Container, News, Trailers

World-first Double-Stack trailers roll out in Brisbane

A world-first Super B-double ‘Double-Stack’ trailer combination capable of carrying up to eight empty 20-foot containers is now up and running at the Port of Brisbane.

First revealed to truck fans at the recent Brisbane Truck Show, the O’Phee ‘London’ Double Stack Container SKEL Super B-double combination – named after the famous double-decker buses of London – was built by O’Phee Trailers, a division of The Drake Group.

The O’Phee ‘London’ Double Stack Super B-double combination, which had just successfully finished its first on-road trial as we were going to print with this issue, is designed to move four 40-foot, or eight 20-foot shipping containers at a time, stacked to an impressive height of over seven metres.

Qube says its excited to be working with O’Phee Trailers and the The Drake Group in trialling stage one of these innovative trailers. 

“These High Productivity Vehicles have the potential to increase operational efficiencies, given their ability to move 12 x 20-foot containers at a time, and we believe they could also contribute to lower emissions by eliminating truck movements,” the company said. 

“Under stringent safety and operational conditions, the trial saw the vehicle carry eight empty 20-foot equivalent (TEU) containers on a defined route within Qube’s port facilities and limited public port roads. It is the first time a double stacked container vehicle has been trialled on public roads in Australia.” 

The O’Phee ‘London’ Double-Stack combinations will only carry empty containers, and accordingly has been designed in a tri-tandem Super B-double configuration.

“This innovative combination will significantly increase productivity over the existing, very efficient Super Bs and PBS A-doubles currently in operation,” said trailer legend Mick O’Phee, of O’Phee Trailers, a division of the Drake Group. 

And this was ratified by NHVR’s chief engineer Les Bruzsa.

The ground-breaking idea came about following discussions between Qube and O’Phee Trailers on ways to improve the productivity and efficiency of moving a large number of empty containers. 

Qube was initially considering longer Super B-doubles to carry the containers but since there are no height restrictions or potential hazards at the port, it was decided to look at developing a combination that could go higher to take advantage of these unique operating conditions. 

“We asked the question to Les Bruzsa and the Port of Brisbane and all agreed that this was indeed possible, but it may be a journey – that was an understatement,” O’Phee added.

“Back then, myself and John Drake said we could actually do this, and it would be amazing,  so John and I embarked on how we could actually get it approved and designed,” said O’Phee.

“We went through all the regulatory avenues – the what fors, what ifs and hows – and got through the approval processes. We then designed what we thought would work, then we had to put it all on the line and actually build it.

“After it was built, we had to prove that the computer simulations would work in a physical test, so we arranged some stability testing, and had NHVR and the Port of Brisbane there to validate and check that it all worked, which it did.”

The road trial saw the Super B-double carry eight empty 20ft equivalent (TEU) containers on a defined route within Qube’s port facilities and limited public port roads.

Complex testing

The NHVR, together with the trailer manufacturer, conducted tilt tests of the Double-Stack combination as a fully laden trailer configuration.

These tests evaluated the Static Rollover Threshold (SRT) performance of a vehicle by determining the magnitude of lateral acceleration required to subject a vehicle to roll-over.  

General vehicle safety technology is also fitted to the vehicle including ABS and stability control. The vehicle has been fitted with a custom-made, specific suspension system to further improve the stability. 

“There are a lot of smarts with how we’ve developed these trailers,” added O’Phee.

“There’s a special computer system on the trailer that interfaces with a touch screen in the prime mover. 

“There’s a fair bit in what we do, we’ve been building container handling equipment, general semi-trailers and heavy low-loader trailers for a very long time, and this certainly is not a standard build chassis design. 

Load restraint system

Bruzsa says the load restraint systems were proven to meet the performance standards of the Load Restraint Guide.

“The load restraint equipment of this vehicle is particularly unique and designed to withstand forces from all directions,” he said.

“It is an integral part of the trailer’s structure and complimented by bespoke fabricated assemblies of hydraulic and electronic components which assist with the loading, restraining, and unloading of the empty containers.

“The restraint system can be operated from the cabin, and the driver does not leave the vehicle to control the loading or unloading of the containers.”

Where to next

Officially launching in July, the London combination is currently restricted to approved routes within the Port of Brisbane, and Bruzsa tells Big Rigs that there are no current plans to extend the operation outside of the precinct.

O’Phee has had enquires from operators of other Australian ports, who are also interested in adopting this new and innovated technology, since the trailers were revealed at the Brisbane Truck Show – and others are already in production.

The ‘London’ has also been designed to run as a Super B-triple which means it can carry up to a dozen 20-foot containers, or six 40-footers.

“There’s  more on order, with a vision to get these into some of the other states too,” O’Phee added.

“They are on port use only, so the large port users are the ones who will get excited. With vehicles down and drivers down, it’s all about improving efficiency and sustainability.”

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