A trailer can extend the versatility of any light commercial and there is an abundance of products, but the legislation involved in towing can be confusing to say the least, as Steve banner discovers next month in the second instalment of this feature.
Product development is continuing apace at leading UK trailer builder Ifor Williams. It’s come up with a new range of tandem and tri-axle tilt-beds aimed at markets as diverse as landscaping and car transportation. There are six models in the line-up. Bed width is 2,004mm in each case and there are four different lengths available, ranging from 4,001mm to 5,503mm.
A plywood floor mounted flush with steel outer edges carries the cargo, which can include, say, an excavator or perhaps ground care machinery. Loading the trailer shouldn’t be too challenging thanks to the load bed’s low height and loading angle. Standard features include a spare wheel, a heavy-duty jockey wheel and at least ten cargo tie-down points.
Rear loading choices include a full-width ramp and either fixed or removable skids. Various winches can be specified too, as can removable steel dropsides. Payload capacity ranges from 2,236kg to 2,755kg depending on the model specified, with gross weights set at either 3,000kg or 3,500kg. Prices start at £2,670.
The Cynwyd, Corwen, Denbighshire trailer maker’s skills were recently recognised at the Safety and Health Practioner Awards. The fruits of its collaboration with Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions, JCB and Kubota meant that the company was runner-up in the Partnership Initiative of the Year category.
The collaboration, along with training provider Failsworth, involved getting around a table and coming up with ideas to make plant and machinery trailers safer to use. “We came up with a longer ramp fitted with side rails to eliminate any risk of slipping off during loading,” says Ifor Williams national account sales manager, Paul Davies.
Longer ramps make loading easier because of the reduced loading angle, and the awards’ judges were impressed with the lockable box fitted at the front of the trailer. “It can be used to store the drill attachment or breaker that fits on to the end of the dipper arm of an excavator,” Davies explains. “This means that for safe keeping the attachment no longer has to be put in the back of the van used to tow the trailer — it’s typically worth approximately £2,000 and Balfour Beatty has got around 200 of them — but is ready to hand inside the secure box when the excavator operator is about to start work.” Although it was originally developed for Balfour Beatty, the trailer is now available to other customers too.
Not to be outdone, Bolton-based rival Indespension has come up with a new range of tandem-axle low-loader plant and general goods trailers employing 13in wheels. Features include a reduced bed height and a loading angle as low as 15°. Gross weights are either 2,700kg or 3,500kg for plant applications, while payload capacities range from 2,190kg to 2,826kg. Bed dimensions extend from 2,500mm x 1,226mm to 3,650mm x 1,720mm depending on the model selected.
The general goods trailers are marketed at the same grosses, while bed dimensions run from 2,510mm x 1,270mm to 3,670mm x 1,720mm. The sides are 350mm deep in all cases. Payload capacities range from 2,045kg to 2,852kg. Goods trailer prices start at £1,320.
Elsewhere, Conway is revamping its entire range. One of the first fruits of this effort is the single-axle MP750. Grossing at 750kg, as its designation suggests, it’s an open-backed trailer capable of handling a 540kg load. The load area is 1,225mm x 1,505mm with sides 305mm deep while the tailgate is 1,294mm tall and 1,262mm wide.
Virtually everything on the MP750 is galvanised, including the chassis, and it comes complete with a jockey wheel, rope hooks and rear prop stands. Options include a ladder rack and a winch. The trailer was originally designed to carry batteries used to power traffic lights set up at road works says Conway engineering manager, Steve Pennington. Bigger, longer versions are available too from the Wigan company. “They’re all the same width though,” he says.
What impact is the recession having on trailer builders? “Clearly we’re suffering in line with the rest of the vehicle market,” says Indespension marketing manager, Neil Singleton. “For example, sales of plant trailers have been hit by the problems affecting the construction industry.
“Fortunately at Indespension we’ve got plenty of other sides to our business,” he continues. “The recession means that a lot of people are holidaying at home this year, so our camping trailers are proving popular. We sell roof boxes and cycle-carriers too, in addition to supplying and fitting tow-bars, and they’re all doing well.”
Talking about towing attachments for vans, there’s currently a big swing towards towing steps says Witter Towbars sales and marketing manager, Jim Bedford. They’re packages that include a rear load area access step for a van plus a tow-bar, although the step can be purchased separately.
“We can offer a package that weighs no more than 30kg to 35kg, a weight saving of around 40 per cent,” he says. “It costs £250 plus fitting and a lot of the utilities are expressing an interest in it.”
The key reason is safety. The width of the step and its non-slip surface minimises the risk of trips and falls, and a drop-down flap can be specified to cover the tow-ball so that you don’t fall over it.
Witter has also developed a 3,500kg-capacity lockable universal coupling. With a lock built into the towing pin, it has been introduced to cut the risk of trailer theft. Witter’s competitors include Dixon-Bate and Thule Towing Systems.
All braked trailers built on or after 1 October 1982 must be fitted with a safety device in case the towing vehicle and the trailer part company. In the majority of cases a breakaway cable is used. Generally made from steel, and frequently plastic-coated, it’s linked to both the towing vehicle and trailer. It goes taut and applies the latter’s brakes if the trailer breaks loose. It is designed to part once it has done so, and hopefully the trailer will come to a halt a little way away from the towing vehicle.
Don’t forget that different speed limits are in force if you’re pulling a trailer. They are 60mph on unrestricted motorways, 60mph on unrestricted dual carriageways, and 50mph on other unrestricted roads. If the gross weights of the trailer and towing vehicle combined exceed 7.5 tonnes, then the limits are 60mph, 50mph, and 40mph respectively.
In our view more light commercial operators should consider investing in a trailer. It’s a cost-effective way of increasing your payload capacity and a trailer can make your vehicle a lot more versatile. If you acquire one, however, then you must ensure that you operate your vehicle/trailer combination within the law. The penalties could be steep if you fail to do so.