As one of the UK’s leading commercial vehicle body, trailer and conversion manufacturers, the Cartwright Group, offers one of the largest, most diverse and innovative range of products available in the British market today. This privately owned family business has been in operation since 1952, with its head office on a 38-acre site in Altrincham, near Manchester. Since the third generation and current managing director, Mark Cartwright, took the helm four years ago, the company has seen considerable growth at a time when others in the European market have fallen away. Revenue has grown by 50 percent during this time with a team of 1000 employees building around 80-100 trailers each week.
As the UK market is limited in terms of growth, expansion has now gone international with trailers being sold into Europe, Southern America and the United Arab Emirates. Australia is now also included in the company’s sights, with three brand-new refrigerated trailers delivered to Sydney in August this year to be trialled by potential clients in depots across NSW and Victoria where they have received positive initial feedback.
The first Cartwright trailers to arrive in Australia are all refrigerated with Carrier 1950 units and comprise of a 22-pallet unit set at 4.3 m high with barn doors, a 22-pallet trailer at 4.0 m high with roller doors for the supermarket sector, and a 16-pallet trailer at 4.0 m with roller doors.
The 16-pallet urban trailer has an interesting steered rear axle to help get into very tight spots, called the Command steer. The design means that it steers by using an arm that links the rear axle to a wedge placed behind the kingpin. As the prime mover turns, the wedge is rotated by the turntable, which in turn alters the geometry of the rear axle. This system results in the same steering angle adjustment when travelling forwards or in reverse and is claimed to enable the unit to be as manoeuvrable as a 12-pallet rigid.
When asked why the Cartwright Group looked at Australia, Mark Cartwright told PowerTorque: “When looking at potential new markets around the world, Australia had the operational requirements we could meet with our quality and product solutions, so we knew our trailers would be very competitive.
“Our sales director, Graham Usher, had worked on projects in Australia before with the local importer Howard Hansen. We were confident that we could set up an Australianbased arrangement to supply trailers into the market and offer customers a great service with a great product,” said Mark.
In the early years of the company, Cartwright’s built small truck bodies, moving into trailer manufacturing in the late 80s as they became more popular. Some of the early customers, such as TNT, are still working with the group today, with partnerships that span four decades. Over this time, the products and technology have changed considerably with a lot of emphasis now on saving fuel of 5-10 percent, both in the prime mover and also in the fridge units. This is achieved with wind tunnel tested aerodynamics, lighter construction, radiused cappings and a rear roof aerodynamic vortex generator to reduce drag.
The UK market regulations allow standard trailers to reach 4.9 m in height, and this has enabled Cartwright to produce some unusually shaped, sloping-roof trailers that considerably reduce wind resistance. It has also enabled the trailers to be fitted with double decks that can be loaded from the rear, and then raised on rams before the bottom deck is loaded.
“We have spent a lot of investment in the latest technologies for building the refrigerated panels with the latest techniques. The investment cost over $3 million in the latest vacuum presses, panel cranes, new press beds for 16-metre panels, and state-of-the-art glue facilities,” said Mark.
European trailers have very stringent regulations covering the transportation of refrigerated goods, and the Cartwright Group products have achieved full compliance, particularly with the thermal insulation values and floor strength ratings.
As far back as 1970, the United Nations put in place an agreement covering the transportation of perishable goods, known as the ATP, which now covers 50 countries. It states, amongst other things, that chilled trailers must have a K value equal to or less than 0.7 W/(m2 K), whilst frozen trailers must have a K value equal to or less than 0.4 W/(m2 K). In terms of the floors, they must meet ISO 1497, which is a roller test on two small wheels with a 7.3-tonne weight.
For the entry into the Australian market, the Cartwright Group, along with Howard Hansen, have spec’d the trailers to meet the Australian conditions, whilst also trying to showcase some of the additional options expected by the European market.
Although Cartwright Group can purpose build trailers to wide ranging specifications, depending on customer requirements, the initial evaluation trailers have been imported using parts that can be sourced locally through the well-known suppliers. Axles come from BPW and are the latest Eco Plus 3 with 430 mm discs, on super-singles for reduced weight and drag. These are also available built with drums, duals or even on spider rims. Brakes are WABCO EBS, with those of Knorr-Bremse also available. Landing legs are supplied through JOST and the LED lights through Hella. The fridges are Carrier Vector 1950 units, but Thermo King units can be supplied if required.
Some of the outstanding features include the rear frame with dock buffer and also the aerodynamics with side under-run. The rear frame is made of stainless steel, and, to protect it against surprise impact from contact with loading docks, a full-width steel dock buffer takes the force of the impact and transmits it into four rubber shock absorbers mounted between the fabrication and the full length chassis.
For aerodynamic gains the side GRP moulded skirts have been designed in wind tunnels to smooth the flow of air at highway speeds. Maximum speeds in Europe are less than those of Australia and there are very positive gains available by reducing drag to improve fuel economy.
“I visited Australia in August and went to see several large transport companies to hear firsthand what they wanted. We are committed to the Australian market and have invested in an initial six trailers to showcase our high quality and product range,” said Mark.
The initial product range coming to Australia will be for 16 to 26-pallet refrigerated trailers, with the first order on its way to Ron Finemores in Wodonga. With Ron’s high level of specifications, Cartwright was more than happy to tick all the boxes on the first 26-pallet refrigerated trailers which will arrive within weeks, ready to go to work.
Future plans will also include B-double combinations to customer order, plus dry freight vans for the parcel network. Dry freight vans and curtainsiders form a large portion of the volumes produced in the UK market for the likes of TNT and the UK’s Royal Mail, and these can easily be built and shipped over if requested.
As an extension of its manufacturing business in the United Kingdom, the Cartwright Group currently supplies 14,000 trailers on contract hire and another 6500 trailers on rent. The company also operates one of the largest trailer fleets in the country and provides a chain of workshops, with six locations around the UK and 50 mobile vehicle technicians under the branding of Cartwright Fleet Services. The group also owns and operates an Isuzu dealership in Leeds and an Iveco dealership in Glasgow, plus it manufactures prison vans, ambulances and airline catering trucks.
There have been many attempts through the years by overseas-based trailer manufacturers to market their products into Australia from markets around the world, with limited success. With Cartwright’s long history and success in other challenging markets, the future could well see a new name joining the ranks of the Australian suppliers
Article by Edwin Higginson