Dual-Use Trailers

by James Menzies

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. – Dual-use trailers have yet to be embraced by log and chip haulers in Western Canada, despite the fact that Trimac Bulk Systems continues to reap the rewards of a one-of-a-kind log/chip trailer in Alberta.

The B-train, which has completed more than 435 round trips between Hinton and Strachan (a 770 km round-trip haul), has been paying big dividends for Trimac.

In an application where trailers typically run empty 50 per cent of the time, the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada (FERIC) has delivered a possible solution to help maximize efficiencies.

The trailer, manufactured by K-Line, looks much like a chip van.

However, the sides open up, revealing bunks which allow for the loading of logs as well. Since being incorporated into Trimac Bulk System’s fleet in January 2001, the company has realized increased efficiencies of 23 per cent while hauling chips and 33 per cent hauling logs.

That’s an overall cost reduction of 28 per cent when compared to traditional log and chip trailers.

“The dual-use trailer concept is successful,” said Brian Bulley, the FERIC researcher overseeing the project at the institute’s recent Western transportation conference.

In addition to allowing the user to increase his loaded miles, the trailer has provided some environmental benefits as well.

The trailer has saved Trimac 326,000 litres of fuel and the environment 811,280 kg of CO2, said Bulley.

In Alberta alone, FERIC determined there’s potential for 31 dual-use trailers in the forestry sector.

That could result in a net saving of 7.1 trucks and eliminate the use of 1.2 million litres of fuel per year. That would also prevent 21 tonnes of NOx from being emitted in the province’s atmosphere each year.

In B.C., there are even more applications which would be suited for dual-use trailers, said Bulley.

Fifty-one dual-use trailers could be put to work in B.C. resulting in 1.8 million fewer litres of fuel being burned and 31.7 tonnes of NOx being avoided, he said.

But despite the benefits to the operators and the environment, the industry has yet to embrace dual-use trailers. There are several reasons for that, explained Bulley.

“The market is poorly understood by manufacturers,” he said. It costs a lot of money to develop a dual-use trailer and manufacturers are reluctant to make that investment not knowing how much demand there will be in the end.

The dual-use trailer operated by Trimac is a prototype, and K-Line is confident it could reduce the weight of future versions by 10 per cent if another generation is created. Also, there are some minor inefficiencies caused by dual-use trailers. For instance, the loading of logs takes slightly longer.

“The loader/operator must be more precise with his movements,” Bulley said.

The trailer has been placed out of commission several times due to damage caused by careless loading, but that has only resulted in higher maintenance costs of five per cent.

Once the logs are unloaded, the operator must also take some time to clean out the bark from the belly before loading the trailer with chips.

Another challenge is that the dropped belly doesn’t allow drivers to haul the trailer into wooded areas to pick up logs.

And then there’s the extra TARE weight to consider as well.

Despite those concerns, Bulley said there are still more companies that could benefit from implementing dual-use trailers.

FERIC has established a spreadsheet trucking companies can use to determine their predicted savings.

The cost of the dual-use trailer being operated by Trimac is $170,000 – or about $40,000 more than a typical B-train.

However the case study involving the dual-use chip/log trailer has proven the investment can pay off fairly quickly, Bulley insisted.

For more information, visit FERIC’s Web site at www.feric.ca

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