Martin Phippard - Truck-Trailer Combinations

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A brief look at some interesting examples from around the world.
By Martin Phippard.

Although the history and development of trucking is fairly well documented thanks largely to the efforts of many dedicated trucking enthusiasts and a few sympathetic publishers, it is only in the past 20-years or so that any real attempt has been made to discover why systems have evolved so differently in various parts of the world. Indeed it may be argued that even now, despite the marvels of the Internet and the almost unlimited information that is available, there remains a tendency to specialize and almost by default to ignore anything outside of oneís own immediate sphere of knowledge or experience. But it is only by asking questions and receiving accurate and well-reasoned answers that we can hope to broaden our horizons.

So why, for example, are truck-trailers - also known as rigids-and-drawbars, or even colloquially as wagons-and-drags - the favoured configuration in some regions of the world, yet almost completely ignored in others? The reason as is so often the case is legislation. In the simplest terms vehicle types only evolve if the legal system allows or indeed encourages such evolution.

So letís take a look at two countries, say Canada and Sweden, where the legislation appears to be outwardly similar but where vehicle types are distinctly different.

Looking first at legislation we find that the maximum gross permitted weight in most Canadian provinces is around 63,500-kgs and overall length 24-metres (78-feet, 9-inches) or 25-metres (82-feet) while in Sweden the maxima are 60,00-kgs and 25.25-metres (82-feet, 10-inches). These weights and dimensions are almost uncannily similar, but in Canada one of the most commonly used vehicle types for the highest gross weights is the B-Train, while in Sweden these are rarely seen, the most popular combination there being a three-axle straight truck coupled to a four-axle full trailer.

Investigating this situation still further we find that B-Trains have been widely accepted in Canada since the late 1970s, whereas in Sweden any combination featuring two trailers was effectively outlawed by legislation that restricted such outfits to a 40-km (25-mph!) speed limit! This legislation, however misguided, was introduced in the interests of vehicle safety, and had the inevitable result of limiting the number of doubles and B-Trains to a mere handful. As brake and suspension systems have improved in recent years, the law in Sweden has been changed to allow the use of B-Trains and other twin-trailer outfits. But it could be argued that the amendment is almost too late and that truck-trailer combinations are now so well developed and accepted there is little likelihood of other systems or types being introduced in any great numbers.

So while it is evident that weights, dimensions and even operating conditions in the two countries are remarkably similar, it is equally evident that the truck types employed are entirely different. And such differences are equally apparent just about everywhere else in the world.

In most of Western Europe, countries such as France, Belgium and Germany witnessed a gradual move away from the truck-trailer configuration favoured there until the mid 1960s at which time there was a migration towards articulation or tractor-trailers which allowed a higher degree of interchangeabilty and flexibility. Spain meanwhile had always used large, heavy rigid or straight trucks for its domestic work and only moved to tractor-trailers during the 1970s when long-distance international haulage really started to take hold. Only Italy remained independent of these changes the preferred configuration there being a four-axle straight truck coupled to a four-axle full trailer. And at a time when the rest of Western Europe had maximum gross weights of around 35-tonnes (77,000-lbs) Italian truckers were able to gross 44-tonnes (96,800-lbs) with their imposing 8-axle truck trailer rigs.

The situation nowadays in Europe is that most countries subscribe to a 40-tonne gross weight with five-axle combinations although Italy still permits 44-tonnes. Holland is the only country to be noticeably out of step, its legislation permitting 50-tonnes (110,000-lbs) on six-axle combinations. Meanwhile, at the other end of the weight spectrum, Switzerland allowed a maximum gross weight of only 28,000kgs for its internal transport until a decade ago when its limits also changed to 40-tonnes, a move that finally brought it into line with its immediate neighbours

On the other side of the world in New Zealand, recent years have witnessed an almost even split between B-Trains and truck-trailer combinations. And despite some fairly modest legislation allowing only 39-tonnes within 20-metres overall, some stunning outfits are to be found at work on the countryís roads.

The truck scene in New Zealand is interesting not only because of the configurations, but also because operators use vehicles sourced from Britain, Europe, Japan and North America. One of the most popular cabovers used there as a truck-trailer vehicle is the Freightliner Argosy and from a purely aesthetic point of view few vehicles have ever looked better suited to the role.

In North America it is evident that truck-trailers remained popular from the 1930s until the 1950s when there was a general move to tractor-trailer rigs except where specialised freight was hauled. This situation still continues today although the tractor-trailer has now been joined by doubles, triples, A-trains, B-Trains and other such combinations.

In most instances truck-trailers are restricted to a two, three, four or even five-axle truck coupled to a two, three or four-axle full trailer. Weights of course depend on the area of operation and the number of axles employed. Bodywork can be adapted to whichever type of load is required.


Spanish Pegaso twin-steer, single-drive truck-trailer outfit from the 1960s. Italian Alfa-Romeo Mille truck trailer from the 1960s. Splendid Italian 44-tonne, eight-axle OM tanker truck-trailer combination from the late 1960s or early 1970s. On this outfit six of the eight axles steer.
Italian 44-tonne eight axle bulker. Italian Fiat 44-tonner passing through Turin. Many maximum weight Italian trucks from the 1970s featured the controls on the right side of the cab. This made it easier for drivers to get closer to the edge of the narrow mountain roads.
Italian truck-trailers from the 1960s and 70s were always impressive. Exquisite 1960s Swiss-built FBW truck-trailer operated by Indermuhle of Zurzach. I was lucky enough to get a drive in this truck during the 1980s and it handled perfectly. FBW was a class act eventually swallowed up by Mercedes! Typical Swiss truck-trailer for operation at 28-tonnes gross train weight.
Scania 6x4 log truck in Switzerland with small trailer. 28-tonne Swiss-built Saurer truck trailer from the early 1970s. Saurer also vanished shortly after being acquired by Daimler-Benz (Mercedes). British-built Foden truck (Foden is part of the Paccar Group) operated by Friderici of Morges in Switzerland. During the 1970s Friderici had a fleet of Kenworth truck-trailers operating between Europe and the Middle East.
Iveco Eurostar truck-trailer in the colours of Friderici. French-registered Magirus Deutz truck featured an air-cooled diesel. Finnish-built Sisu trucks can gross 60-tonnes and reach 24-metres overall length. This truck features the unusual and highly distinctive "interim" cab.
Sisu truck-trailer waiting to load. This 60-tonne Sisu tanker combination features the interim cab and a Finn- bogie arrangement. The tri-axle Finn-bogie includes a steered/lifting axle at the front, a hub-reduction drive axle, and a twin-tire lifting tag at the rear. The drive can often be temporarily converted from single to double by the use of an hydraulically-operated cog wheel known as Robson Drive. Tall Sisu SM cab has been superseded by the Renault Premium cab.
Israeli Volvo FH truck-trailer in the Negev desert. Seven-axle truck-trailer combinations such as this Volvo FH 8x4 and tri-axle full trailer can gross 63-tonnes in Israel. Most of the trucks used in Jordan have already lived another life elsewhere. This 1950s truck-trailer is seen leaving the Port of Aqaba with two laden containers.
Holland (the Netherlands) has the heaviest trucks anywhere in Western Europe. Truck-trailer combinations can gross 50-tonnes on six axles. This twin-steer Scania is operated by Henk Vlot. Dutch-registered MAN truck-trailer with roof-mounted penthouse sleeper pod. Although the maximum weight of 50-tonnes is permitted on six-axle rigs in Holland companies moving containers often employ seven in order to combat overloading. Bonnetted (conventional) trucks are unusual because of the restrictive overall 18.35-metre overall length limit.
Seven-axle Volvo FH Globetrotter truck-trailer combination on container haul in Holland. This Dutch Volvo FH Globetrotter is equipped with a single drive axle and steering/lifting axles both ahead and behind it. This is not, however, a true Finn-bogie arrangement. Henk Vlot Volvo FH with Globetrotter cab on container work in Holland features twin-steer axles and double drive.
Swedish-built Scania 4-Series with Topliner cab features a version of the Sisu-designed Finn-bogie. Dutch-registered Volvo FH cabover with bulk grain bodies features polished alloy wheels and extra lights. Underrun guards along the side of the truck and trailer are to prevent cyclists falling underneath. Dutch-built DAF 95XF Space Cab features single drive axle and lifting rear axle.
Dutch-registered Volvo FH and close-coupled tandem axle trailer. Refrigerated bodywork aboard a Dutch-registered Scania 124 rigid. Imposing DAF 95XF 8x2 twin-steer straight truck with three-axle trailer.
1970s Freightliner cabover operated by Shantz Brothers, Ontario, Canada. 1970s Freightliner truck-trailer tank outfit from Ontario, Canada. 1970s International Transtar twin-steer straight truck and trailer used for hauling wood residuals on Vancouver Island.
Freightliner 8x4 cabover with cab set forward hauling concrete pipes in the Vancouver area. 1980s Freightliner 8x4 operated by Dave Chambers of Vernon, B.C. featured a special low-height chassis and a load area over the cab known as a "balcony." Operating conditions, climate, weights and lengths in Sweden are very similar to those in Canada, but the biggest trucks are almost always truck-trailers. This Volvo FH cabover features a moose guard and extra lights.
Clean, stylish and efficient, this 25.25-metre refrigerated truck-trailer combination headed up by a 4-Series Scania is operated under contract to Schenker International. Heavy-duty Volvo FH cabover waiting to unload in Malmo, Southern Sweden. Volvo FH Series 2 cabover with Globetrotter cab features full height side doors that afford unrestricted access to the inside.
French-built Renault Magnum trucks are not often seen in Sweden and this example is unusual in several respects featuring a low-height chassis, Sisu-designed Finn-bogie and massive van body. Twin-steer straight trucks are seldom employed in Sweden on general haulage work, but this rugged 3-Series Scania and trailer proves that there are exceptions to the rule. 1980s Volvo F-Model cabover with drawbar trailer in Sweden.
Although domestic truck builders Volvo and Scania dominate the Swedish truck market, there are a few imports such as this Mercedes cabover. Another import to Sweden, this time a Dutch-built DAF XF. Many Swedish trucks feature bodies that tip or dump off sideways. This allows operators to haul wood residuals as well as general freight. Side dumping is the accepted method of wood residual discharge in Sweden.
Volvo 25.25-metre combination on container work. Scania truck-trailer combination passing through the streets of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1982. Outfit is most probably from Finland or Sweden. Volvo FH 24-metre combination leaving the Gruven paper mill near Karlstad, Sweden.
Volvo FH 24-metre truck-trailer. Volvo FH 6x2 truck with trailer. Scania 3-Series 8x2 with 42-feet full trailer.
Car transporters often feature enclosed bodywork in order to protect cars destined for export from the elements. Scania 143 6x2 tank truck and trailer. Swedish Volvo truck trailer with feed silos for different products.
Statoil is Swedenís national fuel company. Stylish 6 x 2 Volvo FH cabover employed on hazardous product work. Mack MC operating in Australia.
Australian 8x4 Western Star cabover equipped with British-built cab by ERF coupled to a massive six-axle full trailer. Attractive Foden 8x4 and tri-axle trailer hauling lumber in New Zealand. Bedford trucks were always popular with operators in New Zealand but there were not many 8x4 TM cabovers powered by the Detroit 8V71. This example operated by Kelvin Bonney was driven by Mike Beesley.
Japanese heavy trucks such as this Mitsubishi compete with European and North American trucks in the New Zealand market. The Freightliner Argosy has become a firm favourite with New Zealand truckers wanting a big, stylish, twin-steer cabover. Argosy 8x4 curtainsider in N.Z.
From any angle, the Argosy looks an impressive truck. Tall cab and wind foil match the bodywork exactly on this Argosy cabover. Linfox driver securing the buckles on the rag-sider prior to lift off.
Argosy 8x4 bulker waiting to hit the weighbridge. Mack Quantum is an Australian-built hybrid featuring a Mack driveline and a Renault Premium cab. Both Mack and Renault are now under the ownership of Volvo. The Premium cab is also employed by Sisu Trucks of Finland. British-built Seddon-Atkinson, part of the Iveco Group, is a rare find in New Zealand these days.
British-built Foden has a Dutch-built DAF Alpha cab. Both Foden and DAF are part of the Paccar Group, hence the tie-up. KW cabover with tall stock crates used to haul sheep in New Zealand. Mack Ultraliner cabover with E9 V8 is an imposing piece of equipment.
This stunning Kenworth features colourful murals on truck and trailer bodies. Logging is one of New Zealandís biggest industries and trucks are specified with many lightweight components in the interest of maximum payload. In the early 1980s this British-built Scammell S-26 cabover provided the driver with an unusually high level of driver comfort. Bodies on truck and trailer are demountable.
Scania LB-76 from the late 1960s and early 1970s was a stylish piece of equipment with a high level of mechanical reliability and driver appeal. Freightliner cabover from the 1970s. Kenworth cabover with wood residual bodywork approaches a scale in Washington State.
International chip hauler from Washington State. Freightliner 8x4 and trailer from Washington State operated in the colours of British Petroleum. Interesting truck-trailer combination operating in South Africa where semi-plus-pup outfits and B-trains are infinitely more popular. Klaus Werblow Collection.
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