Barker Retractable Skel Review
Flexibility with carrying and loading options is the key behind Barker’s Retractable Skel trailer, that allows the tri-axle group to be rolled back for unloading and loading of short containers as well as improved axle weight distribution.
Barker trailers are manufactured in Woodend Victoria. The company was founded by two brothers Arthur and Ernie Barker in 1974 who commenced building customised made trailers for a select group of customers. Today their manufacturing facilities encompass two factories, one in Woodend and one in nearby Maryborough with a total factory size of 30,000 square meters and 200 employees.
This particular retractable skel trailer is part of industry leading logistics specialist Gibson Freight’s container handling fleet based out of Brisbane. The Barker retractable skel trailer has three main configurations to take the following container sizes. Retracted; is used to unload a 20ft container at a loading dock. When extended the large overlap between the front and rear sections ensures adequate strength. Semi-Extended; to carry a 23 tonne, 20ft container at 20 tonne gross on the tri-axle, with the container mid-way on the trailer. Fully Extended; to carry either 2x20ft containers or 1x40ft container (up to 26 tonnes payload with 20 tonnes gross on the tri-axle). At the rear, the container is supported by convenient fold-up pedestals and can be unloaded by reversing into a loading dock
At Royal Wolf’s Banyo depot, we were able to put the retractable skel through its paces and see how the features of this trailer worked in the field.
With the trailer stretched out to its full length, the rear folding pedestals were stood up to be level with the front deck, and the twist locks placed in the loading position ready for 40-foot container to be placed on its back.
Twist locks are fitted midway along the trailer to allow a single loaded 20-foot container to be placed in the middle of the trailer for optimum weight distribution or two 20-foot containers to be placed one at the front and the other at the rear.
To demonstrate the flexibility of the retractable skel, the 40-foot container was removed and the folding pedestals placed in their lowered position. The middle twist locks were placed into the loading position and a 20-foot container placed in the centre of the trailer. The trailer locks were deactivated, the red flag extended out at the landing legs to indicate the locking pins were unlocked. Then the trailer was closed up and the locks activated. Now the rear of the container was at the rear of the trailer and capable of being unloaded at loading dock.
When the twist locks are not in use they can be retracted out of the way to provide a clean flat surface. Provision has also been made for a fire extinguisher on the right-hand trailer leg.
The rolling frame of the retractable trailer uses Borkey industrial roller skates located on each side of the frame to allow the suspension part of the chassis to roll forwards and backwards to enable the top deck to roll back effortlessly with a fully loaded container on board. To slide the suspension in or out, it is simply a matter of applying the trailer’s brakes and slowly drive the prime mover forwards or backwards till the locking pins lock in the appropriate hole.
When in the forward or rearward position, the rolling part of the skel is locked securely by ultra-strong failsafe air operated locking pins. A bright red safety flag protrudes when the pins are not correctly locked, warning the driver not to move the trailer.
The trailer is finished in high quality two pack paint, that is applied over a grit blasted and primed base, to ensure long lasting good looks. LED lights are standard, on the Barker retractable trailer that provide long and reliable life but importantly adapt automatically to varying voltages in truck power supplies.
To ensure axle weights are within legal limits the retractable trailer is equip with Right Weigh on board scales. The Right Weigh scales connect to the trailer’s air-suspension and display the amount of pressure in the airbags as a weight measurement. This makes it easy for driver to see the weight over the trailer axle group at a glance. The more weight on the trailer the greater the pressure in the air-suspension to maintain the ride height.
This particular trailer, came equipped with the cheaper axle and suspension option from Fuwa K-Hitch. The suspension is KT250T which has an underslung axle with U-bolt mount. The axle features drum brakes with auto slack adjusters and ABS braking. Goodride AS678 11R22 tyres are mounted on steel ten-stud rims.
To keep accurate records of the trailer’s use for maintenance purposes, a Stemco Datatrac electronic Hubometer has been installed on the middle axle on the right-hand side. The compact size of the Stemco Datatrac makes it easy to mount and dismount tires without removing the Datatrac from the wheel. One of the advantages of this meter is the large easy-to-read LCD screen that makes data retrieval simple and accurate.
To finish of the rear of the trailer a full-length mudflap is fitted to the light bar, along with fold up “Oversize” for convenience with when coupled to B-Double.
Length 9.300mm / 12,200mm
Twist lock height 1,405mm
Skid plate height 1270mm
Skid plate 8mm with 50mm bolt-in king pin
King pin location 1,100mm
Suspension Location 5,690mm retracted
7,925mm partially extended
8550mm fully extended
Safety Cables PVC covered both sides
Tyre carrier 1 tyre vertical left-hand side
Brakes 420mmx178mm S-Cam to ADR/3803
Electrical Multivolt LED