Slicker manoeuvres at DIRFT

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When Malcolm Rail took over operations at Daventry International Railfreight Terminal last year, its first point of call was to team up with Cooper Specialised Handling to find a way to speed up the required 6,000 weekly lifts and cut running costs.

Across the terminal, which spans six miles of rail track through which 119 trains pass each week, the trucks must move containers from the trains to reception sidings and storage units and from here to skeletal trailers. This involves both top and bottom lift operations on the swap bodies, trailers and containers being handled. Two of the trucks that Cooper put forward were bottom lift reach stackers (SMV 4531 CB5). However, these are both more costly, and heavier – so prone to more tyre wear. 

Traditionally, DIRFT had used a fleet of long wheelbase combi machines, but this had proved uneconomical. And with a target turnaround of 20 minutes per vehicle across a confined site, Malcolm Rail needed container handlers which were powerful but compact, and able to turn and manoeuvre well in tight spaces.

Steve Sugden, Malcolm Group’s fleet engineer says: “To cope with these demands, Cooper SH supplied the machines to allow a shorter wheel base chassis to be used. By also specifying slick tyres, the shorter, lighter machine can be manoeuvred quickly in tight spaces for rapid turnaround. This solution has meant significant cost savings for the handling operation at DIRFT without hindering the operational needs of the terminal.”

On these heavy machines, tyres play an important role in productivity and efficiency. Fitting the right tyres ensures comfort for the driver and helps improve truck speed and manoeuvrability. The laden reach stackers weigh more than 100 tonnes and a set of tyres costs £12,000 per machine. With each truck needing up to four sets of tyres per year, this was an area of focus for Cooper.

“The Malcolm Group wanted to reduce tyre costs significantly”, says Cooper’s Peter Astley. “This was achieved first by specifying a lighter machine – much of the tyre wear is attributable to steering in the unladen condition – when maximum weight is bearing on the steer axle – a lighter, shorter machine will immediately overcome much of this. Also, consideration was given to choice of tyres and steering angles.” The result is a more comfortable ride, more turning space and less damage to the tyre and the ground surface. 

Cooper improved the workflow at the DIRFT site by looking at the idle time of each machine and using an idle shutdown function to cut out idle time and save fuel, while improving machine throughput.

Overall, a fleet of eight Konecranes, 45-tonne reach stackers and a service and maintenance package was provided, the latter of which includes a lower charge rate when the machine is idling. Altogether, Malcolm Rail expects to improve workflow by 25 per cent.

Cooper reckons the combination of the load sensing hydraulic technology on the machines and the bespoke machine design modifications, will help to reduce fuel consumption by up to 30 per cent compared to competitor machines.  Considering these large trucks have a 12-litre engine and can guzzle up to 20 litres of fuel per hour, this could mean an estimated saving of up to £85,000 per machine over 12,000 hours of operation.

Warwick Asbury, railport manager for Malcolm Rail at Daventry, says: “Our operation works 24-hours a day six days a week and the machines can be working up to 20 hours a day.  Cooper is able to provide a more reliable service to freight operators than anyone else. The whole of The Malcolm Group operation at Daventry is maintained by Cooper’s dedicated team who keep the operation running continually across the 24-hour shifts.” 


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