Military Pallets, Boxes and Containers – Part 10 More Thoughts on Trucks and Trailers
In this the final post in the series I am going to look at a handful of technologies and systems that might be used in the MRV(P), CAV and NAV(P) described in Part 9., and one or two other vehicles.
In the Air Despatch post I described one of the old capabilities we have let lapse, the Airborne Trolley. Although Paras can carry small buildings on their backs wheels are a wonderfully simple and effective invention, quads might not always be available after all and there is no doubt they aid mobility whilst reducing stress on the body.
This news piece about Afghanistan from 2006 illustrates the problem, hauling water with stretchers.
Zarges make large wheels and handles for some of their larger boxes and Hinterher, an ultra lightweight trolley with Zarges fittings. We might also look at the rescue market where a number of manufacturers make rough terrain wheeled stretchers, the angling market also has some interesting solutions.
For moving pallets, on the bottom rung of the simplicity ladder is the hand truck, a much neglected piece of equipment!
We us all manner of hand pallet trucks of course but they all require a good surface. From Midland Pallet Trucks in the West Midlands is the RTT12 Rough Terrain Hand Pallet truck Rough terrain powered hand trucks are also available from many manufacturers such as Conhersa, Vestil and Kropf. They can be petrol, battery or gas powered and would very useful for moving pallets around temporary base areas where ground conditions might not be perfect.
With the withdrawal of the 6×6 All Terrain Mobile Platform and the Universal Engineering/Supacat FLPT trailer the Army, especially light role forces, will use quad bikes and trailers. If there is to be no like for like replacement for ATMP we might seek to exploit further the in service quad bikes with a range of specialist trailers and accessories.
Fork lift attachments for moving lightweight pallets or boxes, pallet trailers and powered trailers could all find roles.
Cargo Handling on MRV(P)
The more I think about MRV(P) the more I think it is a flawed concept based upon assumptions about future operating environments that have more than a dose of wishing future operating environments are what we want, not what they will be.
That said, one of the highlights and key requirement for MRV-P is a pallet handling system for unit stores, which is of course, the real interesting part!
Lifting a pallet or two presents an interesting challenge, do you go for a hydraulic jib or something like a mini DROPS hooklift?
Hydraulic Loader Jib
Hydraulic loader are available from a large number of suppliers so instead of looking at all of them I have picked one.
The 300kg HIAB 026T can lift a NATO ammunition pallet at 1.8 tonnes to an 1.4m outreach, enough to lift it directly from a cargo vehicle load bed, a DROPS rack on the ground or even an air drop pallet. At lower weights longer outreach distance is available, 550kg at 4.6m for example. A number of accessory attachment are also available to extend the utility of the basic lifting device such as rotators, buckets, weighing systems and pallet forks.
Smaller devices are available and some can be manually or electrically powered, eliminating hydraulics as a trade off for lower performance.
If speed is required the time taken to deploy the outriggers and connect any lifting strops might create a problem so an alternative might be to use a smaller DROPS style hooklift.
Again, HIAB make a suitable example, the Light Range having a capacity between 2 tonnes and 7 tonnes.
With a required payload of >2.5 tonnes the MRV(P) could use the smaller of the HIAB range to lift a small flatrack carrying a couple of standard pallets, quadcon/tricon or pallet boxes such as the JMIC.
A few years ago OVIK created their Iveco Daily 4×4 based Cameleon with Edbro LN hooklift, I thought at the time this was a neat solution and it might have some utility for the MRV(P).
An alternative to a hooklift, but in the same ballpark, is the Stellar Industries X-tra Lift which would require a pallet to be dragged off as the vehicle drives forward, or use a wheeled pallet.
A hooklift does not add a great deal of weight but it does increase the height, raising the centre of gravity. An alternative is a skip loader as used by the German KMW Mungo.[TD author PaulG wrote about the Mungo here]
The Mungo is I think the only vehicle of its type that uses a skip loader, constrained by internal height of the CH-53.
Pallet trailers could equally be used by any small vehicle, perhaps even a Quad Bike.
Or we could just ask Universal Engineering to build some more FLPT’s.
The self storage and moving industries have come up with a few innovative solutions using lightweight containers that are optimised for volume rather than weight.
Truck Mounted Forklift
Although there are many JCB Telelifters in service and alternative to putting pallet handling equipment to a vehicle is to use a demountable forklift. You can go manned or remote controlled, Palfinger or MDB for example.
Worthy of a post all on its own there is a great deal of potential for unmanned autonomous cargo handling equipment. The MoD has conducted some research activity but the running is certainly being made by the DoD.
In between the large fuel tankers and jerrycan, there is not a great deal. Although multiple jerrycans can be pallet cage loaded an IBC size fuel container offers a useful intermediate size that would be useful for smaller locations and reduce manual handling. The offshore and mining industries have provided the impetus for development in this area.
Western Global of Bristol have a full range, from plastic injection moulded to steel construction. Forklift pockets or top lifting lugs provide handling flexibility.
With the MRV(P) having an integral pallet handling system it might be an opportunity to look at this intermediate container size.
Look at images of Combat Logistic Patrols in Afghanistan and you will see a mix of flat racks and containers being used and in many of these images you will also see very poor space utilisation on both the flat rack and container. As I have said in many previous posts we need to reduce the manpower to pallet/load ratio and maximise packing density. It is the norm that logistics trucks max out on volume or space before they do on weight and if we are going to see an increase in the use of intermodal containers in all kinds of military logistic support operations we need to think about maximising the cube. In Part 8 I showed how the use of pallet wide containers and internal pallet racking on containers could be employed at low impact and cost and both would dramatically increase utilisation for palletised stores. Smaller containers like Tricons, Bicons and Quadcons, employed in conjunction with shelving and racking systems like those from Seabox, BOH, Cave Systems, MSS and Ban Air can also increase density for unitised stores.
For small parts I think the slide out shelving systems from Seabox, BOH and Cave Systems show great potential bit for larger stores, pallets and bulk pallets (liquids for example) the MSS Shark Cage and Ban Air Rack Box, combined with side opening or curtain-side containers provide equally large potential so I have replicated the content from the previous post below.
These containers can be lifted onto the load bed of a standard truck or lifted using the EPLS hooklift vehicles already in service. If the container is not being unloaded onto the ground there is no need for a hooklift, pallets are unloaded using the in service JCB Telehandlers and transferred to smaller vehicles if needed. The container could also be pre-positioned at a replen RV, delivered to a location ready for unloading and the unloaded container picked up by a suitable vehicle on the return leg of the logistics patrol.
All sorts of flexible deployment options become available by combining side opening containers with internal pallet racking.
The most common means of loading and unloading containers without the use of external lifting equipment is the hooklift as used on DROPS and EPLS vehicles but as we saw with the Rail Transfer Equipment, the sidelifter is worth considering.
Sidelifters keep the container level and more importantly, can transfer the container to or from another vehicle, trailer or rail freight car. Because the hydraulics equipment is not situated underneath the load the centre of gravity is lower than hooklifts, an important mobility consideration. Instead of chains, container top spreaders can be used to reduce time and improve safety. Lifting two 20ft containers at once and stacking two high is also possible with most sidelifters.
Sidelifters have come a long way since the early unreliable rail transfer equipment and compared to container handlers life the Kalmar RTCH are a fraction of the cost for only a small reduction in capability, three high stacking for example.
The Faun FUG was developed in the late nineties and is now sold by Drehtainer as the Mobitainer, it is an off road dedicated solution for the transport of 20ft containers with an ability to stack two and load and unload standard trucks.
This is a novel concept and one which keeps the centre of gravity low, improving mobility and could be copied with current vehicle technology for commonality.
Why NAV(P), how about more trailers?
A possible non articulated alternative is to use more articulated trailers, funnily enough!
There are obvious mobility disadvantages to using articulated vehicles but with improving trailer mobility and the ability to really maximise volumes I think there are opportunities to exploit for some circumstances, they cannot of course replace the non articulated truck but increasing use of trailers is worth exploring.
The container racks shown above hints at the potential for increasing pallet utilisation on trailers.
In the civilian logistics world double deck trailers are commonplace. Some solutions can push the pallet count to over 50, pushing things even further, Argos have recently taken delivery of a number of 60 pallet trailer bodies. Whilst not exactly replicating these high pallet trailers exactly, the underlying technology, whether fixed deck or moving deck combined with an improved mobility trailer (like those from Broshuis). The space used for road trailer above the gooseneck could not be used where significant movement is expected, off road for example.
Articulated trailers can also accommodate 40 foot containers, or two 20 foot, or 8 Quadcons. 40ft containers are not widely used in the forward supply chain because they are difficult to handle but with sidelift they become much easier to use. Sliding skeleton trailers can be used to adjust the weight distribution so improving mobility
Hooklift trailers are also widely used in the waste management and agricultural sectors.
Why Trucks, how about tractors?
If we can make greater use of trailers for pallet and container logistics it follows that the same level of questioning can be applied to the front end, do we actually need trucks or can we use tractors or articulated loaders instead? Trucks provide the optimum solution for road use but go off-road and tractor type units offer greater mobility. Sitting in between are vehicles like the JCB Fastrac and those from Multidrive and the construction and mining industries provide another solution using articulated loaders.
Articulated Dump Trucks
Articulated dump trucks are designed for rough terrain and heavy loads, they are not suitable for sustained or long distance road use as the method of steering articulates the two bodies instead of turning wheels. On roads, tire wear can be significant but some applications might benefit from adapting these vehicles. Swedish forces use Volvo articulated loaders fitted with hook loaders and side lifters. A Volvo A30 articulated dump truck also forms the basis of the Archer self propelled artillery gun which has a 4 man armoured crew cab.
With an armoured 4 man cab like that on the Archer system and an armoured pod replacement for the dump truck body could this combination combine the protection of Mastiff with the mobility of a tracked vehicle.
We already have a podded solution with Foxhound, the concept is proven, scaling it up should not present any insurmountable engineering challenges.
Germany and Sweden has an ISO container sized personnel transit box called Transpotec from EADS that can carry 18 personnel. The Bundeswehr has also taken delivery of a number of ambulance versions. US forces also have a similar system in service called the PLS Personnel Carrier.
Just to be clear, am not advocating this for anything other than personnel transport i.e. not combat operations, but the concept, in a similar vein to Foxhound, is proven.
However, if we take the concept and make a smaller, articulated hauler specific version that sits inside the natural V shape between the rear wheels, add in protected seating, communications and weapon systems, you have a vehicle would be in the same weight and protection class as Mastiff but have dramatically increased mobility
In a 2011 post I asked ‘Whatever Happened to Multidrive‘
Multidrive, for those that have not read this post were (and are) a British engineering company that pioneered a revolutionary powered trailer system. Read more about the history at the link but the equipment that did come into service was widely regarded as brilliant and as fast off road as a greased weasel!
The key to their offroad mobility was a splined power transfer system and rear steer bogie. Difficult to explain, watch the videos below of this amazing vehicle and browse for more at the Multidrive Vehicle YouTube Channel
The RAF have used these air aircraft tractors (Unimog replacement) for Harrier operations and although a number have appeared in the usual ex MoD sales channels I think they could provide an effective solution able to cover a number of roles. They combine the pulling power of a tractor with high road speed and manoeuvrability.
Fastracs can be fitted with a front mounted lift arm (forklift) with 3.5 tonnes capacity so the same vehicle that transports pallets on a trailer could unhitch it and then unload those pallets, loading them on to smaller vehicles, a neat and efficient solution. This combination would not offer all the features of a dedicated telehandler but it would be sufficient for simple pallet transfer.
With all round suspension, ABS and a powerful engine the large Fastracs can travel at 70kph whilst towing a 24 tonnes trailer, with a heavier trailer speeds are reduced.
Hooklift, dumper, various low loaders and tanker trailers are available.
They can also be fitted with a rear hydraulic loader arm, 3.5 tonnes rear deck, chassis extensions and the RAF could get onto the commonality bandwagon by using them in the runway snow clearance role, as they do at Luton airport. Stretched versions have been produced, extra axles fitted and all manner of hydraulic loaders and shovels integrated, the Fastrac is a versatile machine.
The Health and Safety Executive have published an interesting paper on the crossovers, legal issues and trailer restrictions on the subject of using the Fastrac as a HGV replacement, read it here
If the Fastrac could be modified with the Multilift style powered trailer technology then that would provide a very high mobility solution that could be equally useful on road, albeit not for very long distance travel. One problem that would have to be addressed is protection and crew seating; protection against blast would be assisted by the central crew pod position instead of the seating position being directly over the wheels but it is good practice to have two personnel in each vehicle to provide overwatch, navigation assistance and other functions. Although they do have a passenger seat there might be some additional work required.
By combining the functions of C and B vehicles, a Fastrac type vehicle could provide some very interesting options in the logistics and plant area and looking sideways at the Fastrac, I wonder how well it would meet the MRV(P) requirements with a crew pod?
In fact, the more I look at the Fastrac the more I see a Unimog without the crew sitting over the wheels.
Turning the Container into a Trailer
Taking a completely different tack, the novel idea of using the steel container as its own trailer and just adding wheels has been developed y a couple of organisations
First is the Italian company Aris.
The Airlift Global Carrier is a wheeled system that includes a special container and flatrack system used for both transport and C130 aircraft loading without specialist airport equipment. It also serves as the prome mover for the MBDA Spada anti aircraft missile system. An armoured version has also been recently introduced. Manual container dolly sets or mobilisers are quite common but mostly used in ports and logistics hubs so low speeds and smooth road surfaces are the norm, the AGC extends this concept to longer distances and rougher terrain whilst adding a very useful C130 loading and unloading capability.
CDK and Cignys take a similar approach but with a focus on container mobilisation rather than the tractor unit. They make a few different models catering for different loads and regulatory environments but all have three functions; aircraft loading, transport and handling. The Container Loading Trailer comes in two parts that are connected to the ends of a container.
For transport, the two components fit in a single 20ft intermodal container and when deployed can be used for short distance transport, loading and unloading containers without the use of dedicated equipment and aircraft loading. It is a neat system that eliminates the need for hooklift vehicles and container handling plant, it is a neat system.
If the decision is made to cease using the Iveco’s (and I think it makes some sense to do so) another option presents itself. Instead of turning an MAN HX truck into a MAN HX dumper truck we could make use of the larger EPLS fleet and instead, make demountable tipper and concrete mixers. By not relying on a small fleet of specialist vehicles but instead, the larger fleet of general purpose EPLS type vehicles we are able to separate serviceability of the truck from availability of the specialist payload.
The US Army take this approach with their Oshkosh Palletized Load System (PLS) and the HEMTT vehicles, equivalent to DROPS/EPLS. The PLS includes a Dump Body M6, Concrete Mobile Mixer M5, Fuel Farm, Water Distributor, Bituminous Distributor M4 and the interesting Flatrack-Mounted Armoured Troop Carrier (FRES UV here we come!)
The Faun trackway system is available in a demountable format also.
Yet again there are off the shelf military and civilian options, many of them in widespread service.
If this approach can be realised with the engineering modules the question must be asked, can the same be achieved with refuelling and tankers?
Fuel and Water
Fuel tankers look exactly what they are, high value targets.
Both the Oshkosh articulated high capacity tankers and lower capacity MAN SV based tankers are distinctive in appearance and beyond differences in capacity and mobility, carry out the same role. For operations in Afghanistan the MoD purchased 20 ISO tank container based Fuel Dispensing Racks from WEW in Germany. As noted in a previous post these are ground mounted and not used whilst mounted on the vehicle.
Although tank containers are less distinctive than traditional bulk fuel tanks they are still obviously a fuel tank so taking this a step further would see the tank simply contained within a conventional intermodal container.
Instead of specialist vehicles (inc trailers) for fuel, water and other stores we could move to a model that used utility vehicles for everything, this allows us to flex up and down easily depending on the nature of the operation or phase within it using a smaller number of vehicles.
For a higher capacity tanker replacement we could either use a 40ft container or simply connect two 20ft units.This moves us away from specialist tanker vehicles.
The Unit Support tanker carries 7,000 Litres, the Close Support Tanker 20,000 Litres and the Tactical Aircraft Refueller 15,000 Litres. All have metering, pumping and filtering equipment and carry an assortment of ancillary items like pipeline and manifolds. Much of the Joint Operational Fuel System is DROPS rack mounted but the concept could be extended.
A key question would be whether a flatrack or containerised solution would be able to meet safety requirements, one would imagine fuel has a whole host of safety and environmental regulations. If so, I think there is mileage in going taking a wholly modular approach to fluids transport and dispensing.
The two ‘go to’ companies in the UK for fuel pumping and dispensing are Fluid Transfer and DESMI, bith of whom provide solutions to all three services including exotica such as the Air Delivered Bulk Fuel Installation, special forces Air Landed Aircraft Re-fuelling Point and Forward Air Refuelling Point. The mining and offshore industries provide additional options including designs that are fitted into standard containers. The US company DRS also make a similar range of products likewise,the Canadian company SEI and from Italy, AMA. Not to forget JPC in the UK
Without any kind of space allowed for pressuration, filtration or metering equipment a 20ft tank container can hold approximately 25,000 Litres and the 40 ft tank container, 50,000 Litres. Add the ancillary equipment and these volumes will decrease but an alternative to the cylindrical tank inside a container or container frame is to use rectangular bunded tanks inside the container that maximises volumes. Square tanks may place restrictions on placement, handling and whether they can be moved with fuel inside but it is a proven method of increasing volume. The German company Tank Systems take this approach with their Centaur and Minotaur systems, an interesting alternative that uses a number of Euro Pallet compatible stacking and interlocking ‘building blocks’ to create mobile and static solutions for transport and dispensing various types of general, aviation and marine fuels.
The Kalmar RT240 Rough Terrain Container Handler is no doubt a fantastic bit of machinery that can lift 24 tonnes but we only have a handful hence the need for hooklift type vehicles such as DROPS and EPLS because we have nothing else in service beyond the equally exotic Terex cranes that can lift one (actually, the MAN SV Recovery Vehicle can lift 15 tonnes and the Truck Mounted Loader, 5.3 tonnes, but these would not be fully loaded containers).
For handling sub 20ft containers the number of lifting vehicles that become practicable increases.
If greater use is to be made of containers in general, it might be worth looking at other handling options.
Where situations dictate the use of non specialised container lifting equipment a spreader frame increases speed and safety. The twistlocks are activated by pulling a toggle which eliminates the need for personnel to climb on top of the container. Bottom lug lifters are also available to avoid working at height.
Not everything has to be powered and simple mechanical equipment still has utility.
These manual systems can be slow and have a lower lift weight but the advantage of not needing power is obvious,especially for the wheeled lifting jacks. They also allow containers to be loaded and unloaded from vehicles without any MHE.
Although manual systems are cheap and easy to use they often lack speed and lifting capacity. Moving containers around rear storage areas is usually done by equipment like container forklifts at the Kalmar but as mentioned above, are difficult to deploy, expensive and few in number.
Other powered systems might not have the reach or stacking capacity of the Kalmar but are much lower cost and easier to deploy.
The most simple type is like the manual systems above, corner jacks and hoists, but of course, powered.
Container mobilisers are similar in concept to the large shuttle and straddle carriers seen in container terminals. They are much easier to transport although may require some assembly in theatre, can operate on moderate to poor surfaces and can be easily used indoors or where space is tight due to a low height and small footprint.
Best of all, compared to the Kalmars of this world, are as cheap as chips.
The Combilift is delivered in two 20ft containers and takes about a day to build.
The Mobicon straddle carrier uses two lifting frames that operate together rather than the rigid frame of the combilift. Mobicon also make a soft terrain version that because of the low container height are not vulnerable to tipping over should a soft patch or hole be encountered, they are more or less tip proof.
The Meclift is intended for use on storage yards but it reminds me of the Mobitainer aboce and which may be an alternative to using a hooklift trailer, the centre of gravity is much lower than a hooklift.
This has been an interesting series to write and has hopefully shown the dull and boring (to some) world of military logistics in a better light. At the beginning I wrote that the MoD has bigger fish to fry than boxes and pallets but as can be seen, there are innovative solutions in both the civilian and military domains that can deliver improvements in capability and reductions in cost, reducing cost is the way to preserve combat power.