MTA 2019 - 0042

Brett Emerson, UK sales director (third left) of sponsor Hankook Tyre UK, presents the trophy to Cartwright Group MD Mark Cartwright (holding trophy), group chairman Peter Cartwright (centre) and group director Lisa Cartwright, accompanied by comedian Omid Djalili (second left) and MT editor Steve Hobson (far right)

Building a double-deck trailer for Culina Group that could squeeze through the Dublin Tunnel with two levels of roll cages on board required some award-winning vision from Cartwright.

One day last summer, Lionel Curtis, technical director at Cartwright, took a phone call from one of his best customers, Culina Group.

“Lionel,” said Mark Matkin, group fleet manager at Culina. “Can I get two six foots inside a 4.65m trailer?”

Curtis replied: “Yeah, I’m sure you can.”

“Right, build me one,” said Matkin.

“It was a game changer,” says Curtis of the conversation. “It was a huge thing.”

The challenge Culina Group was facing was clear. Its customers in the Republic of Ireland (RoI) wanted it to replicate its UK operation by running refrigerated double-decks, delivering the same cost savings in the Republic as in the UK. But this was impossible.

Back in 2006 the Dublin Tunnel had opened, which takes traffic from the Port of Dublin and on to the M50, avoiding the city. But the tunnel was built to accommodate the maximum height allowed on RoI roads of 4,650mm – well below the 4,880mm average height of a double-deck in the UK.

In saying Cartwright could solve this problem, Curtis had promised one of its largest customers to build a 4,650mm double-deck trailer capable of loading Culina’s 1,830mm high cages on both decks, with the same lifting upper deck accepting the same loads in the same loading patterns as in the UK. And it had to be done.

With a height of 4,650mm, and two levels of at least 1,830mm for the cages, there was only 990mm left for ground clearance, floor, roof and internal deck – just 10mm more than the 980mm rear loading height of many trailers of this type. Cartwright set about shaving 200mm off the height without compromising structural integrity or practicality.

“We looked at transferring technology from the construction industry into the transport industry using some ultra-thin insulation panels,” says Curtis. “These actually give you a better insulation value than if you used the thick stuff we always used. For the deck of that trailer, we used aircraft floor and structural technology and applied that to the trailer.”

The super-slim vacuum insulated panels (VIPs) on the roof were 70mm thinner than conventional roof panels, while still providing adequate stiffness and maximum insulation. The aircraft flooring design to which Curtis alludes is of a laminated honeycomb structure. And that was just the beginning.

“It was technically very interesting for the three design engineers who worked on this project because it wasn’t – and I’ll be very careful when I say this – just another trailer,” says Curtis. “Trailers are all interesting one way or another, but when you’ve got design engineers who are used to working with finite element analysis, they are interested in researching different materials from different industries that we can use.”

Cartwright Group Tech Ex

The double-deck trailer built for Culina by Cartwright allows it to pass through the 4,650mm clearance of the Dublin Tunnel

For those of you who are not engineers, finite element analysis uses computer modelling to test the structural integrity of a range of designs.

“The insulation we used in the roof is almost like a piece of paper,” he says of the VIPs. “There was a little bit of development work. You certainly haven’t got the development programmes in this industry that mainstream automotive people have. If you get six months you are doing really well.”

Wheel pans were put on the underside of the floor, although insulating these effectively was a challenge because heat dissipation from braking operations could quickly compromise refrigerated product in these areas.

A deck laser balancing system ensures the deck stays level during lifting operations, meanwhile. It is operated by hydraulic rams fitted into the vertical side columns of the bodywork, with an anti-burst valve to protect against pipe failure.

“The broad brush stuff is relatively easy… the detail is where we win,” says Curtis. “We have to make sure we bring in everybody, including the manufacturing people, as early a possible into the design process. It really has to be a team effort with lots and lots of communication. Do not assume anything.”

Despite the challenges, all of this was delivered to Culina in under six months.

A robust process

This could not have happened without Cartwright having robust processes to back up its promises, says Curtis. “We have a gateway process that all orders go through,” he explains. “It is a contract review in five stages. With a repeat order for a parcel van with someone we have built for in the past, for example, you go through those issues very quickly. You make sure you pick up any build issues or warranty issues.

“With something like [the Culina RoI double-deck trailer], the process is much more detailed and the meetings take you much longer to work your way through, but you go through the same gateway process: customer to sales; sales to engineering; engineer to production; production to the customer and then close the loop afterwards. That is possibly the most important element,” he adds.

Building the trailer wasn’t just a game changer for Cartwright, however, as it has also changed the nature of the operation at Culina. Each refrigerated double-deck can transport 18 more pallets than a conventional trailer, meaning Culina benefits from some significant cost savings. But by virtue of its lower height there is less drag on the 4,650mm version of the refrigerated double-deck than the 4,880mm units. This has given Culina an average fuel saving of 3%, which equates to 3.65 tonnes of CO2 per trailer per year (assuming it travels 80,000 miles a year at an overall fuel consumption of 8mpg). The lower height also reduces accidental damage and wear-and-tear from overhanging trees.

The Culina/Cartwright partnership extends well beyond this award-winning double-deck, however, with the manufacturer delivering an increasing number of products to the operator, from refrigerated units into Great Bear Distribution to double-decks into temperature-controlled division Morgan McLernon.

Culina was crowned Haulier of the Year at the very same awards ceremony, which says everything there is to say about what an exacting customer it is and explains the pride Curtis feels about working with the 3PL. “We are doing something right,” he comments. “I have admired its fleet for however long I have been in the industry. I’ve built for them elsewhere, I’ve worked with them on various different projects and I’m delighted we can work with them now.”

Cartwright also has refrigerated products with all of the big four supermarkets as well as other frozen food suppliers. “As we develop our presence in that market more people are coming and knocking on the door. It does you no harm at all to get a Motor Transport Award for Technical Excellence when you’ve produced a refrigerated double-deck,” says Curtis.

As well as its win at the Motor Transport Awards, Cartwright recently won the Commercial Motor Award for Bodybuilder of the Year 2018 and two Made in the North West Awards, as part of a multi-award-winning year. “We are building on that and keeping that momentum,” says Curtis. “If you are not passionate about what you are doing, then go and do something else.”