Renowned for its production of livestock transporter bodies for trucks and trailers, Houghton Parkhouse has extended its Platinum range to include a 3.5-tonne trailer for use behind 4x4s.
Built around an aluminium monocoque body, the T35 is available in internal lengths of 3.74m (12ft 3in), 4m (13ft 1.5in) and 4.26m (14ft), with the option of fitting tandem or triple axles. Features include an electro-hydraulic lifting deck which eliminates ramp angles by moving up and down as one piece, bunded decks, double-skinned walls and compensating suspension.
Using many of the construction techniques and materials found on its larger models, the new T35 trailer is aimed at users with high welfare and high usage in mind. Chief designer, David Looker says: “It was pointless trying to make just another livestock transporter to compete in what is already a crowded market, so we went down the route of producing a high specification trailer for a niche market of discerning users.”
To get to grips with the new trailer we put a 3.9m (13ft) version with tandem axles and lifting deck to work carrying out various transport duties including cattle, calves and sheep.
From the outset, the trailer looks the part as a high specification transporter. Aside from looking a little like a catering van, it is very modern with a lot of attention paid to detail from the quality of construction to the finish of the two pack paint job.
Using a high-spec Knott coupling and running gear, with Dexter weight distributing arm and hydraulic overrun brakes, the T35 is as easy as any other trailer to hook up. While it does have a handle on the draw bar to manoeuvre the trailer those last couple of inches, it could also do with a pair of handles mounted on the forward bulkhead to save a bit of back strain.
Concealed in the bull nose of the trailer is all the electro-hydraulic components for raising and lowering the deck. Essentially, an electric motor pumps oil in and out of a ram which is connected to the lifting deck via cables. This is powered by a 12v battery which takes its charge on-the-go via an auxiliary electrical port from the vehicle. It can also be charged up using a mains charger.
The firm says a fully charged battery is capable of lifting a loaded deck 12 times before it runs flat – particularly advantageous if the trailer needs to be dropped off and used while the towing vehicle does another job. Traffic light LEDs show battery level.
Controls for the deck and locking mechanism are recessed into the left-rear pillar of the trailer. They are simple enough to fathom and include buttons for internal lighting and an emergency stop. These can be accessed from either standing on the floor or on the tailboard.
Ventilation is taken care of via sliding vents on both decks.
All walls, including the tailboard, are double-skinned to prevent thermal transfer. The firm says, as well as keeping stock cool in the summer and warm in the winter, it also allows you to carry pigs without fear of their skin sticking to the walls, which adds to the trailer’s versatility.
There are two basic transport modes – single deck and double deck. When transporting cattle for example, in single deck mode, the top deck is on the floor. For sheep or pigs though, once this deck is loaded, it raises up and locks in place while the lower deck is used.
Switching between the two modes requires the top half of one of the tail gates to be taken off and hinged on the top deck, which requires an additional sliding hinge which moves up and down the wall as the deck moves. Switching takes no more than a couple of minutes and being able to hydraulically lift the whole deck up and down is a lot sight easier than having to fit and remove decks.
To keep the lower deck of stock clean, the top deck is completely sealed, channelling muck towards the rear of the trailer and into the bunded tank.
The first of our loads, a trailer full of cull cows, began to reveal the T35’s abilities. Thanks to stepped axles, it meant the tailboard ramp angle was very shallow. Coupled with painted, chunky aluminium ridges on the ramp, which also appeared to dull the sound and reduce glare, stock did not seem to be phased by it. At the auction too when the tail was lowered onto the raised concrete loading bay, the tailboard was virtually flat.
However, for users taking the trailer off-road, its low centre of gravity characteristic might not be appreciated.
Floors are really grippy too thanks to its aluminium extruded planks and flanking the tailboard are chunky gates which can handle a fair amount of lateral abuse from cattle. Its slam shut locking mechanism also makes life easier.
Loadwise, we easily managed to get in three 600kg cull cows with room for another, load limits permitting. A dozen calves looked spacious too as did two 40-head decks of 40kg lambs. With the right vehicle we reckon a load of 50 fat lambs is doable.
Not having a front door to get in behind sheep was a slight disadvantage, as it meant crawling in past them to drive them out (this is an option though). Also at the rear when the top deck is in transport position, there is a gap between the top deck’s gate and the roof, which 99 per cent of the time probably will not be a problem. But sheep being sheep, one will do a sideways flying leap one day and out it will tumble on to a busy A-road.
A compartment in the rear quarter of the trailer houses a tool for taking the lid off the slurry tank and a sliding hinge for the upper deck’s gate. The compartment also allows access to the locking mechanism for maintenance etc.
A downside of this compartment is it requires a key to open, which we feel is just another thing to lose. If the cap on the slurry tank could be taken off by hand and the sliding hinge could be retained in the trailer, then continual access to this compartment would not be required.
On the road, the monocoque construction and compensating suspension system really comes into its own. The ride is super smooth and quiet. The only tell tale sign that the trailer is there is the weight. Even without a dividing gate, the trailer feels solid and sure footed giving a good level of confidence. Unladen, it also feels solid with little noise.
Internally, smooth walls make cleaning easier with little splash back, and being able to lift the top deck up out of the way means less bending when cleaning the lower deck. Externally, the monocoque design also means there are few hiding places for mud to cling to.
As with all new products, there is always room for improvement. Front marker lights, mounted on metal brackets, are exposed. Perhaps rubber mounts might be an idea. Rear lights could also be less vulnerable if they were recessed not flush, and the afterthought reflecting triangles look out of place. On the plus side, all lighting is LED with low power consumption and long life, says the firm.
Since writing this report, the manufacturer tells us it is already working on the issues flagged up in the report including a simpler slurry tank lid and the gap between the top deck’s gate and roof.
As a premium livestock transporter, we can see it appealing to people with pedigree stock, dealers, small hauliers, high usage users and also people who just want to make life easier for themselves. Its versatile nature also makes it an attractive option.
Apart from the running gear, the firm says expect the trailer to last a lifetime (20 years).
While the livestock’s welfare has been taken care of with this trailer so too has the users, as the T35 eliminates a lot of back breaking lifting of decks and shoving of sheep - better for both man and beast.
While the T35 may not dominate the 3.5-tonne livestock transport trailer market, it will be a great alternative.