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Built to last

The need for robust and reliable trailer axles and components for its builds led trailer manufacturer Harris Automation Engineering to Fuwa K-Hitch. Now, 14 years on, the company remains convinced that the products and service it receives from Fuwa are unbeatable. 

Harris Automation Engineering specialises in the manufacture of a wide variety of trailers and bodies to suit the individual needs of its customers.

The company prides itself on its innovative approach to design and manufacturing techniques, focusing on continual product improvement along with safety and efficiency for operators.

The range includes extreme-duty outback models extensively tested by the company’s Research and Development team to ensure each product and associated components exceed the expectations of clients.

In fact, one of the factors that initially drew Harris Automation Engineering owner Brendon Harris to Fuwa K-Hitch was Fuwa’s inclusion of what he considers to be the best bearings in the business.

“Fuwa K-Hitch uses Pro-Par bearings in its trailer axles which I really like,” Brendon says. “Fruehauf used to use Pro-Par bearings and when you have a trailer that’s 45 years old and still has the original axles, I believe that says it all.” Brendon says he also believes the Weweler suspension supplied by Fuwa K-Hitch is an extremely good product.

“The suspension I like to use from Fuwa K-Hitch is the Weweler 11-tonne airbag which I think is bullet-proof,” Brendon says. “We’ve been testing it on our trailers in outback Northern Territory and it’s proven to be more than up to the task.

“We also use a number of other K-Hitch components including landing legs, kingpins, fifth wheels and air tanks.”

He mentions that keeping in touch with clients is an important aspect of the company’s operations, ensuring continual product improvement.

“I talk to all my clients to see how things are going – it’s not like we build a trailer and never talk to them again,” Brendon says.

“You should be able to buy a trailer and run it for 10 years, then bring it back for an overhaul and have it looking brand new again.”

Brendon emphasises that his company is not a volume producer; rather working with its customers to build trailers and bodies exactly to their individual requirements.

The range of trailers the company builds is extensive, including pig and dog trailers, semi-tippers, flat-tops, drop decks, skels and retractable skels. The company also specialises in bespoke bodies for applications such as horse transportation.

Other facets of the business include refurbs and suspension conversions with all work done in-house. As such, there are blasting and paint bays, a steel press and a plasma cutter – the latter two enabling the formation of trailer chassis, crossmembers and other components from flat steel plate.

According to Fuwa K-Hitch Regional Sales Manager, Diaa Bishara, the company has, for more than 10 years, been supplying Harris Automation Engineering with a wide range of components including mechanical suspension and VDL and KI air suspension systems with 8-stud and 10-stud drum brake axles. These are fitted with ABS pole wheels and auto slack adjusters as well as an axle lift function if required.

“The VDL is a U-bolt style of suspension that allows flexibility for Harris Trailers when fitting our full range of axle sizes including 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 at our facility in Derrimut (Vic), and we also pre-install additions such as Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) pole wheels, brake boosters, sensors and automatic slack adjusters.

“In this way the customer receives a modular axle and suspension system that’s ready to install easily to their chassis – which eliminates the hassle and time factor of customers having to undertake critical welding and torquing requirements themselves.”

Diaa explains that Fuwa K-Hitch also supplies Harris Trailers with other necessary components including landing legs, spring brake chambers, fifth wheels, ballrace assemblies, drawbar kits and tow eyes. This, he says, makes life as easy as possible from a supply perspective.

“We do all this whilst offering extremely competitive pricing and what we believe are industry-leading stock availability and the shortest production turnaround times in the business,” Diaa says.

“In fact, generally we can have the product to the customer within five to seven working days after ordering, giving them greater flexibility in planning their own production requirements.

“For anything outside of this we are just a phone call away and ready to assist wherever possible.”

Brendon Harris confirms that the team at Fuwa K-Hitch has always been helpful and prompt in supplying him the products and advice he’s required.

“Diaa and Chris Barrett (National Sales Manager) are good blokes, and the store people are pretty cool,” he says. “They’ve always been willing to help any time I’ve needed them.”

Fast Fact: For the last 14 years bespoke trailer builder Harris Automation Engineering has standardised on Fuwa K-Hitch products including Weweler 11-tonne air suspension, landing legs and kingpins.

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The Dominator effect

The manufacture of robust and stylish tandem- and tri-axle dollies is the main game for Dominator Equipment. The incorporation of Fuwa K-Hitch heavy-duty axles, suspension, ballraces and other quality components is proving to be highly successful.

Manufacturing road transport equipment in Australia is a tough gig. Relatively high labour and material costs can make for a tricky balancing act ensuring the end product is fit for purpose while at the same time remaining price competitive.

On top of this, manufacturers located in regional areas have the tyranny of distance and potential shortage of suitably skilled employees with which to contend.

To ensure business viability, cost effective and quality assured components that will go the distance need to be sourced from reputable suppliers.

Another prerequisite for local manufacturers is that they possess the intimate knowledge and skills to produce equipment of a suitable standard for harsh Australian operating conditions, particularly in the roadtrain realm.

Based at Lake Cargelligo in western NSW, Dominator Equipment appears to be taking all these challenges in its stride as it turns out a respectable number of impressive looking tri-axle dollies to service the heavy-duty road train market.

The company is a spin-off from Duro Tank, also based at Lake Cargelligo and owned by brothers Darryl and Leon Small, an outfit that specialises in the manufacture and sale of steel and poly fuel and water tanks and trailers for mining and agricultural applications.

Around 18 months ago the brothers decided to diversify into building roadtrain dollies as part of the Duro Tank operation. More recently, the decision was taken to separate the two operations with Leon taking the reins as Managing Director of the newly formed Dominator Equipment company.

Having started work as a farm hand after leaving school, Leon says he developed a fascination for all things mechanical and decided to return to study engineering and gain the various certificates and qualifications in this field.

He was then in a position to design equipment subsequently produced by Duro Tank including 22,000-litre truck-mounted water shuttles and dust suppression units used on mine sites.

Over the ensuing years, it has been something of a natural progression for Leon to move further into the design and manufacture of road train dollies. With the companies now operating as two separate entities, Darryl remains in charge of Duro Tank while Leon heads up Dominator Equipment.

Asked his reasons for choosing Fuwa K-Hitch components, Leon says he was introduced to the products by some of his mates in Parkes who build transport equipment and use a lot of Fuwa K-Hitch axles and suspension.

After checking it out for himself, he could see the quality of the products, along with the value for money, and decided to standardise on them. He particularly liked the look of the heavy-duty parallel bearing axles which he says are ideal for the roadtrain dollies.

“We’ve had no complaints whatsoever from any of our customers about the Fuwa running gear,” Leon says. “We are very glad we went with these components and we continue to be impressed with the way the Fuwa axles and suspension are standing up to the harsh operating conditions typical with roadtrain work.”

Fuwa K-Hitch Regional Sales Manager, Diaa Bishara, says that Fuwa has been supplying the trailer builder with VDL air suspension systems and 10-stud drum brake axles complete with Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) and Auto Slack Adjusters for almost five years.

“The VDL is a U-bolt attached suspension that allows flexibility for Dominator Equipment when fitting the full range of axle sizes including 17.5-, 19.5- and 22.5-inch drum and disc brake variants,” Diaa says. “Fuwa K-Hitch welds and assembles the suspensions to the axles at nominated chassis rail centres at its Derrimut (Vic) facility as well as pre-installing additions such as ABS pole wheels, brake boosters, sensors and automatic slack adjusters.”

Using this method, Diaa elaborates, customers receive a modular suspension ready to install easily to the chassis, eliminating the hassle and potential risks of preforming critical welding and torque requirements themselves.

Diaa further explains that Fuwa K-Hitch also supplies Dominator Equipment with other trailer and dolly components including landing leg sets, spring brakes, Fuwa turntables drilled to suit the company’s requirements, ballraces, drawbar kits and tow eyes, which he says makes life as easy as possible from a supply perspective.

“All this is achieved while still offering extremely competitive pricing and what we believe is industry-leading stock availability and the shortest production turnaround times in the business,” Diaa adds.

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

Fast Fact: Specialising in the production of robust tri-axle roadtrain dollies, Dominator Equipment relies upon the expertise of Fuwa K-Hitch for its axles, suspensions, ballraces and other components.

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Taking the weight

Bruce Rock Engineering manufactures a range of trailers to suit the demanding requirements of transport operators around the country. Meeting the company’s need for durable components, Fuwa K-Hitch supplies a large quantity of axles, suspensions and other key trailer constituents to the company. 

Bruce Rock Engineering (BRE) provides a complete range of trailer solutions to the agricultural, mining, construction and general freight industries nationwide. Products include low loaders, side tippers, end tippers, drop decks and fridge vans.

The company says it uses innovative construction techniques along with some of the lightest and strongest materials and components available to produce trailers with extraordinarily low tare weights.

These components include Fuwa K-Hitch (FKH) axles and suspension, ball-races, turntables, landing legs and king-pins.

In addition to building trailers, BRE provides a number of support services to its customers including comprehensive truck and trailer repairs and maintenance as well as a tyre service.

According to BRE Managing Director, Damion Verhoogt, the company has a long-standing relationship with FKH, having used its products for more than 15 years.

“We’ve been using FKH components since they first came to Australia in 2003,” Damion says. “Over the years the products have proven to be reliable and long lasting in our harsh operating conditions, prompting us to incorporate them into an increasing number of our trailer builds.

“We now specify the FKH products on most of our trailers, and because every application is different, we use a range of configurations to suit each customer’s unique requirements. Nearly every trailer we build incorporates at least one FKH component.”

He goes on to explain that because mechanical spring suspension is widely used in Western Australia, the FKH 11.5t, 13t, 17t and 20t versions are popular choices for different applications including on
and off-road.

The 11.5t FKH mechanical spring suspension is said to be a tried and proven design. With the main components made from cast steel, this suspension can be used with a wide range of axles in various applications.

The 17t capacity unit is made from high-grade fabricated steel with special hard-chromed rocker pins and Vesconite bushes. The springs can be fitted to the axle in either underslung or overslung configurations.

BRE also fits FKH air suspension including KI, KT and Weweler variants.

The KT suspension package is adaptable to a range of drum and disc brake axles. It features fabricated box-section trailing arms designed and manufactured for rugged Australian conditions.

The underslung KT250U and overslung KT250T both have an 11t capacity with multiple ride height options. The former has a total axle weight of between 156 and 176kg while the latter weighs between 148 and 159kg, due to different specifications.

Meanwhile, the FKH KI25 fabricated axle and air suspension module is designed for the tare weight conscious on-highway operator.

The KI25 modules are manufactured with the suspension trailing arms permanently attached to an axle tube with a 146mm outside diameter. This coupled with the ConMet alloy wheel-end system is claimed to offer durable performance with low tare weight and ease of maintenance. KI25 trailing arms are fitted with wide pivot bushes as standard.

As for the Weweler air suspension, it comes in a range of sizes starting with the Ultra Lite 9t and Euro 9t and moving up to the Heavy Duty 11t and 13t units.

These designs feature the latest in weld-free clamp-to-the-axle technology. The trailing arms are made from flexible, high-strength forged spring steel and innovative bolt-on air bag mounting seats are adaptable for different ride heights and offsets.

For BRE’s Damion Verhoogt , using FKH axles and suspension for the last 15 years has meant the products are well and truly proven in a wide range of applications.

“The FKH components are very competitively priced in a lot of sectors – in value-for-money terms I don’t think you can go past them,” he states.

Damion goes on to outline an interesting joint venture BRE has with North American Wabash Trailers, which has recently culminated in BRE importing Wabash fridge vans in flat-pack form which are subsequently assembled and fitted to BRE’s own chassis. This means that FKH components are also used in the build. One of the first examples of this new build process was on display at BRE’s stand at the Brisbane Truck Show.

“We have been the sole Australian distributor for Wabash for the last five years but up until now we have imported the trailers as fully built-up units,” Damion explains. “Now we are importing the box in kit form and building them up locally using our own chassis. This enables us to have greater flexibility and more control which leads to superior build quality.”

As for the retail aspect of BRE, Damion says the company has four sites of its own in the west while on the eastern side of the country it relies on the sales and service outlets of other trailer dealers.

In conclusion, Damion says the team at FKH in WA is fantastic to work with and maintains a well-stocked warehouse, meaning BRE always has access to the necessary components when they are required.


Fast Fact: Western Australian trailer manufacturer Bruce Rock Engineering has been using Fuwa K-Hitch components – including axles and suspension, ball-races, turntables, landing legs and king-pins – for the past 15 years. The company says the products have proven to be reliable and long lasting under harsh Australian operating conditions.

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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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