A Better Way to Move?
The Floatliner glass inloader from Langendorf, on display at glasstec 2016. Specially designed glass palate racks are loaded into the fully enclosed truck body, which is designed to keep the glass secure and stable during transport.
Long-haul glass transportation is a challenge anywhere in the world. Moving glass in North America, however, is even more difficult than most markets. The distances are often greater, the driver training is more strenuous, and the standard methods and equipment require more driver involvement, making safety a major concern.
Briway Carriers of Alliston, Ontario, Canada, is looking to address the challenges of hauling glass in North America by moving beyond the standard method of transport and adopting transportation technology solutions that are common in other parts of the world, says Jamie English, sales manager for Briway Carriers.
“We’d like to push the industry to think outside of the box,” he says. “Like in every industry, technology and forward thinking is the only way to move forward.”
Two methods of transport
Glass hauling in North America involves securing large lites of glass to extra-large A-frames that are secured to the truck bed. The glass is secured to the frame with straps, and the load can then be covered for protection from road debris and weather. This method requires involvement from the driver at loading, unloading and throughout the route.
This process lags behind glass transportation in most other advanced markets, says Tim Corcoran, North American sales representative for German transport system supplier Langendorf, langendorf.de, which has been working with Briway Carriers. Companies are “hauling glass on an A-frame trailer with a tarp protecting product, or on a 53-foot trailer that was designed to transport paper, not glass,” he says.
By comparison, other markets, such as Europe and South America, have adopted inloader trailers for long-haul glass transport, Corcoran describes. Using this method, glass is loaded from the line onto a specially designed racking and pallet system within the glass plant, by glass plant employees. The loaded rack then slides into a fully enclosed, heavy-duty semi-trailer. The racking system is designed to fit within the trailer, ensuring that the correct amount of pressure is applied to secure the glass, describes Corcoran. When the inloader reaches its destination, the glass rack can be slid out into the plant and unloaded by the glass company on the receiving end, he says.
English believes that inloaders could help North American glass transporters address some of the most major issues facing the industry, including the driver shortage.
In North America, glass is transported on large A-frames using straps to secure the lites.
As in many segments of the industry, a skilled labor shortage plagues the glass transportation business. “I could talk to 10 companies, and at least nine of them would say their most immediate issue is drivers—finding qualified drivers,” English says.
The North American industry feels the driver shortage even more acutely, because of its rigorous driver training requirements. “A driver that has to haul a van trailer, they just need to know how to open and close the doors and how to drive the truck. Glass is so much more difficult. It requires so much training,” he says.
Drivers must be trained in how to handle a load with a high center of gravity, which makes the load and truck more susceptible to tipping than a standard semi-trailer load. And, they must be trained in securing glass during loading and checking the security of the load throughout the trip, English says. “If the straps are on too tight, the glass can be damaged or break. If the straps are too loose, the glass can break. Glass drivers have to stop frequently to make sure it is secure,” he says.
In addition to finding labor, companies are also dealing with the related concern over safety, English says. The hands-on method of glass transport requires greater interaction with the driver, putting them more at risk. “Safety is, and should be, everyone's top priority,” English says. “Currently in North America we are working with a live load environment. When loading at the plant, the drivers will be working alongside the loading crews. This causes confusion, and one misstep and someone gets hurt.”
English says he believes that glass inloaders could help to ease the labor and safety challenges in the industry, and could even provide additional benefits in terms of quality and productivity.
“With this system, there is less handling of the product—safer handling,” he says. “The system is self-loading, and that process is handled by the professionals in the plant. All the driver has to do is hook up the trailer and set up the security devices. ...With the selfsecuring system on [an inloader], you can teach the driver the equipment, and the trailer will assist in securing the load properly."
There are also potential supply chain efficiency gains, English says. “With the racking system, this can result in less equipment [needed] to move your customers’ freight,” he says. “And, it’s an overall more productive system from plant to customer. The shipper would have racks preloaded, and the end customer would have their product already on a rack. This would essentially act as a rolling warehouse for both shipper and receiver.”
While inloaders have been standard in glass transport for more than a decade in many parts of the world, the systems face adoption challenges in North America.
One major concern is distance, as transport distances are generally much greater in North America, English says. “A carrier in Holland will maybe go 200 to 300 kilometers around that area,” he says. “In North America, we may do just a couple of trips every month, but we will go from Toronto to California on a five-day trip. That’s further than the Netherlands to Moscow, Russia, through five countries. I don’t think that ever happens in Europe.”
Because of the greater distances in North America, drivers will also handle a return load. Many of the standard inloaders are not yet designed to be able to handle a return trip with a load, and are instead returned empty, sources say.
Transportation regulations are also different in North America, in terms of hauling restrictions, and current inloader designers would need to be modified to meet the restrictions of the North American market.
While the transportation industry in North America is known to be slow to change, English is optimistic that, with some modifications, glass inloaders could be integrated into the market. “We are trying to find a better solution. We are trying to work with the glass industry to find a better solution,” English says.