Trailer output at Montracon’s Doncaster plant should double by the middle of next year thanks to a £4.2m investment in production facilities. So says managing director, Paul Avery.
Weekly output is set to rise from up to 40 on a single shift to closer to 80. Changes to the site include the arrival of semi-automated shot-blasting and painting as the Ballyvesey Holdings subsidiary celebrates its 40th anniversary as a trailer builder.
At the same time, Montracon is extending and enhancing its already comprehensive range.
The line-up now includes a chassis-less refrigerated semi-trailer (pictured) that complies with the 4m overall height limit the European Union applies to cross-border work. The newcomer is aimed at UK operators heading across the Channel and at potential customers in mainland Europe and should be able to command a healthy used price, says Avery.
“That’s because there will be a second-hand market for it in Europe as well as in the UK,” he observes.
Employing monocoque construction, it offers an internal height of 2.65m with a quoted weight of below 8.0 tonnes. The model on display at the Doncaster factory during a busy customer open day was fitted with a Thermo King SLXi fridge unit, BPW axles and 22.5-in wheels shod with 385/65 R22.5 tyres.
New, too, from Montracon is the MT45 machinery semi-trailer intended to shift excavators, quarry loaders and other heavy, bulky equipment.
Designed for operation at up to 45 tonnes gross trailer weight, one of its standout features is a low-profile trailer neck combined with a reduced-incline air-operated neck ramp. The idea is to make it simpler to position extra tackle such as small forklift trucks on the neck so that they can accompany the main load.
This allows a single trailer to be used on jobs that might previously have required two. The philosophy behind MT45, says Avery, is to produce a standardised, common platform in order to keep costs down while offering customers a number of optional modules.
Montracon has been producing machinery trailers for many years but in recent times has been a minor competitor in the sector, building no more than one a month. At the time of writing, however, output was up to two a week, with plans to boost production to three or four weekly.
Making one trailer do the job of two is a vital concern for many operators given the ongoing shortage of drivers, and Montracon is building curtainsider, box and fridge semi-trailers in double- as well as single-deck guises.
Last April’s Commercial Vehicle Show saw the exhibition debut of a 44-pallet lifting-deck fridge semi-trailer able to carry 18 pallets on both the upper and lower decks plus a further eight over the swan neck.
In another interesting project, Montracon has played a key role in developing a temperature-controlled semi-trailer equipped with a Thermo King fridge driven by a single-axle Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) that has been on trial with logistics group Fowler Welch. Built in conjunction with International Refrigeration Cooling, the trailer is said to emit 50% less CO₂ than a conventional fridge trailer which equates to a potential 14-tonne-plus CO₂ cut annually. It is quieter, too.
Of the project, Avery concludes: “It works, but the technology used needs to be a bit more robust.”
At present Montracon produces a total of 3,500 trailers annually from its three factories at Mallusk in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, Market Weighton in East Yorkshire and Doncaster. Like other trailer builders, it has been hit by the decline in the value of the pound in the wake of the vote in favour of Brexit and the impact it has had on the price of imported components.
“We’ve had to implement three mini price increases as a consequence,” he says. This means that Montracon’s products now cost 3% more on average; a modest uplift, he suggests, given that sterling has suffered an 18% tumble against the euro.
The hike might have been higher had it not been for improvements in efficiency and deals being renegotiated with suppliers, he adds.
Montracon’s production volumes are much lower than those of some of the continental trailer-building behemoths, and are spread across a wide range which embraces skeletals and flats (including steel coil carriers and brick carriers), as well as the models mentioned above.
“Sometimes I wonder if our range is a bit too wide,” Avery muses.
“What we have, though, is flexibility and the ability to tailor the product to the UK operator’s needs,” he adds; and a British design and manufacturing presence makes communication with operators easier than it might otherwise be. It also gives Montracon a cost advantage against importers that can, to a degree, be offset against higher component prices.