Demand for semi-trailers in the UK has remained strong throughout the pandemic with manufacturers investing in new premises, winning new business from existing customers and reporting impressive growth.
For example, trailer and truck body manufacturer Schmitz Cargobull made the decision earlier this year to open a new UK manufacturing plant in Manchester, that will create up to 50 new jobs over the next 12 months.
The 7,500m2 facility at the Southmoor Industrial Estate, Wythenshawe, is four miles from site of the defunct manufacturing base of Cartwright Group which went into administration in September 2020 with the loss of 490 jobs.
It will start producing customised, market-specific vehicles for UK and Irish customers this summer but using chassis fabricated in Schmitz’s hometown Altenberge, Germany.
The site will have an initial capacity of 50 units per week – dry freight trailers for the home delivery market, including 4.2m and 4.6m freepost curtainsiders – moving to 2,000 vehicles a year when at full capacity.
It will also contain a 1,000 m2 spare parts warehouse for local supply, and by the end of this year will become the main base for all Schmitz Cargobull UK staff, currently based in Warrington.
Paul Avery, Schmitz Cargobull UK’s Managing Director – Operations, who has previously worked at Cartwright, Transdek and Montracon said: “I’m really excited about the opportunities this new facility presents for our business, for UK fleets and for the local community.
“Manchester is the perfect location for us with its strong industrial heritage and we can’t wait to start building quality, customised trailers for UK and Irish companies, with a real focus on low total cost of ownership.”
Schmitz Cargobull had looked at building a UK plant in 2016 but the Brexit vote delayed the plan until last year when it decided products more customised for the UK market were required.
An example of how the plant will cater for UK customers is that drum brakes will be an option alongside standard discs, unlike its factory in Germany.
The company had also weighed up making an acquisition in Britain but it could not identify a site suitable for its production processes.
CEO of Schmitz Cargobull, Andreas Schmitz, added: “The UK is a key transport and logistics hub and an important market for us.
“Our new plant in Manchester will enable us to move closer to our customers and allow us to address the specific needs and challenges of the UK transport market.”
Tiger Trailers, based in Winsford, is also confident about its prospects against a backdrop of the UK’s vaccination programme enabling normality to begin, in parallel with post-Brexit acclimatisation.
Steven Cartwright, Tiger Trailers’ Joint Managing Director said the company’s future strategy will be to market more complex double deck trailers, along with its new Siberian range of temperature-controlled products, in partnership with Spanish company, Lecitrailer.
The Lecitrailer refrigerated trailers are designed specifically for UK logistics, 3PL, and retail operators.
All processes are undertaken in house, including panel manufacturing, assembly, body and fridge unit fitment, and the company deploys robotic welding in the manufacture of each chassis, to ensure consistency of weld and maximum production efficiency.
Cartwright added: “Tiger Trailers’ 2020 performance proved the strongest in our history, testament to our team’s hard work and more specifically a socially distanced workplace, strict cleanliness measures and home-working enabling us to gradually and safely increase our factory workforce back up to efficiency by September.
“This year has seen our trailer finance and rental businesses continue to grow while we attract new customers, and our confirmed order book into 2022 is significantly higher than normal.”
However, long-standing relationships, excellent customer service and quality engineering continue to be at the heart of trailer purchase decision making for many hauliers.
Wimblington-based Knowles Transport has just purchased 85 pillarless curtainsider trailers from Peterborough-based manufacturer Lawrence David with rear roof air diffuser, flush rear doors for functionality and aesthetics, full LED lighting and a premium load securing system.
The two companies have worked together for the past 40 years spanning three generations of the Knowles family and Lawrence David’s National Business Development Manager Ben McEvoy said: “We have built and supplied a variety of trailers and rigid bodies to meet Knowles’ direct requirements over the years where we have worked together on a variety of innovations to support the business.”
Similarly, last month, Stafford-based haulier and pallet network, Stan Robinson took delivery of 10 new curtainsiders from SDC for a fleet renewal program based on what it described as the trailer manufacturer’s “quality, value for money, and overall good fit for our requirements.”
The new EN 12642-XL certified trailers feature BPW Eco-Plus axles and Knorr Bremse EBS braking, SDC’s fuel-saving aero-dynamic roof profile, ISO regulation electrics, easy-access coupling box, and full rear enclosure with galvanised steel buffers.
A total of four tri-axle double-deck trailers designed specifically for hub operations, feature a fixed second deck with centre posts, optimising efficiency on high volume routes.
SDC’s Sales Manager Paul Evans said: “I have dealt with Mark Robinson (MD at Stan Robinson) many times over the years, and I am thrilled to continue our partnership.
“The new tri-axle curtainsider trailers have been designed and engineered with meticulous detail, and to an extremely high-quality specification with the latest operational and safety features.”
Meanwhile the number of longer semi-trailers on UK roads continues to grow, with a trial of 2,600 LSTs between 2012 and 2019 delivering significant reductions in both mileage and emissions while boosting productivity.
Trials had been set to run until 2027, although at a transport select committee hearing in February, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps indicated he had signed off plans to make the move permanent.
LSTs have been tested at two sizes, 14.6m and 15.65m, the longer length proving much more popular as it can carry two more rows of pallets or three more rows of roll cages than a normal 13.6m trailer.
Trial results revealed the 2,600 LSTs had reduced road mileage by 33.5 million miles and cut CO2 by 48,000 tonnes.
On a per kilometre basis, they have also been involved in about 53% fewer personal injury collisions than the HGV average in this country.
A spokesman for Doncaster-based trailer manufacturer Montracon said: “The industry has already witnessed the environmental and economic benefits of the LST trailer, and Montracon is ready to meet the market demand as the need arises.”