– By Caroline Falls –
Andrew Railz, Fleet Manager at Bundaberg Regional Council in Queensland, came across the revolutionary lightweight Composite Stands when they were in their infancy. Railz met the inventor of them, Matthew Dow, and suggested he bring along some samples of the composite materials jacking stands and put them on exhibit at the IPWEA fleet conference running on the Gold Coast in March that year. It was 2018.
Wind forward to 2021 and the stands came to Railz’s mind when Bundaberg Regional Council was looking at safety standards and guidelines across its maintenance workshop. He referred the stands to fleet maintenance coordinator Peter Stanton, who could see a great use for them, particularly in dealing with changing cutter blades in the field on their graders.
“The process started after a discussion between Councils Fleet Services division and Roads and Drainage Department about grader operators assisting workshop staff replacing grader cutting edges,” said Stanton.
“A safe work procedure was to be developed and a work instruction formulated as part of the process. The use of lightweight composite stands played an important role in this procedure.”
Composite Stands are less than half the weight of the traditional steel jacking stands. The traditional stands being used for changing cutting blades on the graders weighed in at about 30 kilograms a piece and needed two men to shift them into place. These particular Composite Stands weigh 9 kg and come with a placement hook to position, making it easy for just one worker to install. As well they are easier to load into field maintenance vehicles.
Dow, himself a fleet maintenance manager at Australian mines for 20 years, had come up with the idea — there has to be better way — after watching men bent down and straining to shift the heavy traditional steel jack stands from underneath machinery in his workshops. He looked into composite materials, similar to ones used in the space and aeronautical industries, and with the help of engineers and laboratories at Australian universities in NSW and Queensland, formulated a design that’s now been patented in Australia, the US, Europe, South Africa among other jurisdictions. The product, which comes in a wide range of sizes, with an accompanying wide range of weight bearing attributes — has recently garnered press in the US, Europe and South Africa.
Stanton called Dow and talked through the procedure of changing sacrificial cutting blades on graders in the field. From that conversation Dow sent Bundaberg two 15 tonne stands with 75mm inserts to bring them to a height of 775mm. They sit on 40mm plates, also made of composite material, to bring them to the required height for changing the cutting blades on the graders. This is done in the field on compacted roadside aprons, or specially compacted areas marked for machinery field works.
“Because they are so light, they are basically easier and safer to use out in the field,” Stanton told Fleet Auto News, adding, “The safe procedure of doing it is the main factor. One person can load it into the mobile vehicle whereas with the steel stands, it would take more than one person.”
And how do the workers using them feel about the new stands?
“They just have no trouble using them. They like the process. They like the fact they are so light and manoeuvrable. They adapted to them pretty well,” said Stanton.
Stanton, who has been with Bundaberg Council for 20 years, said he’d since ordered another set of jacking stands from Composite Stands, and that he can see more uses for different sized ones, which he hopes to order over time.
“We are looking at replacing our general purpose stands with these lightweight composite stands,” said Stanton
Bundaberg Regional Council has a fleet of 1,500 items, including 40 pieces of earth moving equipment. Nine of those are graders — six Caterpillar 12M and 140M and three John Deere 670GP, and their main role is road maintenance.
“We have a lot of dirt roads and new construction projects. Our boundary is 6500 square kilometres. Some of the hinterland part of the shire is hilly but generally it’s reasonably flat,” said Stanton, adding they keep the grader equipment in use for about eight years or 8,000 hours.
— Caroline Falls has been contributing to Fleet Auto News since 2015. She is a freelance writer. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.