B-TRAINS, INTERLINKS & B-DOUBLES

The WHYS and WHEREFORES of B-TRAIN COMBINATIONS

by Martin Phippard

NEW ZEALAND

Two other neighbouring countries, which have used B-Trains extensively, are New Zealand and Australia. However, despite the fact that Australia had accepted the need for multi-trailer Roadtrains for outback operations since the 1960s and – it could be reasonably assumed – would readily accommodate B-Trains into the transport legislation, it was in fact New Zealand that first embraced the B-Train concept.

Mack Ultraliner International F4870 logger
Mack Superliner IH T2670 curtainsider
Leyland/Scammell S26 Foden 4000 series
Scania 142 Tanker Volvo F12 Tanker
Renault G-Series Tanker Scammell S-26 load lumber

Like most other countries having B-Trains, those found in New Zealand are primarily platforms, curtain-siders and tanks. The earliest examples appear to have been platforms and grain bulkers, these emerging in the late 1970s. Among the earliest examples were the two outfits operated by Katway Haulage of Auckland on a soft drinks contract. Headed up by impressive 6x4 Kenworth Aerodyne tractors, they were configured with two trailers of similar length, each riding on tandem axles. A similar combination was used by the Kaitaia Timber Company to haul lengths of sawn timber behind a rugged Mack Superliner while a splendid, green-liveried Kenworth K-124 sleeper operated by F.J. Ramsey was used to carry wooden fencing posts. Some idea of how new the B-Train concept was to New Zealand’s truckers at this time can be gathered from the fact that Ramsey’s KW combination was referred to as a “unique semi-trailer on a semi-trailer unit”. But whatever they lacked in their knowledge of terminology, the Kiwis quickly made up for in sheer ingenuity and by the mid 1980s it was possible to see a wide variety of B-Trains in use, these being hauled by tractor units from manufacturers in Britain, Europe, North America and even Japan.

But the biggest single business in N.Z. is logging and it was not long before Kiwi B-Trains designed specifically to haul logs were introduced. This seems natural enough now, but it is worth remembering that at the time, B-Train logging sets were virtually unknown. A few isolated examples such as those operated by Doyle’s Transport of Paris, Michigan surfaced during the early 1990s, and subsequently B-Train logging trailers have become commonplace in Canada, Australia and South Africa. But New Zealand certainly appears to have been the country that started the trend and folding B-Trains such as those pioneered by operator Mike Lambert were almost certainly an industry first.

The latest B-Trains operating in New Zealand are undoubtedly sophisticated pieces of equipment featuring antilock brake systems and a wide variety of bodywork ranging from curtainsiders and bulkers to tanks, container skeletals and even livestock carriers. Maximum permitted weight is 45-tonnes and maximum overall length 20-metres. These days most trailer sets feature two tri-axle groups or a three-axle group beneath the coupling and a tandem axle group at the rear. A seven-axle combination is all that is required to carry the maximum weight but operators using eight axles pay a reduced Road User Tax.

Ford L Platform Mitsubishi Vans
Volvo FH tarped load Mack Curtainsider
Mack Superliner Curtainsider Mack Ultraliner Curtainsider
Kenworth deck load lumber


These photos were added on September 13, 2008

Astonishingly, the country, which has done most in terms of developing the B-Train, was also one of the most hesitant to accept the idea initially.

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