Innovative Trailer Solutions

Byrne Trailers

Mick Byrne spent his youth working livestock in the Central West of NSW and on several occasions did stints on “the long paddock,” droving during drought times on the western plains. From the banks of the Bogan River to the Queensland outback, through fire, flood and drought, he loved the western black soil plains and to this day understands and respects the severity of the bush both in drought and flood. At one time he was camped alone with six thousand head of sheep, 33 dogs, a horse and a motor bike. It rained six inches overnight and he was stranded for weeks in flood waters. There were no mobile phones then, no communications other than through locals who would help out and pass messages on.

Mick says that situations like this teach you to be inventive, creative and able to innovate by meeting challenges head on. It also gets one thinking, and he knew there was a better method of transporting livestock. Along with his brother Bill who had just been discharged from National Service in the Army as a truck driver, he created a small livestock transport business in Peak Hill.

It was not long before the brothers started to look for ways to improve the equipment then on offer and Mick soon came up with a design of a new convertible livestock trailer that converted from two decks of cattle to four decks of sheep. This gave an immediate 25 per cent increase in productivity when transporting sheep and lambs. The design enabled a quick conversion to cattle using specialised crank decks and did away with the back breaking work of handling heavy decks by hand when converting a three-decker to a two deck cattle crate. Being of monocoque design, the trailer was lighter and stronger, and with a huge emphasis on animal welfare much design work went into making this new breed of trailer “bruise free” by the introduction of air bag suspensions.

Mick has no hesitation in recommending the BPW product as his preferred option for axles and air suspensions. Live sheep and cattle have to stand for long periods of time over rough roads in the vast outback and if drought affected, they feel every bump with a conventional spring suspension, which causes the weak ones to go down. From many tests over the years, the BPW designed air bag suspension has proven to be the best to prevent the jarring caused by corrugated gravel roads.

Mick never claimed he invented the four deck trailer or the non-bruise cattle trailer as others were toying with the idea around the same time and he had approached other trailer builders to manufacture them to his specifications. Unable to do that, he decided to do it himself. Mick Byrne was most certainly the first to take the four-decker and the non-bruise cattle trailer to commercialisation. Both have since been universally adopted Australia wide.

In 1998 Byrne Trailers bought land and built its own factory in Wagga Wagga, NSW and later expanded further operations to Toowoomba in Queensland. In recent times Ben Byrne commenced operations under the Byrne Trailer banner in Katanning Western Australia while younger brothers Jonathan and Matthew continue to grow the business in the eastern states and are now looking at export opportunities to the Middle East.

During the early days of the company, research, design, and innovative methods of manufacture and design of transport solutions was a major focus. This enabled the company to build a powerful commercial business, providing custom designed solutions not only for livestock, but for the agricultural, forest products, waste management, and general freight industries. Continued measured growth has been the hallmark of the company and many new businesses have been created across Australia by others following the same pattern.

While building its own infrastructure, Byrne has also kept its eye open for new opportunities through acquisition and in 1993 bought the rights to manufacture aluminium tipping trailers from one of the all-time legends in tipping trailer manufacture and design, Grahame Lusty. Mick says that unlike others he has encountered over the years, he prefers to work with other manufacturers and individuals rather than covertly trying to copy their designs. He recalls many years ago he called in to Millmerran in Queensland to talk to Bill O’Phee (another trailer design legend) and asked him how he got into the business; he replied, “I did exactly the same as what you are doing, I went around and made friends with the people who made good trailers.”

Jonathan Byrne, fourth son of Mick and Teri Byrne and Director of the NSW factory, points out that the business truly is a family affair. “A lot of people know us as a family business,” he says. “We all play our roles and are widely spread out amongst our various national locations with Mum keeping a close eye on all things, and Matthew Byrne looking after repairs and new trailer sales for NSW.”

This kind of family presence in the company’s various locations is of integral importance for the business and its customers, explains Jonathan. Being able to provide high quality regional service and product support is important for an industry that is so hard on its products. “It’s very important,” he says. “When you’ve got a product to push forward or back up with repairs and maintenance, to stay amongst the customers and listen to feedback is a good business practice.”

Byrne Trailers can be found right across the country and operate under the most arduous conditions found anywhere in the world. “For 35 years the whole concept in design of the Byrne Trailer has been built around stress free transport, from paddock to plate.”

While developing and manufacturing new products is the core of the company’s business, safety is also a significant priority. “Safety is a major focus and it’s a very challenging one within the livestock industry particularly,” explains Jonathan. Due to the nature of the work environment, loading livestock can be very dangerous if the driver is inexperienced or makes a mistake. Often, drivers are working in remote areas and have little support. For these reasons, Byrne’s products are designed to be safe, economical and user friendly.

A design recently patented by the company addresses many of these issues for drivers, and then some. “We’ve designed a new trailer that accomplishes many great things,” shares Jonathan. He is pleased to reveal the details of the company’s most recently patented trailer, designed to improve safety and loading procedures for drivers whilst providing an ecologically and economically sound trailing solution.

“It will save on fuel costs due to reduced wind resistance. In the design that we just patented, the whole thing folds in half, eliminating air resistance. Also, drivers won’t need to climb on the trailer to load it.”

The as yet unnamed new product has been patented and was in the final stages of the design process at the time of writing. It is expected that the product will draw considerable interest at home and abroad from companies looking to function more safely, economically, and intelligently.

The new product is a bit of a departure for an industry that has a traditional way of doing things and conventional products with which to do them. “We’re finding that it’s very different to what we’re all used to in the industry, being so high-tech, but the patent has been passed and it is achievable.” The development team at Byrne is always looking for new and better ways to get a job done, whether that means improving an existing technology or creating something completely new.

Though livestock transport equipment is a major focus for the company, Byrne Trailers provides solutions across a diverse range of industries and continues to create growth opportunities in new markets. “As livestock can at times be seasonal, we are always on the lookout for new opportunities and challenges,” explains Jonathan. “The ability to adopt new products when there is a downturn in one industry is the reason why we maintain a diversity of portfolio of products and services. While one seasonal market is quiet, we are able to provide unique solutions in other market areas such as leak proof WALKING FLOOR© transfer trailers, WALKING FLOOR© Chip Trailers, side tippers, end dumps, belly dumps and a few others. First to introduce through loading in WALKING FLOOR© trailers, many trailer manufacturers have adopted this design in Australia with confidence.

Revolutionary design in Waste Transport and compaction is another area of innovation the company has explored in recent years. A spinoff from this recent development, for example, has inspired a customer’s creative use of Byrne’s compacting technology, and may see the company growing into a new potential market. “The customer saw a photo of one of our compaction machines operating in Tasmania and thought it could be adapted to compact wood shavings used for the manufacture of panel board. It is envisaged the company will be able to compact three to one, vastly increasing his transport bottom line.”

The Pre Load Compaction Chamber is patented in 30 countries around the world and operates on an intelligent inbuilt system called incremental urging. At a recent international waste conference held in Dubai, the company was one of only three international companies invited to deliver a paper on new innovative products in the waste industry. As a result the Byrne Pre Load Compaction Chamber has attracted the attention of major international players in China, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia, as well as many European countries.

Movement into these new markets has been made possible by the incorporation of products such as the as the KEITH® WALKING FLOOR system, designed to move product within a trailer or stationary facility, and the pre-compactor system, which removes the compaction process from the trailer, reducing the overall weight of the system.

As for the state of the company within the larger industry, Jonathan is quite happy with Byrne’s continued growth and sees new areas for development in the future. “The livestock we’re pretty happy with, but the waste industry and the agricultural sides are important and we are keen to move forward into those new markets.”

Jonathan is presently engaged in some discussions in China, which may lead to big developments for the company with a joint venture and reciprocal products exchange. It may be a bittersweet feeling, as Jonathan suggests that while the world is calling to the team at Byrne, national markets are under-utilising the company somewhat. “We’ve got a really good product, and we feel like people in Australia aren’t necessarily seeing it, while groups in Dubai are keen and inviting us to their conferences.”

Whether everyone can see it or not, it is undeniable that Byrne Trailers is unique in the industry in that the firm’s strong desire to innovate continues to push it forward into new territory, leading to some of the most well designed, intelligent equipment available to the industry.

In whatever direction the company elects to move, it is sure to continue to provide the latest and greatest solutions for its many customers in various industries. “We’re pushing the company toward the future with automation. You don’t go anywhere doing the same thing, the same way all the time. If you don’t try something, you’ll never know. We want to push to the next level where no one has been before.”

KEITH & WALKING FLOOR are registered worldwide trademarks of KEITH Mfg. Co.

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December 19, 2018, 9:23 AM AEDT