Bigger truck opens the doors to bigger jobs for radio tower business

Specialising in assembling radio and communications towers in remote areas across the country, Australian Radio Towers (ART) recently upgraded to a bigger truck to serve its growing needs.

As the name suggests, ART is in the business of assembling radio and communications towers.

“We’re unique in our game, providing a turnkey solution for guide masts and towers that covers design, manufacture, supply, transport and install… there’s not too many companies that will do all of that in-house,” said ART’s Chris Ratcliff.

Based in Murwillumbah in Northern New South Wales, with a few strategically placed depots across the country and a warehouse in Victoria, ART has customers all over Australia and into the Pacific Islands.

“Australian Radio Towers has grown from a small company that had six or seven people working for it to what it is today with over 140 people on staff,” Ratcliff said.

As the company has grown, so too did the need for a bigger truck. An ageing crane truck purchased in 2017 had put in the hard yards but was ready for retirement, so ART purchased an Isuzu FYJ 300-350 twin-steer, fitted out with a high-powered PK 14402-EH Palfinger crane, which assists to construct towers that can span up to 160 metres high.

Paired with a 6.8-metre-long twin-axle dog trailer, which is the exact same height as the FYJ’s tray, it makes for an impressive rig.

The massive towers ART produces, transports and installs are used in environmental monitoring systems, meteorological studies, the renewable energy sector, and of course, communications for industries such as mining, defence and emergency services.

Before the Covid pandemic, ART focused on temporary radio towers at music festivals and events, But with events temporarily put on hold, the business shifted its focus by introducing permanent radio towers for mobile and Wi-Fi communications.

However, this is only a part of the ART offering, and the point of difference lies in the team’s end-to-end expertise: from drafting and design of a wide range of products such as masts and towers, stand-alone power units and rapid-deploy solutions, through to their manufacture and supply, transport and installation.

They turned to the team at Brisbane Isuzu to organise a fresh set of wheels and struck up a strong relationship with sales representative Julian Walker from the Archerfield dealership.

“We went with the FYJ twin steer and bogie axle, with a tandem trailer because that setup suits what we do,” said Ratcliff.

“It gives the option to take the truck to site, or we can take the truck and trailer and leave the trailer out on the road if we need to – it just gives us versatility.”

Ratcliff said the FYJ twin steer model was specifically chosen for its weight bearing and load sharing advantages. With its four axles, the FYJ provides maximum support and load distribution for the crane, which needs to lift five tons or more at close range and just under a ton at a range of 17 metres.

Featuring a Gross Vehicle Mass of 30,000 kilograms (28,000-kilogram on-road legal limit) and a Gross Combined Mass of 45,000 kilograms, the FYJ 300-350 8×4 is more than capable of safely carrying the powerful Palfinger crane behind the cab, plus a load on the tray and dog trailer.

It offers more grunt than ART really needs but happens is the perfect length when combined with their trailer for coming under a very specific 19-metre length restriction.

“We carry equipment that takes up a lot of space, but not a lot of weight,” Ratcliff explained.

“As you can imagine, a radio tower takes up a fair bit of room, but it doesn’t have a lot of weight because it’s got to be streamlined and efficient to be able to go up to 160 metres in the air.

“The setup can be a bit more awkward to get around tight corners, but it gives us more carrying capacity and with the front mounted crane, allows load sharing over the twin axles at the front.

“One of the other reasons that we decided on this model was that we were advised by our mechanics to avoid AdBlue and burn cycle engines,” he continued.

“This truck has a simple DOC exhaust system to meet emissions requirements, which tends to be more reliable… it’s not likely to slow down on the side of the road and hold us up.”

This refers to the FYJ’s Euro V compliant emissions control system, which features cooled EGR with exhaust Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC) eliminating the need for other fuel additives.

The team has been flat chat with their new crane truck and trailer combination, with productivity gains coupled with the ability to take on more jobs than was previously possible.

The truck currently has a weekly run from North Queensland to the bottom end of New South Wales, with additional jobs located as far as Mount Walsh near Rockhampton.

“The team love the inside of the cab on the FYJ, it’s modern, luxurious and everything works so well. It’s perfect for us,” Ratcliff added.

“It has already done over 20,000 kilometres since we picked it up in early 2023 and it hasn’t let us down yet. That’s the reliability we are looking for.”

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