As a consequence of the general economic downturn, coupled with anxiety over uncertain energy prices, the effective and efficient control of materials handling and transportation costs has risen rapidly up the management agenda. This is particularly important for the retail sector, where firms are recognising the need to promote their ‘green’ credentials in response to the significant role environmental issues now play in forming consumer opinions.
Transporting goods by double deck trailer provides a key opportunity for retailers to address these issues and enjoy substantial cost efficiencies. In the retail sector, typically, double deck trailers carry 67% more goods per vehicle than single deck models, reducing mileage operated and saving fuel costs. Indeed, the Energy Saving Trust website states: “Double-deck trailers can improve the efficiency of a business by increasing load volume, cutting unnecessary mileage and reducing fleet sizes”.
Double deck trailers haven’t always enjoyed the best reputation. This is mainly because of user experience with units incorporating a hydraulically-powered second deck. This configuration incurs significant operational limitations because the onboard hydraulics system adds up to five tonnes to the vehicle weight, thereby reducing the available payload. In addition, a powered double deck trailer typically costs around 100% more to buy than a trailer with a fixed second deck.
Mark Adams, managing director of Transdek UK, the one-stop solutions provider for the logistics and materials handling industry says: “By opting for fixed double deckers, operators enjoy much more flexibility. For supermarkets, these fixed second deck trailers can mean the difference between simply shipping watercress or having the ability to move mixed loads of every product in their ranges.”
Having previously trialled powered trailers, Boots decided to move to lighter weight, fixed double deck trailers, and commissioned Transdek to convert its network of regional distribution centres to double deck operations. Transdek is now installing an initial contract for 50, 6.5 tonne, 12 cage double-deck hydraulic lifts.
Transdek has developed a unique range of electro-hydraulic powered lifts for loading and unloading double deck trailers. The Transdek range provides lift capacities from 4.5 to 20 tonnes, each lift being supplied as a fully equipped, surface mounted unit. Installation is fast and does not require any civil construction work.
This feature delivers considerable up-front cost savings and makes it easier to gain landlord or planning permissions, if required. It also delivers maximum operational versatility, as relocation to a different site is quick and easy.
Main structural sub assemblies are fabricated, load tested and quality approved off-site, which means that onsite installation and commissioning takes only one to two days with absolutely minimal disturbance to normal site operation.
“We have designed our lifts to be as compact as possible to ensure they only take up a single loading bay area,” says Adams. “This can be critical at sites where there is not much room in the yard.”
Each lift is equipped as standard with internal floodlighting, traffic lights, hydraulic bridging plate, vehicle buffers and dock seals. The units are fully clad to ensure the necessary environmental continuum between the trailer and warehouse for handling frozen or chilled product.
Transdek lifts are able to accept deliveries from any type of double deck trailer and also single deckers. This includes all UK double deck trailers as well as Continental style vehicles which have a bottom deck height of 200mm. This is a facility which is not achievable with standard scissor lifts unless they are sunk into a pit.
All Transdek lifts are now fitted with an electronic fault finding monitor to assist in the swift diagnosis of any technical error. The systems are also specially designed to allow loading with powered pallet trucks. This not only increases speed of loading, thus saving costs, but also significantly reduces the manual handling strain on operators and the risk of injuries.
Safety features include interlocking for front and rear safety gates on the lift platform, emergency ladder egress from lift to dock, extending hand rails which lock into position along the sides of the bridging plate preventing falls between lift and lorry, and a partitioned full-length walkway along the lift platform. Interlocking outer gates preventing access to the load house from the dock while the lift is in operation.
Transdek lifts also feature high visibility LED traffic lights to advise drivers about loading status and help prevent drive-aways.
By focusing on rapid installation and a compact lift design, Transdek have greatly increased the number of places where fixed double deck trailers can deliver. To date, double deck trailers have rarely been used to deliver direct to retail outlets. However, it is Transdek’s belief that this will shortly change, opening up the possibility of savings across a much larger section of the retail distribution network.
“We believe fixed double deck trailers represent the future of long haul retail distribution in the UK,” says Adams, “and we aim to supply the optimum information and hardware to enable this to happen.”