Anyone in the logging industry will tell you, air operated load restraints have been around for quite some time. They’ve been in use in Australia since the nineties but almost exclusively for log haulage. Then came the 21st century and the age of automation. As we’ve delved deeper into the 2000s, more and more people have been grasping how this automation can help them work smarter not harder.
At the moment, there are only a handful of automatic load restraint equipment options available worldwide. Even among this small cohort, the ExTe TU system stands out with flexibility and mounting options that give you unprecedented freedom in applying the tensioners to suit your own specific needs. Their easily reversible arrangement even caters for the lefties so often neglected in our right-hand dominant society.
ExTe TU auto-tensioners are made in Sweden and distributed in our neck of the proverbial woods by Aussie owned company, Forest Centre. As you might’ve guessed from their name, Forest Centre (and the ExTe products they distribute), mostly cater to forestry and log hauling businesses. But company director and sales manager, Rey Kell, says they’ve noticed an interesting shift over the last few years.
“People have been contacting us looking for smarter and safer load restraint solutions for different cargo types. Highway, metro distribution, operations where load restraint tasks have traditionally been quite dangerous. The air-operated load restraint is a major way we can help reduce that risk for them.”
Improving safety, reducing injuries
The ExTe TU auto-tensioner is basically a mechanical ratchet tensioner which is driven by an air cylinder. You can quickly and easily apply hundreds of kilos of pre-tension force without the use of bars or the need to strain on levers. While these momentary exertions of force may not seem like much at the time, they potentially expose workers to both short and long term strain injuries.
This is why the ExTe system—and its ability to take the strain out of load restraints—is so beneficial.
“The device runs off the air system already existing in the vehicle. Most trucks have air operated brakes and airbag suspension. A separate, pressure protected line from the vehicle’s existing air tank is installed and can be connected to supply anywhere from one to twelve or more tensioners. Then it’s simply a matter of turning an air tap and the air supply from the vehicle provides all the tensioning power for the units to tighten your straps or your chains.”
Forest Centre offers two different options for the TU auto-tensioner. The standard system can provide up to 800 kg of pre-tension force. For those in special haulage—like steel— there’s a special variant that can provide over a tonne of pre-tension force if need be. All without a whisper of exertion from the worker. Hauling more fragile goods? Tension force can be adjusted via an air regulator to suit different needs.
Over time, this reduction in strain (and related injuries) adds up to a bevvy of benefits for both the driver and the company.
Retire when you’re ready to, not when you have to
Improving safety and reducing injuries generally leads to greater driver retention.
“A lot of drivers have been in business for a very long time. They do everything right but inevitably, with manual restraints, over the course of months and years bodies get worn out, they get tired and people aren’t able to stay in their jobs as long as they really should be able to.”
It’s expensive for a fleet to recruit and train new drivers. If they can keep their existing staff in good health and on the job a lot longer through the use of safe restraining options, they’ll have happier workers and, once again, there’s a huge financial benefit for the company and the worker.
No stress, no time lost
While increased safety and efficiency are obviously important, the continuous auto tensioning feature is a real standout with the ExTe system. From the moment the air tensioners engage to the moment you release them at your destination, the system continuously applies and adjusts the tension as required. If anything settles or shifts, the tensioners will adjust to keep the load safe and secure.
This means less time spent checking the load or re-tensioning the straps, even if your load is made up of:
- used pallets;
- timber board;
- trusses and frames;
- recycled cardboard packs;
- bagged products, like sand;
- anything likely to settle or shift.
The ExTe system does it automatically for you, whilst you drive.
“In short haul operations, a lot of time is lost in tensioning, checking and re-tensioning lashings. But with a system like this, you simply throw the straps or chains over, turn a few taps and you can be out of there.”
While they might spend a bit extra on the equipment, customers are reporting huge gains in efficiency. And it’s an investment with an immediately appreciable return, especially for high frequency operations.
“We’ve actually been appointed as an agent for New Zealand recently as well. There’s a transport company there that does very short, 15km runs to the port and back again. The driver has to throw up to 12 straps and he does 16-20 trips a day. Since implementing ExTe TU auto-tensioners they now save a lot of time on site and expect to gain extra trips every working day—that wouldn’t be possible with manual equipment. There is also a huge improvement in the working environment for the driver.”
Safely carry awkward loads
With its continuous, automatic tensioning, provides supreme peace of mind for even the most difficult to safely secure loads.
“Another client in WA transports power poles all over the state and have been doing it as a family-run business for years. With a lot of ground to cover, they’ve always sought out ways to improve their business and make it more efficient. The aim of achieving an extra delivery per day always seemed just out of reach to them, but since using ExTe auto-tensioners they’ve been able to reduce their site turnaround times and break through this barrier.”
What if something goes wrong?
When you’re dealing with hefty loads, you need restraints you can trust. No-one wants the fear of this in the back of their mind the whole drive:
Rey explained the ExTe auto-tensioner system has built in features to ensure your load remains secure, no matter what. If need be, the tensioner can be used manually, with the front of the device housing what is in essence a regular mechanical ratchet tensioner.
“In the unlikely event of an air line or a fitting becoming damaged, you can still isolate each unit individually at the turn of an air tap. Otherwise, as a fail safe, the pressure protection valve will shut off automatically as soon as system pressure drops below a certain level. Then the whole auto-tensioner system is isolated and other vehicle systems are not affected. Each unit remains locked to its last ratchet tooth and lashings can be checked or re-tightened manually with tools if needed.”
So, even in a worst case scenario, the ExTe auto-tensioners will keep your load safe. That kind of peace of mind is a valuable commodity on the road.