Aussie loads -- covered at the push of a button

TRANSPORTING loads by truck in Australia is becoming safer for the environment and workers, thanks to a clever and secure automated tarpaulin system developed by an ex-truck mechanic in Sydney's outer western suburbs.

With nearly 20 years experience as a truck mechanic, Malcolm Masters knows trucks - and the trucking industry - inside out. About five years ago he decided to take his knowledge and start his own business providing a mobile maintenance service for trucks - M.A.L. Mechanical Services.

While Malcolm's business grew, his former employer Hamelex was trying to find a reliable distributor and installer of retractable truck tarpaulins.

So when Malcolm expressed his interest in the business, a deal was struck that enabled Malcolm to become a specialist supplier of truck tarps.

However, Malcolm's company, Air Tarps Australia, has developed its own air-operated tarp for loads requiring the greatest levels of security during transportation.

"Air Tarps Australia is also a distributor of Bow Tarps, manufactured in Queensland,” said Malcolm.

“However, these are manually or electrically operated at this stage. A pneumatically operated version is in progress and will be available soon.

"The tarp we manufacture ourselves and fit to trucks is currently the only air operated tarp available in Australia. It fits into the top of a trailer and covers the entire load to secure the material being carried. It protects the safety of the environment, workers and other vehicles on the road."

Malcolm's new air tarps use SMC Pneumatics' components ranging from a series of the company's valves, sheet metal enclosure, filter regulators lubricators fittings and tubing to automatically raise and lower the tarp into place.

Tarping is performed safely, quickly and easily at the press of a button located either in the cab or on the trailer.

As well as being pneumatically operated, Malcolm's air tarp is currently the only system that can operate without the truck attached, providing flexibility and practicality in otherwise difficult situations.

Apart from the practical benefits of Malcolm's system, environmental and workplace regulations may mean that, in the future, automated tarp systems like Malcolm's will be standard items required by haulage vehicles.

Under current Environment Protection Agency regulations, loads must be covered and tied down. However, with WorkCover continually revising rules to increase the safety of workers, climbing on a trailer to manually attach and secure a tarp could be a thing of the past.

In addition, WorkCover legislation stipulates that adequate fall protection must be used by workers at height - including workers manually covering semi-trailers with tarps. The use of such precautions in the form of harnesses, for example, can prove not only time consuming to attach and use, but can also be expensive to purchase and police.

Malcolm is being kept busy with word-of-mouth recommendations, having fitted one hundred trucks with his pneumatic tarps in the last 18 months.

22 Feb 2006