Vawdry future driven as the largest independent trailer builder in Australia

Vawdrey is the largest independent trailer builder in Australia. With year-on-year sales trending upwards, the company is committed more than ever to delivering world-class manufacturing for the global logistics operators that depend on safer and more efficient road transport equipment.

It takes a passionate ethos and understanding of Australia’s freight movements, along with a certain degree of confidence in the competitive trailer building market, to rise among the competition – the kind of confidence that Vawdrey Australia has had for over 40 years.

From the disparity of Victoria’s bustling metropolitan areas and drought-affected New South Wales to the regional roads that connect Queensland to the other states and territories of Australia, the national freight task is as varied as it is arduous. That alone can be a daunting prospect for an OEM attempting to tackle Australia’s diverse road freight challenges. For Vawdrey, however, there are a wealth of opportunities to explore to improve the day-to-day operations of businesses Australia-wide – the kind of opportunities that Director, Paul Vawdrey, relishes.

This freight task, in general, demands road transport that is durable enough to endure long-distance trips (often city to city) as well as trailer componentry with suitable ingress protection to ward against the sun-kissed dirt and dust that can negatively impact the longevity of regional fleet assets. To contrast, inner-city operations typically require vehicles with the right mix of articulation and optimised tare weight to ensure fewer truck movements. These complex and seemingly contradictory requirements are the kinds of challenges that Vawdrey Australia investigates and solves to ensure that it builds and supplies the best equipment in the interests of assuring optimal fleet utility.

The Australian market is very different to the US and Europe, according to Paul Vawdrey. “Orders are often smaller in size because customisation is important to Australians,” he says. “Just about every trailer order is unique, and we work with many leading fleets in the Asia Pacific region to ensure that the trailing equipment they order is built to specification.”

Of course, commerce in Australia is flourishing and there are skeletal trailers running containerised freight between the ports and intermodal facilities, while B-doubles (the most common trailer configuration seen in the country) seem to rule the main roads. While transport activity contributed more than $122 billion AUD (approx. €74.9 billion) to the economy in 2015-16, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the transport industry alone made a notable contribution – accounting for $77 billion AUD (€47.2 billion) or 4.6 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The Australian Road Transport Suppliers Association (ARTSA) reported late last year that heavy vehicle registrations were at their highest since the industry body began reporting on registration data five years prior. ARTSA’s data suggests that there were in total 44,000 new vehicles registered for 2018, exceeding the record in 2017 by over 5,000 vehicles.

Now more than ever, Australia’s road transport industry is turning to the likes of Vawdrey for state-of-the-art trailing equipment that enables better safety, efficiency and longevity.

Today, the OEM is renowned for its innovative and high productivity semi-trailers, but Paul Vawdrey reflects on how Australia’s largest privately-owned trailer building company came to be.

“The Vawdrey Australia story began in September 1974 when my father, Mick Vawdrey, set up shop in Melbourne and immediately got to work on truck bodies for local companies and owner-drivers,” he says.

“Establishing a successful body building business from scratch is a tough task, especially in a country like Australia, where the climate is unforgiving and the road network is notoriously harsh.

“But growing it into a national marquee brand that is constantly resetting the bar on innovative trailer design is a Herculean challenge – especially so when tied to a wheelchair.”

Despite being wheelchair-bound, Mick Vawdrey found strength in what others might have perceive as a disadvantage. He told Paul Vawdrey that in hindsight, the wheelchair was an asset to the business as it made him focus on growing the business rather than lose himself in the actual production process.

September this year will mark 45 years of operation for Vawdrey Australia. For a company that has grown from a modest body building workshop in the Melbourne suburb of Braeside to a national manufacturing powerhouse, it can be said that the list of innovations brought to Australia by the father-son duo is simply incredible.

As an integral player in the evolution of Australia’s semi-trailer building industry, Vawdrey Australia has established a reputation based on quality, innovation and dedication – a reputation that the family business continues to uphold.

“Having spent 40-plus years manufacturing truck bodies and semi-trailers, Vawdrey Australia understands the unique challenges Australian operators have to face – and provides a wide range of solutions – and the company’s portfolio is constantly expanding,” Paul Vawdrey says.

Refrigerated transportation is a booming industry in itself in Australia. The continuous development of the Iceliner freezer van has seen Vawdrey Australia expand its presence in the heavy-duty refrigerated markets in Northern Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. Iceliner freezer vans, according to Paul Vawdrey, emphasise efficiency, reliability and productivity. “With quality insulation and solid trailer design, the Iceliner can hold cargo temperatures extremely low, which is ideal for fleet operators moving perishable commodities across great distances,” he says.

One way that trailer builder can optimise the Iceliner for productivity under Australia’s Performance-Based Standards (PBS) high productivity scheme is to overhaul its axle configuration.

“By implementing a quad-axle system, for instance, superior weight distribution enables vehicle operators to load trailers with higher allowable weight, which could maximise payload potential,” Paul Vawdrey says – explaining that the advent of the PBS scheme has given many transport companies the opportunity to achieve higher productivity and increased safety by using specially designed, oversized equipment. “Vawdrey Australia has embraced technological innovation, gradually implementing PBS across our entire product portfolio to suit various applications.”

Since 2012, Vawdrey Australia has played a major role in enabling the PBS scheme to expand beyond the classic truck and dog segment and brought it to the general and refrigerated freight market, effectively helping Australia’s road transport community cement its reputation as the most progressive in the world.

Vawdrey’s PBS journey began with the design of a Super B-double capable of hauling two 40’ containers at once, operating under strict PBS guidelines set out by the state of Victoria’s traffic and road authority. Less than a year later, it rolled out a whole range of Super B-double combinations based on the same concept, marking a major milestone in increased access for Higher Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFV) under the new Victorian Freight & Logistics Plan introduced by the Victorian Coalition Government in August 2013.

More recently, this year, Toll Group specified the Super B-double combination from Vawdrey Australia. It is, according to the transport and logistics company, the largest road transport vehicle currently in use in Singapore.

“The super B-double is an amazing 2×40-footer trailer that has enabled us to increase productivity and provides inter-gateway haulage services between three terminals – Pasir Panjang, Keppel and Brani,” a Toll spokesperson says.

Paul Vawdrey says the Super B-doubles in Australia are typically fitted with Electronic Braking Systems (EBS), side underrun protection and a quad-quad suspension system to satisfy route access and Performance-Based Standards (PBS) requirements. “The super B-double design cuts travel time, vehicle usage and fuel consumption while enabling bigger payloads,” he says.

In a joint report between Australia’s National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) and ARTSA, one in five new heavy vehicles are PBS approved. In the last five years, the total of new PBS combination approvals have doubled, while the heavy vehicle market has only grown by about 20 per cent over the same period. Interestingly, more than 55 per cent of PBS approvals are for truck and dog combinations. It is clear, based on recent data, that demand for Vawdrey Australia’s high productivity trailers are on the rise.

Following this positive uptake in PBS approved equipment, Vawdrey Australia brings other innovations to market including variations of the Wingliner. “The Australian Wingliner provides the security and load restraint benefits of a van with the flexibility of a curtain-sided trailer,” Paul Vawdrey says – adding that Vawdrey Australia has sole distribution rights for the Wingliner in Australasia. “With handheld remote-control operation, its doors release, fold up and store flat against the roof within a matter of seconds, providing an unrestricted work area. Vawdrey Australia manufactures dry freight van and refrigerated Wingliner models in rigid, semi-trailer and B-double configurations.”

The Wingliner is also ideal for transport operators looking to increase their bottom line, according to Paul Vawdrey. “This innovative trailer design allows even more productivity on each and every trip without sacrificing safety,” he says. “It is ideal for progressive companies looking at implementing the latest in trailer design.

The original Wingliner concept was developed by Austrian company Wingliner International in 1996. Excited by the concept on-show in Hanover, Germany, at the time, Vawdrey Australia teamed up with Wingliner International to develop a Wingliner product for Australia’s roads. The developments have continued, and the Wingliner is still considered to be a novel, futuristic concept.

Taking load restraint to the next level, Vawdrey has its Buckle-less curtain system that combines safety and efficiency.

“People want a load restraint system that is safe, reliable, and works time and time again,” Vawdrey says. “The Buckle-less curtain is a system that has no buckles, no gates, and no gimmicks, which is exactly what the market is after. The load-rated curtain’s strength comes from carbon fibre straps that are connected to the roof of the trailer using a pivoting double roller system. A specially designed lower hook and tensioning system provides the tension required and flawless load restraint. The curtain is tensioned vertically via a complex position ratchet system.”

In addition to its Iceliner and Wingliner trailer builds, Vawdrey Australia provides a comprehensive product range including robust skeletal trailers that are designed for durability and ease-of-use, Titeliner models from rigid, dog and pig trailers through to semi-trailer configurations and various dry freight vans to cover any client requirement.

To bolster such a diverse trailer portfolio, Vawdrey also adds value with innovative technologies like the Auto Lock Deck System, which optimises deck handling safety and efficiency.

The Auto Lock Deck system promotes a safer workplace environment through innovative design.

According to Vawdrey, the Auto Lock Deck is a boon for the commercial road transport in terms of performance gains.

“The Auto Lock Deck is simple to operate and can save up to 10 minutes for every deck movement,” he says. “To lower the deck, the operator simply selects the unlock function, lifts the deck to disengage the locks and then lowers the deck to the desired position. It ratchets through each of the locking positions on the mezzanine deck posts when lifting to provide a fast and simple method of lifting the deck by forklift.”

The Vawdrey Auto Lock Deck also negates the need for vehicle operators to work beneath a deck or to remove the deck from the vehicle to adjust the deck height, which significantly improves Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) practices.

Ultimately, Vawdrey trailers are tailored to accommodate the needs of the industry and emphasise safety and efficiency.

“We have built a reputation on our ability to custom build products to meet the exacting needs of our customers,” Vawdrey says – adding that his team is always looking to achieve greater efficiency gains through PBS implementation. “Our national presence continues to grow as we look after our local and international clientele. Demand from logistics businesses worldwide is on the rise for valuable safe and efficient trailing equipment branded with the Vawdrey name.”