What happens when you need a truck which can reach the parts other trucks can’t reach? Jim Wellington of Evenheights Specialist Transport found out when he approached Renault Trucks for their help in building a high specification Range C520 8×2 heavy haulage tractor unit with Fassi 820 82-tonne metre crane at 25m, for his work maintaining and upgrading the rail infrastructure in and around London.
Evenheights is a small family-run business which has built a big reputation in its sector. But being small, every asset needs to work hard – particularly the truck-mounted crane units which do the heavy lifting – literally! One of their most important contracts is to deliver conductor rails to sites on behalf of London Underground. Each rail is 60 feet long and weighs 1.4 tonnes and needs to be craned into position precisely to ensure that train lines can be installed as quickly and safely as possible.
Jim knew that finding a truck which could handle such awkward loads and deliver them into often tight locations wouldn’t be straightforward and approached Peter Thirkettle of his local Renault Trucks dealer, Norfolk Truck and Van Enfield, to discuss options, but Peter quickly recognised that he would need some extra help in specifying the right vehicle for such a demanding job.
“We’ve worked closely with Evenheights for a number of years, so know their business well. While they considered other manufacturers, I also knew that this truck is exactly what Renault Trucks do so well – the engineers love a challenge!” says Peter.
Peter contacted the Renault engineering team at their Warwick HQ, who visited Jim Wellington at Evenheights to understand exactly what he needed. ”The loads that we have to move have steadily got longer and heavier which require higher capacity cranes with greater reach. We handle a lot of rail and track sections up to 75ft long and often need to be able to place them exactly where the installation gangs require them. Time is obviously of the essence – when a railway is closed, it has to reopen on time, otherwise there are big penalties,” notes Jim.
The team then set about designing a vehicle which could carry the loads which Evenheights required while still offering the flexibility and manoeuvrability which were key to getting full utilisation from the new tractor unit.
Mike Stringer, Product Manager for Renault Trucks explains, “Our first consideration was to make sure the truck could operate at the weights which Evenheights needed, up to 65-tonnes under STGO conditions. The ideal tractor unit didn’t exist, so we actually started with a rigid 8×4 base vehicle which we re-engineered to meet Evenheights’ needs. We changed the rear overhang, added a Jost fifth wheel and re-configured the tandem rear axle to a rear steering one. To accommodate the Fassi 820 crane we included two 9-tonne front axles and additional flitching, and we also upgraded the engine to the 13-litre 520hp version to give the desired performance.”
The next problem was specifying support legs which would work in all environments. Jim Wellington continues the story, “We took a long time getting the legs mounted in the optimum position, especially the rear ones – if they were too far back it would cause problems with the shorter-neck trailers. It took a bit of juggling but Renault got it dead right. We also wanted a front-mounted support leg to give us 360 degree lifting capability and it took a while to get the correct mounting bracket. We saw a picture of a Renault with a front leg on the internet. It had to be sourced from Switzerland and cost quite a bit, but it’s perfect for the job and gives us 90 per cent lift capacity over the front, which is ideal for our application.”
The finished Renault Trucks Range C tractor unit is now a one-of-its-kind, highly-engineered truck which is already impressing its operators with the level of control and stability it offers, even at the crane’s maximum 25m reach.
Jim Wellington is equally happy, and quick to praise the Renault engineering team for their efforts. “Every time we asked a question they went off, did the groundwork and came back with the answer. We can’t fault them. They wanted it to succeed as much as we did. It’s a fantastic job and to say that we’re chuffed to bits is an understatement!”
Evenheights have another great Renault truck to help them keep London Underground on track, and to help their business reach even greater heights.