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One million reasons to smile

Since 2004 Kalgoorlie based mine haulage specialist, MLG Oz, has been using FUWA K-Hitch unitised hub disc brake axles on its trailers. Without fail the units have been exceeding a one-million kilometre lifespan in spite of the trying conditions under which they are operating.

MLG Oz provides an integrated platform of mine site support services comprising the supply of construction materials, crushing and screening services, bulk haulage – both on and off-road – and export logistics.

The company currently operates at 29 sites across regional Western Australia and the Northern Territory, servicing a diverse range of domestic and international mining companies.

According to Murray Leahy, Managing Director of MLG Oz, since switching to FUWA K-Hitch unitised hub axles the company has seen a dramatic reduction in axle-related maintenance on its trailers.

“We’ve used FUWA K-Hitch unitised hub disc brake axles exclusively across our entire on-road fleet of between 350 and 400 trailers and 200 dollies for the best part of 17 years,” Murray says. “Prior to this we were using drum brake axles and we have found the K-Hitch disc brake axle with WABCO PAN 19-1 callipers to be far superior.”

Murray says not only did the disc brake axles provide a huge improvement in braking performance, but reliability and uptime were also maintained at a high level, with a corresponding dramatic reduction in maintenance.

Murray explains that MLG Oz uses two FUWA K-Hitch products on its trailers – the K-Hitch unitised disc axles for on-road applications and the 17-tonne drum brake traditional application axle on the off-road trailers.

“Our haulage fleet is roughly 50-50 on-road and off-road and the on-road fleet spends about 35 per cent of the time on sealed roads and 65 per cent on unsealed but well-maintained haul roads,” Murray says.

“Both the unitised disc and traditional 17-tonne drum axles have been consistently reliable and given us good service across the fleet.”

Murray elaborates that the company works in fairly arduous conditions and that the unitised hub has eliminated the need to do regular bearing repacks that were necessary with the earlier axles.

“A full bearing repack on a quad roadtrain is a several-day job and finding quality tradespeople to do this work is getting harder these days,” he says. “When you extrapolate that out across the whole fleet it amounts to a huge saving in labour costs.”

Murray stresses that from the time the company started using the unitised hub axles there was an immediate increase in operational time due to the corresponding drop in trailing equipment maintenance.

He adds that there was a need to train workshop staff in new preventative maintenance procedures necessary to ensure longevity of the disc brakes in the dusty environments in which the trailers operate.

“Regular rim tap-outs to remove the accumulated layers of dust at regular intervals is imperative,” Murray explains. “and if a brake starts chattering or shuddering then it’s necessary to check the calliper slides for issues such as inadequate lubrication.

“Once you have your workshop staff understanding these principles its really easy to keep everything operating smoothly, and the regular maintenance is simple too,” Murray says – adding that the K-Hitch products are very straightforward in design and operation, which is a great advantage.

“They are not hard processes to understand and learn, so once you lock them in it’s basically set and forget,” he says.

Murray expounds on the K-Hitch one-million kilometre warranty, saying that when the company first offered it there was scepticism in the industry about the products being able to last that long. However, he says they have delivered on their promise.

“The first sets of trailers we had with the unitised axles did 1.3 million kilometres without having the bearings touched,” he says. “These days we change the bearings at one-million kilometres and we know they’ll be good for another million. We have complete confidence in the product because we know it can do the distance – we can’t fault it.”

Similarly, with the 17-tonne drum brake FUWA axles, Murray says while the maintenance is a little higher compared with the unitised axles, the product is very robust and reliable under the harsh operating conditions.

“We’re running them hard – consistently heavily loaded to around 16.5 tonnes per axle in harsh off-road conditions. But, again, it’s simple and parts availability is spot on – the product is well supported and fits our operating model very well.

“FUWA K-Hitch has been very thorough in ensuring the utmost in quality control in the manufacturing of the axles and this has given us supreme confidence in the products for our applications,” Murray says.

“All up, they are great products that are well priced, with back up and support from the team at FUWA K-Hitch in Perth that’s second to none.

“We couldn’t ask for more.”

Fast Fact: MLG Oz runs a large fleet of on- and off-road quad roadtrain tipper combinations fitted with FUWA K-Hitch axles. Since transitioning to K-Hitch unitised hub disc brake axles with a one-million kilometre lifespan, the company has realised a dramatic drop in trailer maintenance requirements.

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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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