With four dual control forward moving aggregate spreaders, called Q-FE Road Ant, working across Victoria – and another five in build – the Quality Fabrication and Engineering team continue to innovate and improve. Roads & Infrastructure catches up with them to find out more.
Quality Fabrication and Engineering created the Q-FE Road Ant to ensure contractors could adhere to the Victorian Department of Transport (DOT) mandate for the use of forward moving aggregate spreaders on its works from 1 July 2022.
This move was announced by VicRoads, now DOT, in 2017 and comes into force in just over a year, the mandate requires any aggregate spreaders working on DOT projects to be forward moving.
As of early 2021, there are four Road Ants already in operation throughout Victoria, with several more due out in the coming two months.
The truck features both a front and rear cabin, both with full operation of the truck, spreader and safety controls from either end, eliminating the need to spread in ‘reverse’. The rear cabin is also dual control, enabling operation from either the left or right hand side for a clear view of spread line.
Road Ants can also be used in the spray sealing off season as the machine can be used for other works such as asphalting, shoulder work, and traditional spreading of crushed rock.
David Lockwood, Quality Fabrication and Engineering’s Head of Sales, says the Road Ants that are out working now are on spray seal jobs across the Victorian countryside.
“Some are working in bushfire areas for reconstruction of roads, others are working on mountainous terrain and some are doing shoulder sealing works,” he says.
“One of the advantages of the Q-FE Road Ant is the line of sight and visibility for the operators so when you are working on tight roads, say in mountainous terrain, you can see right to the edge of the road when sealing.”
John Esnouf, Principal Engineer – Spray Seal Technology at the DOT Victoria, says the industry and Vic Roads realised there was a safety risk with reversing spray seal trucks on the road.
“We saw forward moving spreading equipment as a way of avoiding this risk. Industry has been open to the change, they committed to five years at the beginning and there has been significant activity in the past couple of years,” he says.
“Forward moving operations are safer because the operator can see what is going on ahead of them, and can use peripheral vision to see any people or objects that may be on the road.”
Esnouf says there are already quite a few companies using forward moving spreaders on DOT projects.
“This was a joint project with the DOT, AfPA and industry and it’s great to see the Road Ant as a locally designed and built solution to the challenge we gave industry.”
Glenn Hardiman, General Manager at Quality Fabrication and Engineering, says the Road Ant’s first job was around the Snowy River National Park, a challenging test.
“The roads are very windy and steep, the machine performed extremely well and achieved exactly what we and the operators had hoped for.”
What stood out to Bluey, the first ever ‘on the job’ operator, with one of Q-FE’s customers working on DoT projects, was the visibility. Hardiman says, he was impressed as to how much he could see in front of him.
“We’ve also had Road Ant’s working on the Princes Freeway and in the Bellarine Peninsula and from our customer’s feedback, we couldn’t be happier with how it has been performing,” he says.
Early on, with the very first Road Ant, there were a couple of hiccups but these only took a few hours to remedy.
“We have since made improvements to overcome these issues and strengthened the design using the operator feedback,” Hardiman says.
The line of sight was one of the most important considerations when creating the Q-FE Road Ant. The ability to switch sides within the cabin increases visibility for the operator which then creates a more comfortable environment to work in, whilst also increasing safety for those on the work site.
“The operators don’t have to rely on reverse or side cameras to see where they are sealing, they can drive from either side of the cabin to get a view over the application,” Hardiman says.
Other Road Ant safety features include anti-rollaway systems, reverse cameras and monitoring screens, brake lights and indicators which are all fitted to both cabins and are active when spray sealing.
Hardiman says Q-FE actively chose Reverse Smart for its safety features, and added their system to operate from either cabin. The system automatically applies brakes when an object or pedestrian is detected in the truck’s path, virtually eliminating the possibility of a collision.
For customisation, the Q-FE Road Ant can be delivered on a truck that meets fleet requirements. So far, the team has delivered Road Ants on Isuzu, Iveco and DAF and have been in discussions with Volvo as to adding this option in the near future.
The next big step for Quality Fabrication and Engineering is to make the Road Ant available to be retrofitted onto existing trucks or Trout River units.
“This would enable us to turn existing Trout River fitted trucks into a Q-FE Road Ant, so that if a company has made a prior investment that didn’t meet the future 2022 mandate requirements, then that investment would not need to be made redundant within Victoria,” Hardiman says.
He says the team are in the research and development phase for this capability now.
“This is a logical next step for us for both Victoria and other future markets. Whilst this will take some time to develop, we have a world class innovative engineering team inside Q-FE who I know are up to the task” he says.
Throughout this process and with future Road Ants, the Quality Fabrication and Engineering team will continue to keep safety as their number one priority.
“We have built the Road Ant to meet the DOT mandate and our focus on line of sight, visibility and dual cabins is all to increase safety. Safety is our number one objective, and we want to do our bit to help towards zero harm in road construction and spray sealing,” Lockwood says.
For further information, please visit www.qualityfab.com.au or email email@example.com or ring 1800 97 97 08