Friday, 12 December 2014

So why DO we lay high tolerance concrete approaches?

Sometimes a customer won’t listen to good advice or listen to the experience of another customer who also ignored that good advice! We’ve experience both in the last couple of weeks.

Manufacturing a highly accurate axle weighing machine with high accuracy load cells and weight indicator is only part of a successful installation. Our dynamic axle weighbridge is the most accurate of its type in the world but getting the installation correct is vital and just as important as making an accurate weighing machine.

Employing, training and equipping our own construction teams may seem an expensive luxury but they are an essential part of us being able to offer that most accurate axle weighbridge in the world. 

Without them, achieving any sort of accuracy would be virtually impossible and we have seen many come and go that have tried to so it without making sure they have first class installation team.

This was illustrated really well recently when we went to install a system into groundwork prepared by others; a well known construction company.

Despite having a drawing and free advice from us, the finished levels are so poor that the only way we could achieve any kind of accuracy was by having the axle weighing platform sitting very proud of its frame. It doesn’t look very professional and could be construed as a trip hazard but it’s a direct result of the approach levels being so poor. We will almost certainly have to dig it up and relay the approach slab correctly in the near future.

It’s because the levels are so important that we have our own construction teams. That way we take full responsibility for the installation and can achieve the high accuracy that we do.

When using an axle weigher, only one axle is on the platform at any one time. The others are on the concrete either side of it. And uneven concrete approaches will seriously affect how a compensating bogie distributes weight. Thus, the approach levels affect the vehicle suspension not the axle weighbridge itself.
High tolerance concrete is essential for accurate weighing

No amount of adjusting the axle weighbridge indicator will remove this effect. The levels have just got to be right and if that means digging up and relaying the approaches, then that’s what needs to be done.

But even explaining the reasons for it, and telling the story of this recent issue with a major construction company to our customer, he still seems set on trying to get a system installed on the cheap. Questioning whether it really is necessary to go to the expense of providing accurate concrete approaches.

A weighing machine only measures gravity. No one can influence it or change the way it works. It can only be measured. And if anyone tries to install an axle weighbridge ignoring one of the great forces of nature, then they are making an expensive mistake.

There is no cheap solution but despite all the evidence, it still doesn’t stop some people thinking they can defy gravity!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Not fit for purpose...

That’s what the customer said when we went to look at his axle weighbridge. He went onto explain that he’d had no end of trouble with it.

Thankfully he wasn’t talking about one of ours. We imagine he was also quite pleased that it was his predecessor who bought it and not him.

We’ve mentioned the difficulties that can accrue from trying to do axle weighing on the cheap in the past and no doubt we will come across many similar installations in the future. Something that looked a very good deal on paper but turned out to be a load of trouble. And expensive trouble at that.

On the face of it, it’s quite a neat looking installation in quite a clean yard and not particularly heavily trafficked. But there are a few features that mean the system will not do what the customer wants.

The load cells and their mountings, which are very good quality by the way, are not the right design for a dynamic axle weighbridge application. The type of mountings will wear simply by using the system. Simply driving vehicles across the plate will lead to frequent failures and expensive repairs as this customer has found out to his cost.

The whole area is on a slope which will affect the accuracy. Any weighing machine is only measuring the effect of gravity and no weighing machine can influence that effect. Gravity will always pull in a straight line downwards and load cells are all designed to see weight going through a predetermined path with the strain gauges attached accordingly.
This axle weighbridge at least is up to the job!

This means if the load cells are on an incline, the load is taking a path through them that isn’t directly downwards an inaccuracy will result.

It isn’t the weighbridges fault. It only measures the effect of gravity it can’t influence it but it’s surprising how many people only listen to what they want to hear. They think that the cheaper an installation is, the more of a compromise it is, the more it can bend gravity to its will! The fact is there is a reason why we design, install and test our system the way we do.

A gentle incline won’t put the system outside of its tolerance as long as it is used correctly but it does mean that proper operation is essential.

This customer also has plans to offer the system as a Public Weighbridge and earn some income from it. The only type of system which can be offered in this way is one that has been Approved for the purpose and this one hasn’t been.

The Axtec Dynamic Axle Weighbridge is the only one which achieves this Approval and can thus be offered for this role.

There will be some cost attached but no more than should have been spent in the first place. So with a few modifications the customer will get what he wants and a system that will last him for years and start earning him money rather than costing.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Busting those myths about axle weighbridges!

Another show has been and gone, this time the premier show for those involved in waste and recycling, RWM at the NEC and as usual it provided a good set of new leads and raised a few questions.

As well as ourselves there were many companies exhibiting which were offering high tech solutions to all manner of problems and it was interesting talking to fellow exhibitors and discovering how slowly new technology is sometimes adopted and how old ideas can persist.

One of the great things about exhibitions is spotting a new way of doing something or planting ideas about what the market needs into the minds of suppliers. Manufacturers will always be on the look out for new opportunities to serve their market whether that be in axle weighing or any other field.

Yet there are some ideas which seem very firmly entrenched and difficult to shift.

There are two that we encounter frequently; dynamic axle weighbridges cannot be used for Trade and they need more space that a traditional plate weighbridge.
Small yard? A dynamic axle weigher takes up  little space.

Dynamic axle weighbridges have been Approved for use for Trade for many years now. Twelve or more years but it seems that some in the waste industry haven't picked up on that yet. Our dynamic axle weighbridge is the most accurate of its type in the world and as well as being Approved for Trade, it's actually accurate enough to be offered for Public weighing as well.

We've been using the one in our yard for that purpose for years.

The space issue is a bit of a red herring. It's true that typically 30m is required for a dynamic axle weighbridge but all but about 1m of that is just concrete. When a vehicle isn't being weighed, it can be used just like any other piece of yard concrete for parking, turning etc. And it certainly isn't in the way like any surface mounted platform would be.

An articulated vehicle needs much more than 30m to use a traditional plate weighbridge. It needs to be straight when approaching the system so with a typical 13m wheelbase that means a 13m clear area ahead of the approach ramp. The ramps are typically 3m long then there's the weighbridge deck at 15m. The last axle of the vehicle needs to be clear of the ramp before the vehicle can start turning safely so that needs another 13m beyond the end ramp.

All this means a total area of around 47m, some 17m longer than is needed for a dynamic axle weighbridge.

There are other benefits too; being flush mounted a dynamic axle weigher offers no above ground 'target' to be hit by wayward drivers. So damage to weighbridge, truck, tyres etc is minimised if not eliminated.

If space saving is important, then a dynamic axle weigher offers an excellent alternative to the traditional plate weighbridge.

And don't forget you CAN legally use a dynamic axle weighbridge for Trade as well.

Friday, 12 September 2014

It's show time!!

All the planning has been done, the pictures and equipment packed and ready and the ancillary items booked. All we need to do now is head for the NEC on Monday and set up the stand.

So if you're attending the Recycling & Waste Management Show (RWM) next week, feel free to come and see us on stand 5P151.

Exhibitions are usually an interesting time and next week should be no different.

Weighing waste may seem an odd thing to do for those not in the industry but it makes perfect sense to those that are. And investing in the right equipment can make a huge difference to the bottom line of a business.

Not only is it vital to ensure vehicles are not overloaded, overloading effects all the major components on a vehicle - brakes, tyres, steering, suspension, clutch etc and can lead to expensive repair bills not to mention a potential fine, loss of 'O' licence or even the whole business.

But underloading is almost as big a problem for some. Vehicles need to be operated at maximum weight all the time if customers are to squeeze the most out of them. Operating a vehicle at anything less than maximum weight is a huge drain on a companies cash.

A year or so ago we were approached by a customer who had exactly this problem. Transporting waste that couldn't be recycled to landfill was a necessary part of his business but despite filling his vehicles, the weights being tipped were actually quite light.

How then to maximise the loads being carried without overloading?

The answer was an Axtec Dynamic Axle Weighbridge and the results were quite astonishing.

With his own axle weighing facility, he discovered that he could get a whopping one-third more on each vehicle every trip. That reduced his vehicle movements by 30%. So that's 30% less fuel, 30% less wear and tear and 30% less landfill fees.
Could you save money by getting more on each truck?

The axle weighbridge paid for itself in a matter of weeks and has been adding to his profits ever since.

Whilst our customer always thought he could get more on each of his vehicles, he never had the means to check it. And he certainly never expected to be able to compact it as much as he could and get so much more on each vehicle.

And without the right axle weighbridge he would have continued with the educated guesswork he had been employing for years and which had been costing his business money.

Do you have similar concerns? Are you that customer who, despite vast experience in the field, can still get the guesswork wrong? And with all the technology available now, should it be left to guesswork these days at all?

If you are, we'll be happy to have a chat next week at the NEC. Don't forget now, stand 5P151. It could be quite a profitable conversation.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Axle weighing is easy, right?

Installing an axle weighbridge is easy isn’t it? Just fit four load cells under a piece of steel, sink it into a hole in the ground, mount a weight display somewhere and start parking axles on it. Easy right?

If only it was that simple.

If it was that simple, we wouldn’t go to the trouble of doing levels surveys at every site, making a complex frame design to an extremely high tolerance, invest in expensive on site testing equipment or using some of the most expensive construction materials on the market.

Getting it right takes a lot more effort and knowledge than it seems.

And getting it wrong can sometimes prove costly to correct.

A major high street retailer installed an axle weighbridge at a large distribution centre. Unfortunately for them, the contractor who built the warehouse chose the cheapest system he could find and then installed it himself.
The client was only weighing 2-axle rigid vehicles, normally the simplest vehicles to weigh but despite the best efforts of the axle weighbridge supplier, they came and replaced all the electronics and load cells not once but twice, it still wouldn’t weigh these simple vehicles accurately.

So we were call in to give a second opinion. And we spotted the problem within about 15 minutes of arriving on site, ten of which consisted of signing in and waiting for our contact to arrive!

The client was using shunting vehicles to weigh drop-bodies before parking them up ready for the distribution fleet to take them away in the morning. These off-road shunters had a very soft suspension which meant it reacted to every bump and hollow in the yard.

The axle weighbridge had been installed about 5mm proud of the approach concrete which, combined with the soft suspension caused the axles to bounce as they crossed the platform. Any weighing machine will only record the weight applied to it and if the axle is bouncing as it crossed the platform, the wrong weight will be applied and the wrong weight recorded.
A correctly installed axle weighbridge - unlike some we see!

There was nothing wrong with the load cells or weight indicator at all just a lack of knowledge of what is needed to weigh axles accurately.

Having to dig the system up and install it correctly is never a cheap option but there was no alternative.
This is a common issue and a trap that many companies have fallen into over the years.

It’s not the only one example. We’ve seen many installations using perfectly good load cells and mountings which simply do not weigh axles correctly. The only trouble is these load cells are perfectly good for many applications but are simply not designed for the job they’re being asked to do.

All we have to do is fit four load cells under a piece of steel, sink it into a hole in the ground and start parking axles on it isn’t it? Not true and demonstrably so in many of the sub-standard installations we see.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

If you think hiring an expert is expensive....

Just wait until you hire an amateur.

We’ve just priced up a job for a major national company who need to check raw materials arriving at their factory. They’re not claiming that their suppliers are defrauding them but they just want to make sure that what is on the invoice s what actually arrives.

The site presents some challenges, slopes, a two way road, remote printing location amongst others, so to do it correctly means the investment in the project overall will be substantial.

But at the end of it, the system will be highly accurate and provide the customer with the information he needs for many years. We maintain some systems which are nearly 40 years old and still going strong for instance.

There are though, plenty out there who will do the job on the cheap. Poorly designed, badly installed and not really up to the job and, in just about every case, considerably cheaper.
A recent enquiry came from a customer who had just been quoted £4,500.00 to replace all the load cells and mountings on his axle weighbridge only four years after he had previously had them all replaced at a similar cost.
Bluntly he’d been persuaded to buy a cheap system which wasn’t really up to the job and unless he invested in a more hard wearing installation he was going to be spending that £4,500.00 every few years for ever.
So that initial investment turned out not to be as cheap as he thought.
Shouldn't that weighbridge cable be in a duct underground??

Not only that, we’ve seen some very sub-standard and in some cases downright dangerous installations as per the photograph.

Unsurprisingly, this is an issue that some of our customers find as well. One provides specialist excavating services and designs and builds a lot of his own equipment. He has similar tales to tell of companies  who make all manner of claims as to what they can achieve at a fraction of the price of the experts.

We all want to pay as little as possible for the equipment and services we buy and driving a hard bargain is something we all do. It’s something we expect our customers to do. But there’s a difference between negotiating a fair price for all and being blinkered to what the experts are saying because someone else has offered a considerably cheaper price.

Some people are blinded by the price and never question why a complex installation is so much cheaper from someone else. There is always a reason for it.

Many of our staff have been involved in axle weighing for over 30 years and in that time we’ve learnt an awful lot about the subject. We look at each application closely and work closely with our clients to make sure we fully understand what information the require and where and how it is going to be used.

Only by doing that and specifying the right system for the job including all the items that are essential for it to work will it do what the client wants and have a long life.

There are though, much cheaper ways of doing it if that’s what you want!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Servicing Expensive? Not always

A question that comes up often is the cost of maintaining an axle weighing system.  We’ve just been advising one customer who had exactly that query before he placed his order.

It’s an important question because whilst buying the system is the biggest investment, there could be ongoing maintenance costs either for routine servicing or repairs.

Most systems need very little maintenance these days although some busier or dirtier applications might benefit regular servicing. That can prove to be a very worthwhile investment for some and there are axle weighbridges that are still in very good order after nearly 40 years of operation.

But some types of system are not best suited to such contracts. Our OnBoard Load Indicator is fitted to thousands of vehicles and sending engineers to do routine maintenance on them would be inefficient and costly.

The Axtec OnBoard Load indicator, like all systems of this type, monitors the vehicle suspension. And simply by using the vehicle the suspension will weaken over time. This can result in inaccurate readings being shown on the weight display. A minor adjustment is all that is needed but it would be expensive for a service engineer to visit every time this happened.

The cost of sending an engineer to check a system on only one vehicle might be prohibitive. But with a larger fleet of vehicles, the cost is only part of the issue.

Whilst in theory it might be possible to get 5, 10, 20 or more vehicles all back in the yard at the same time, in reality it’s rarely possible. Vehicles will be stuck on jobs, away for MOT’s, being repaired etc. But making multiple visits to catch up with missed vehicles for routine maintenance could be a costly and time consuming exercise.
Axtec OnBoard Load Indicator

We recognised that cost and inconvenience were important factors in owning this type of system many years ago. So all Axtec OnBoard Load Indicators allow customers to do their own routine calibrations.  It’s a simple procedure that takes just seconds. Which means customers not only save hugely on service costs but can do it at the time most convenient to them.

Missed  a vehicle because it was stuck on a job?  No problem, just catch up with it tomorrow.

But what about if the system breaks? Well, reliable as they are any electronic system can go wrong. But one reason for faults that we’ve removed is driver interference. There are no knobs, buttons or switches anywhere on the system. Nothing for the driver to fiddle with or break.

And no cries of ‘I don’t know how to use it!’ Drivers just have to look at it the same as every other guage in the vehicle.

Whilst we’re sure all your drivers are paragons of virtue, we know from experience of an early version of the system which had one knob for the drivers to operate, it was only ever that knob that got broken!

So making the axle weighing system driver proof and simple for customers’ to calibrate seemed to make sense and has certainly saved our customers an awful lot of money over the years.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Weight Indicator? Camera Screen? Or why not have both?

When you have your own in-house development and software people means you can develop new ideas quickly and efficiently. Responding to customer requests and new ideas is much quicker when you have all the facilities in one premises.

Whilst our prime focus will always be axle weighing and preventing overloading, a problem which effects all the major components of the vehicle – brakes, steering, clutch, suspension, tyres - we have developed our OnBoard Load Indicator so that it has some extra and very important safety features.

The OnBoard Display, which normally shows axle and gross weights, is a 96mm colour tft screen. And with sophisticated internal circuitry and software it can be made to do other things adding to vehicle safety and operating efficiency.

A subject that frequently arises during conversations with customers is the lack of space in modern cabs, especially lighter vehicles. And yet the range of electronic gadgets available to help run those vehicles – sat navs, mobile phones, etc is increasing and more and more of them are appearing on the dashboard. This can sometimes lead to a confusing and cluttered cab.

And of course the more gadgets there are, the more the driver has to concentrate on and the more there is to go wrong.

We can’t resolve all of these issues but we have helped with one by developing our OnBoard display so that it can take an input from both a reversing and a nearside camera.

In normal operating mode, the screen is showing the axle and gross weights and warning the driver of any overloads. But with the cameras fitted the screen can automatically show the view from behind or down the nearside of the vehicle.
Weight Display or nearside camera screen? It's both!

We’ve even developed the system so that for those customers who need it we can show a view from a camera focused on the load bed.

No input is required from the driver. He simply selects reverse gear or indicates left and the software will automatically select the right camera and replace the weight display with rear or nearside view. The screen reverts to the weight display when another gear is selected or the left indicator is cancelled.

These cameras offer enormous benefits. Improved safety when reversing or turning left, vital with the growing number of cyclists, some less safety conscious than others, in the country, less vehicle damage, lower repair bills, less vehicle downtime and possibly lower insurance costs.

The initial investment in them isn’t great and they pay for themselves many times over.

There is another important benefit in connecting the cameras to the OnBoard Load Indicator unit though; it removes one display from an already tightly packed dashboard.

Many companies don’t have in-house facilities t develop their products instead using third parties to write software and produce prototypes. A much slower process that can be expensive and lead to mistakes.

Having in-house development facilities meant we could develop our OnBoard quickly  and efficiently getting it out to our customers so that more of them can benefit from improved safety and reduced costs.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Another interesting weighing exercise.

We spent some time last week, with the assistance of our friends from DVSA, helping out a customer, who needed to weigh a vehicle towing a new trailer to determine the axle weights.

It was the usual story; plenty of full sized plate weighbridges around but nowhere that was suitable for determining accurate axle weights, vital for this haulier's needs.

In fact it was two of the usual stories; the one above plus a customer who is trying to get a quart into a pint pot. Or put another way, far more weight on the trailer than is legally allowed. The hauliers cause isn't helped by the fact that weight limits in some European countries are higher than the UK, Holland for instance, and his customer can't understand why if it's ok to run at 50 tonnes in Amsterdam, why not in Yorkshire?

The rights and wrongs of vehicle weight legislation aside, the operator needs to comply with UK limits and in order to prove to his customer that the vehicle would be overloaded on its axles with a full load on, he needed to find an accurate, calibrated axle weighbridge.

So he approached us and we were pleased to assist by arranging a visit to a local axle weighbridge.

It's another illustration though of the dearth of publicly available axle weighing systems around the UK. And how there is a market out there just waiting to be tapped by enterprising operators installing their own axle weighing systems and charging for their use.

The one in our yard generates between £6-£10,000.00 income a year for a charge of only £6 per vehicle. As the owner of the axle weigher, you could charge what you liked. I recently heard of a £20 weighbridge fee being charged.

There is the initial investment in the equipment and installation, possibly up to £18,000.00, but that is recouped pretty quickly. And with options to spread the cost by hiring or leasing the system, the up front costs need not be as large as it seems.
Could an axle weigher earn you money too?

And once the system costs have been covered, it's free for your own use and generating income which goes straight onto your bottom line.

Whilst many yards are busy or some operators have justifiable concerns about security and don't want unknown vehicles on their sites, many we visit are pretty much empty during the day. The trucks are all out earning their keep and the yard stands idle. What better way to make use of a patch of ground that you're paying rates on than to offer an axle weighing service?

It's not only charging for using the axle weighbridge that could be a money spinner though. How about charging for a forklift to remove excess loads? Or storage? Or maybe even using one of your own vehicles to deliver the overload?

And rather than us have to arrange access to someone else's weighbridge, we'd be quite happy referring those customers who need to weigh axles to your site. Although it would mean that we'd miss out on some interesting chats about foreign weight limits!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

CV Show Success - now the hard work starts!

Well the CV Show has come and gone for another year and now that we've had a bit of time to analyze the event, we've concluded that it was a very successful three days indeed. We'll be back again next year.

There was plenty of interest in axle weighing but also a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and confidence generally. The organisers will say that the attendance was up, they always do, but there were certainly plenty of people around and lots of people to talk to and a good sign of a busy exhibition is how quickly the time went.

From a company who has five 7.5t vehicles delivering sundries to take-aways to a company loading 44t tankers with waste at ports, we had a wide range of applications, vehicles, locations and problems to solve. However the initial chat on the exhibition stand are only the beginning of a long process of understanding the exact requirement, visiting the customer and seeing what he's doing and where.
The CV Show 2014 - Axle Weighbridge Systems Galore!

And that also shows the importance of having a real breadth of products, peripherals and software so that we can offer the right solution for the job. The take-away guy will benefit from OnBoard Indicators as his drivers are on multi-drop work and the load distribution will be changing all the time. The tanker operator though probably needs to look at a dynamic axle weighbridge so that he can maximise his loads before leaving the port.

Unsurprisingly both of those potential customers approached us with an idea of what they wanted to achieve but were unsure of the best solution. They had though both had conversations with people offering the wrong solution. Any company that has a limited number of axle weighing options will not be able to offer impartial advice on the correct system for the job

Impartiality is very important. We will always offer the best solution for the job not just the cheapest to try and make a quick sale. We feel that's a very short term way of doing business. It's certainly not a good way of getting repeat business and does our reputation no good at all

Often we have to tell a customer what he doesn't want to hear - that the solution to his problem is more expensive than he thought. And in many cases over the years we've walked away from an application when we either don't have the correct solution or the customer is not prepared to invest what is needed to do the job properly.

We take axle weighing very seriously and have invested heavily in equipment and manpower to make sure that we do the very best very time we supply a system whether it be a single OnBoard Load Indicator or a complex axle weighbridge system.

And we take the time to thoroughly investigate what the requirement is and explain what the best solution is and how it will benefit the customer in the end.

We understand that, quite rightly, that can be a long process and we have no doubt we'll still be speaking to some of this years new enquiries when next years CV Show rolls round again.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Find everything for the transport industry (including axle weighbridges!) at the CV Show 2014

It hardly seems five minutes since we were last at the NEC for the CV Show but here were are again less than a week away from the 2014 event.

We'll be on stand 4K58 by the way so feel free to come along and say hello.

In fact, there really is only one place to be if you're in the transport industry next week. Everything to do with transport - trucks, trailers, tyres, insurance and of course axle weighing systems will all be there.

Exhibitions are still the best way to meet new people and discuss new ideas and ways of doing things. There's still nothing quite like a face to face meeting, illustrating technical points with a hand drawn sketch and getting a real feel for a customers operation and needs.

We've found over the years that some people read every bit of mail they get, some respond to adverts in the press but an awful lot of people come to exhibitions. And for good reason - often it's simply not possible to discuss and specify a technical product via email or text however much some people think it is. A face to face meeting and seeing the product first hand is always the best way.

Customers have made a conscious decision to come to the show, to see what's new and talk business with potential suppliers. Many of them come to see a specific product or supplier. They have taken the trouble to leave their own business for a day to find out what is new and can benefit them in the future.

Or maybe they have a specific problem and are unsure of the best solution?

One such customer visited us with a vague idea about needing to weigh his vehicles but having spoken to a company who only supplied load cell based OnBoard weighing systems, he thought that nothing that made economic sense was available to him. The cost of retrofitting about fifty 7.5 tonners with load cells, even if it were technically possible, was considerable and that was without allowing for the time each one was going to be off the road.
Is this static axle weighbridge the right one for your needs?

He approached us at the Show a couple of years ago looking for a solution and after discussing his requirements in detail, it transpired that he didn't need OnBoard weighers at all but a simple Single-Axle Static weighbridge in his yard. Total cost around £7,500.00 and a far cry from the £250,000.00 he had been quoted. Obviously the lower figure was much easier get passed the finance director.

More importantly, he bought the right system for his needs. Fully loaded 7.5 tonners taking products from his factory to garden centres with no multi-drop work really only needed to be check weighed before they left his site.

So if you need advice on what is the right, and most cost effective, system for your needs, head down to the CV Show at the NEC next week. Even if it's not an axle weighing system you're looking for, there will almost certainly be an expert there with the solution for you.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

So how accurate is your system?

There are some very confusing phrases used to describe accuracy of weighing systems. 

Sometimes deliberately to hide the fact that a machine isn't actually that accurate. What exactly does OIML R60 Class IIII Approved mean for instance? It sounds impressive but it's not a very clear way of describing the accuracy of the system. In fact R60 is a standard that refers only to the load cells used not the whole machine

Our dynamic axle weighbridges for instance are certified to OIML standard R134, Class I and Class 0.5 depending upon what they are being used for. The R134 standard is a much better indication of how good the weighing machine is as it refers to the system's overall accuracy. But even then just simply quoting what appear an impressive set of numbers doesn't tell the whole story.

You could buy a system with the most accurate load cells on the planet but if it's been installed incorrectly, the system as a whole simply won't weigh accurately. But if the whole system has to achieve a required standard after a test on site then you can be sure the accuracy is right.
The most accurate axle weighbridge in the world.

Something else some companies do that sounds impressive is to promise a factory deadweight test to capacity. Given that the approach concrete for a dynamic axle weighbridge is a vital part of the system which has a direct bearing on the accuracy, testing a system at the factory is only a small part of ensuring accuracy.

We visited a customer a while back who had bought an axle weighing system from a competitor. Despite only weighing 2-axle rigid vehicles, the easiest to weigh accurately, and the original manufacturers changing the load cells and weight display completely, the system was always inaccurate.

However, with our specialist knowledge it took us about 30 seconds to establish what was causing the problem and suggest the solution. And it was nothing to do with the accuracy being claimed for the system which we are sure was correct when it left the factory.

Most companies quote accuracy as a percentage. But a percentage of what? The capacity of the machine is the answer. So a system with a 40,000kg capacity and a 1% accuracy could be as much as 400kg in error and still be within specification. Or potentially 800kg when weighing a 2-axle vehicle.

Usually, VOSA will take action on overloads of 10% or more. But they use the gross weight of the vehicle to calculate their percentage. So a 3,500kg van should not be more than 350kg over that limit. 

So an axle weighbridge with a 40,000kg capacity and 1% accuracy could advise that that van is legal when in fact it is on the brink of a prosecution.

And what of our R134 Class 1 and Class 0.5 accuracy? They mean that our system can weigh to within 0.5% or 0.25% respectively depending upon the application.

And with a capacity of 15,000kg, more than adequate for the largest road going vehicles, that means we would weigh your 2-axle van to within 75kg or 37.5kg. Making our system the most accurate of its type in the world and ensuring your vehicles do not leave your site overloaded.

Friday, 28 March 2014

But sometimes weighpads are ideal!

Having spent a fair bit of time explaining how weighpads are not always the best system to use for weighing axles, there are circumstances where they are absolutely the very best option.

We have many customers who use them very successfully but it’s after all the other options have been thoroughly explored, the customer is operating right vehicles for use with weighpads and full and thorough training has been done.

We had one such enquiry only last week. The customer is running 3.5t and 7.5t vehicles delivering specialist products to all parts of the country. With two locations on the same industrial estate it would seem that the obvious choice would be the Axtec OnBoard Load Indicator.

Fitted to the vehicle, it goes everywhere the vehicle does and instantly shows the driver his front and rear axle weights and gross weight and alerts him to any overloads.

However, at peak times, when vehicles are likely to be at their heaviest, the company hires in vans for short periods.

Those vehicles need protecting from overloading as well but as they only have them for a short period, fitting an OnBoard Load Indicator is not an option.

A fixed Static Axle Weighbridge, a variant of the systems we supply to VOSA but designed specifically for 2-axle rigids, is a possible solution. But which of the company’s two sites should it be installed at? And could the drivers be relied upon to drive from one site to another, weigh their vehicle and drive back to get any overload corrected?

They ought to obviously but human nature being what it is, they may take the line of least resistance and just take the chance they won’t get caught. It’s odds on that it’ll be that one heavy vehicle which gets stopped in a weight check and, as their industrial estate is only three miles away from a VOSA check site, the risks are quite high.
Portable Weighpads - sometimes the ideal solution!

The solution for this customer is a pair of portable weighpads. Lightweight, not that they need to be as these guys lift and shift some quite heavy equipment, and portable they are ideal for moving between the two locations. So management can take them to the vehicle rather than rely on the drivers.

The hired in vehicles can be weighed as well without any modifications to the vehicles and after full training to ensure they are used correctly the pads will provide an effective protection against overloading for their fleet. And with a fleet comprising of only 2-axle rigids they are the ideal user for portable weighpads.

More than anything this enquiry demonstrates the benefit of getting good advice and taking the time to thoroughly think through what your operation needs and what the best long term solution is.

And the end result is another satisfied customer.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Portable weighpads - not always the best, cheapest option

Just about every enquiry we receive touches on the subject of portable weighpads. 

Whatever type of vehicle people want to weigh and in whatever circumstances they are often seen as a quick, simple and above all cheap method of weighing axles.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Portable weighpads are superb in some applications and we have many customers who use them very successfully. They are perfect for weighing 2-axle rigid vehicles especially where more than one depot needs a temporary weighing solution.

But other than that, their usefulness is quite limited.

Even when weighing 2-axle rigids, the ideal vehicle for them remember, someone needs to make sure the pads are charged up ready for use, they need to be kept under lock and key, after all they’re inherently portable and easy to carry, and someone needs to make sure area the weighing is being done on is flat and level and to supervise the weighing to ensure it is done correctly.

Portable axle pads weighing a larger vehicle 
All of this is multiplied the more axles you need to weigh. For a start there are more weighpads to be kept safe and charged up. And of course someone has to carry all of them  out to the weighing area and position them.

A customer recently purchased three sets of weighpads from us, against our best advice, to weigh large 3-axle rigid vehicles. Technically this is possible but it’s extremely hard work.

We received a call a couple of weeks after the pads had been delivered to say that there was a discrepancy of around 750kg between the weighpads and a local weighbridge. So we sent someone out to make sure the pads were in good order and being used correctly.

Unsurprisingly  it was method error that was causing the problem. Simply placing the pads on the floor in front of the axles, driving the vehicle up onto them and taking a reading is not enough when weighing a bigger vehicle.

It actually took three people almost an hour to get the vehicle weighed correctly and produce an accurate result. This was nothing to do with any deficiency with the weighpads which worked perfectly throughout but simply because it takes that much time, effort and manpower to do it correctly.

So, far from being a cheap, simple solution to the problem, to achieve an accurate weight takes plenty of time and manpower plus of course the cost of enough weighpads to support the whole vehicle in one go.
The cost of the correct axle weighbridge to weigh those vehicles incidentally would have been about the same as all those weighpads.

We’re happy to talk to anyone about portable weighpads and especially happy to point them in the direction of customers who have experience of using them both in the right and wrong circumstances.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Some things worth knowing.

It's still surprising what some people don't know about vehicle weights. And sometimes the axle weighing systems on the market don't help.

Some people don't appreciate that the vehicle weights are shown in kilogrammes on the plating certificate.

To avoid any confusion, we always show the weight in kilogrammes on our displays so they appear in the same format as the vehicle plate. Some systems don't and quite a few imported ones show weights in lbs.
Axle Weighbridge showing weight in kilogrammes.

Other people may not know the  difference between GVW and GTW.

For anyone wondering, GVW is the Gross Vehicle Weight is the maximum permitted weight of the vehicle including the load whilst the GTW is the Gross Train Weight is the maximum permitted weight of the vehicle, any trailer and its load.

With so many options available to weigh axles it's surprising how many people still rely on the declared weight of the consignment. Even more surprising given that its the operator doing the hauling and his driver who are responsible for any overloads not the consignor.

Our advice would be to never ever trust any weights you are provided with and to make sure you weigh the vehicle.

There is though the possibility that the consignor can be charged with causing and permitting the vehicle to be overloaded.

Whether making the consignor liable or not is another debate but because an overload  affects all the major components of the vehicle - suspension, tyres, steering, clutch, brakes - it ought to be in the interests of everyone who transports goods to avoid it.

Some may be tempted to overload a vehicle as they think they are saving money by doing fewer trips but exactly the reverse is true. Tyre wear will be greater, fuel consumption will be higher and by wearing out the clutch, brakes and steering components quicker you'll need to make expensive repairs sooner than you were expecting.

There is also the possibility that driving a vehicle in an overloaded condition can invalidate the insurance. After all, the Construction and Use regulations clearly state that “all parts and accessories and the weight distribution, packing and adjustment of their loads shall be such that no danger is likely to be caused to any person in or on the vehicle or trailer or on the road.”

All this plus the fact that it's potentially fatal even. We've been involved in more than one investigation into fatal accidents where we've been asked to weigh the vehicles involved.

And as companies have a duty of care under the Health & Safety legislation, it is down to managers to make sure that they are not putting their drivers, fellow work colleagues and even members of the public at risk by overloading their vehicles.

The bottom line is that an operator ought to understand how the weight is recorded on the plating certificate, have a weighing system with an identical display so there is no confusion and know exactly what his vehicle and/or trailer can carry.

We have a vast range of systems available and can recommend the correct one for you vehicle and your needs.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

The overloading perils of 7.5 tonners.

One of the most frequently overloaded trucks is the 7.5t 2-axle rigid. The low axle weight limits on these vehicles make them notoriously easy to overload, especially the front axle.

Although it's largely felt in the industry that this weight of vehicle is in decline, replaced with either 3.5t,  4.5t or larger 2-axle rigids depending upon the application, the number of 7.5 tonners registered actually increased in 2013. The overall numbers are still way down on on their hey day when they accounted for almost a third of the light truck market but they are still on the road in significant numbers.

Clearly someone has a need for them but the problems of getting the axle weights right still remain. Pull back the curtain on a 7.5 tonner and, assuming it's legally laden, there will be an awfully lot of fresh air. And it is surprising how many people still think that all of that 'space' is usable. The truth is that the amount you can legally get on a 7.5 tonner is actually quite small.
This 7.5 tonner is actually fully loaded!

One of The perthe most common problems is front axle overloading when these vehicles are being used on multi-drop work. The natural tendency is to put loads right behind the headboard which is fine if weight is then placed behind the back axle. But as soon as that weight on the rear is removed there is a real danger that the front axle will become overloaded.

It can be a tricky concept to grasp. How can removing some load cause the vehicle to be overload? Surely the weight has decreased? Yes the overall weight has decreased but the weight on the front axle has increased.

It's basically a see-saw effect with the rear axle as the pivot point. If you put weight behind the back axle, it will reduce the weight on the front axle. Take that weight away and the front axle weight increases, put it back on and the front axle weight will decrease again. We refer to it as a diminishing load problem; despiute the fact the overall weight is dropping, the front axle weight is increasing.

It's exactly what happens when one person gets of a see-saw - the other person is lowered to the ground. If that person gets back on the see-saw again then, assuming they weigh the same or more, the person who stayed on will be raised again.

Our OnBoard Load Indicator we developed with the 7.5t market in mind. A display that shows front, rear and gross weight all the time with no operator input, it was specifically designed for vehicle on multi-drop work where the axle weights can change throughout the day.

The Axtec OnBoard is keenly priced and can be fitted in half a day. The costs of having a vehicle prohibited at a weight check could be enormous and far in excess of protecting the vehicle from the very common common diminishing load problem.

If overloading your 7.5 tonners is easy, the solution could be quite simple too.

Friday, 3 January 2014

A way to earn some extra profit

A happy New Year to everyone in transport. It's another year and maybe a time for some new ideas?

One of the early tasks we have this year is to help a customer determine if he has an axle overloading problem or not.

Note that we're specifically checking the axle weights as the gross weight is not an issue.

This is something we get asked about several times a year and is proof that here is profit to be made from installing an axle weighbridge. We have an Approved system in our yard and it generates between £6-£10,000.00 every year just from hauliers turning up and paying us to use it. We charge £6 per vehicle.

The sheer volume of vehicles that use our system and the number of times we get asked to help weigh axles means there is a market out there.

One of the noticeable things is how many vehicles visiting our axle weighbridge have come from a site which already had a traditional plate weighbridge. This type of weighbridge can very accurately provide the gross weight but is not much use for checking axle weights.

There are though situations where a plate weighbridge is essential such as where the vehicle is being weighed as it's being loaded. But for every other application an axle weighbridge is a much better option.

With so many hauliers need to check axle weights there is scope for operators to install their own systems and charge for its use.

How many can afford to turn down the opportunity to earn and extra few thousand a year? And have an axle weighing facility in their yard for their own use whenever they want.
Could you profit by charging for the use of an axle weighbridge?

It's not just the charging for using the axle weighbridge though.

One of the defences against an overloading charge is that the vehicle is on its way from the weighbridge to the nearest practical place to correct the problem. The key word in that sentence is 'nearest'. If your vehicle is overloaded and you drive past several places where you could correct the problem then that defence will fail.

If you are a transport operator, the chances are you will have forklifts, storage and your own vehicles. With an overloaded truck in your yard you have all the means to correct the problem available at your fingertips.

Does the load need redistributing? Hire them a forklift and operator to move it.

Does some load need to be removed and stored? How about unloading it and charging for temporary storage.

Is there too much load to be stored? How about quoting them a rate for moving the extra on one of your own vehicles?

We know there is a need for this service around the country and yet so few operators take advantage of it.
From our own experience we know there is profit to be made from it.

Perhaps it's your turn to join in making some extra cash?