Just when you think you’re dealing with a breakthrough ‘˜first’, you find someone has gone before you writes Patrick O’Leary.
In the July edition of FleetWatch, we ran a cover story titled ‘˜Green Vision becomes reality’. It was all about the green trailer developed by Barloworld Logistics which we described as ground-breaking stuff that should be emulated by others. While we do not retract the accolades we threw at the company of this innovative venture, it was most interesting to receive not one, but two, emails in response to the article telling of similar ventures conducted many many years ago.
The first was from Wolfgang Lehmann, a stalwart of the industry and a trailer expert of note. He sent the accompanying photograph , which he still has in a frame at his home – of a Henred Fruehauf rig with the following note. “I liked your article about “Green Vision” but quite honestly, whatever was said about fuel savings, we did at Henred Fruehauf almost 30 years ago. The accompanying photograph shows a unit for the South African Transport Service (SATS) which achieved an almost 15% fuel saving. “The rig was designed by the late Toni Ricci and John Hoare was still in charge of the drawing office of Henred Fruehauf (Ed’s Note: Hoare later went on to become MD of the company). Unfortunately, however, it was only a prototype as even in the early 1980’s, it was very expensive to manufacture something like this. In this case it was “Yellow vision becomes reality”.
No sooner had I finished marvelling at the ingenuity displayed 30 years ago , long before the words ‘˜global warming’ had even hit the scientists’ desks , that I received another email. This time it was from Mark Roering of Transnational Freightlink. He wrote. “This picture – dating back to September 1992 – may be of interest considering the front cover of your July 2010 issue.
“We at Freightlink built two of these interlink combinations. We had the skirts as well as hub caps fitted and the vehicles were really aerodynamic. The spray suppression in wet weather was incredible. I can remember one stormy day where I drove behind the rig and I got to within say a car’s length behind it without any spray affecting my vision. The spray was all suppressed downwards onto the road surface”.
“The fuel consumption on these MB1728s could not be compared because the vehicles were new and the others in our fleet were MB1735 rigid drawbar combinations. I do remember that it was good though. “Unfortunately, we eventually removed the skirts because of continual abuse and damage caused by forklift operators at our clients’ premises and the repair and maintenance costs , as well as downtime – became an issue.
At the time, we also signed up with Rob Sowry as his second ever client to take a Nitrogen tower to inflate our tyres. We still use Nitrogen today and have a very low CPK on this cost centre. We also had air suspension as well as satellite tracking on the units.’
So there we have it. If only such innovations had been implemented on a wide-scale basis all those years ago, perhaps we wouldn’t be facing the environmental urgencies we are now facing. Thanks guys for taking us back in time and reminding us that this industry has always been at the forefront of innovation and progress.