality components and effective speed-to-market for replacement parts to support preventative maintenance tasks. Our team has access to the largest stock holding of trailer parts and components in Western Australia and can support all of our products in the field.”

The Jamieson Transport workshop engages in regular preventative maintenance because it is important to minimise downtime.

“In our experience, Fuwa K-Hitch components from running gear components to wheel bearings are readily available, which allows us to run a more serviceable and efficient fleet,” he says.

With the ebb and flow of mining activity, and the need to shift bulk payloads efficiently, David and John Bailey continue to invest in Fuwa K-Hitch running gear to provide fleets like Jamieson Transport with optimised road train combinations, promoting efficiency and versatility.

*Source: Government of Western Australia Department of Mines and Petroleum, Statistics Digest 2015-16.

 

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