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Celebrating 60 Years of The Drake Group

They say that quality stands the test of time, and we’d like to think that there’s no better proof of this than The Drake Group celebrating its 60th birthday. The Drake Group was originally founded in 1958 by Colin Drake, who moved from Victoria to Queensland to start a trailer repair business.

Seeing an opportunity in the market for locally made low-loaders, he started manufacturing a range of models and The Drake Group was born. We quickly differentiated ourselves from others available by making our heavy haulage trailers extremely strong and versatile. Models such as the Swingwing and Full Widener helped change the way trailers were seen in the country and offered transport companies more flexibility and range for their services.

The Swingwing widener trailer turned many heads in the industry. Its name originated from how the outer decks opened out like wings using a hydraulic system. This offered an option for freight loads of 50 to 100 tonnes. There was nothing like it on the market when it debuted in 1969 and the popular design has undergone many revisions and improvements since. Even today it’s still one of the most popular parts of the Drake Groups’ entire line, with variations of the concept being developed for different infrastructure and state operating requirements.

The steerable platform trailer came in 1980 and likewise was a milestone in design and engineering. This was the first Australian-built, making a huge change in the industry as this type of trailer was previously only available as an expensive overseas import. Manufacturing locally meant that, for the first time, a newly purchased steerable platform trailer was already compliant with local regulations in regards to axle widths and other vital specifications.

Moving with the times

With these and other significant successes under their belt, The Drake Group moved to a purpose-built manufacturing facility in Wacol in 1992 and has continued to operate out of there since. The business has stayed a family operated affair, with Colin’s son John Drake taking a Managing Director role in 1991 and with many other family members joining the group since including Business Development Manager Sam Drake and Projects Manager Maggie Nilson.

The company has grown even further with the acquisition of O’Phee Trailers in 2015. The two companies shared very similar interests and dedications to customer service, quality and innovation in the way they built trailers for the burgeoning market and saw that they could both achieve more by joining forces. With Drake Trailers focusing on the heavy haulage market and O’Phee Trailers on the general industry, the combined Drake Group now works together to service clients of all sizes across the country.

Also forming a part of the Drake Group is Drake Collectibles, offering branded merchandise and specially created die-cast models of their most popular trailers. The latter has proven to be particularly popular with collectors and dedicated trailer enthusiasts around the world and are a great way to commemorate the continuing evolution of the company’s engineering skills.

The Drake Group timeline

1958 – Drake Trailers is founded by Colin Drake

1961 –  Noel, the legendary foreman, becomes Drake Trailers first employee

1969 – Drake 4X8 Widening Swingwing hits the market

1970 – first minesite trailer launches. The mine site trailers were designed specifically for use in mine camps as they are too large for the road network

1978 – John, a second generation Drake, joins the company

1980 –  Introduction of the steerable platform trailer. Design of the steerable platform trailer was worked on by Colin and John Drake for Brambles

1984 – Creation of the Deck Widener trailer. Pre-luded to the full widener, decided no longer required as the full widener fitted the requirements.

1984 – Full modular steerable transporters hit the market. Designed for the special heavy duty loads, similar to units manufactured in Europe except full widening for Australian conditions.

1985 – Drake Trailers develops the Full Widener Trailer. Designed to carry 50 tonne legally with the added benefits of easy loading because of the widening frame and suspension. This design has been the industry standard since this date.

1990 – 350 tonne mine site trailer is introduced – the largest yet. Pulled behind a CAT 789 dump truck, the empty trailer weighed over 120 tonnes.

1991 – Colin, the found of Drake Trailers, passes away. Colin Drake’s passing left a huge hole not only in the company, but also in the heavy transport industry. John Drake takes over as managing director.

1992 – Drake Trailers moves to a new location in Wacol, Brisbane

1997 – The Deck Widener gets re-released

1998 – Introduced of CAD (computer aided design) system

2000 – Introduction of the Swingwide Trailer. The wide line goose neck design allowed operators to carry heavy narrow loads.

2001 – Drake Trailers release the first Australian-made forklift trailer

2004 – Introduction of 3D CAD system

2006 – Sam, a third generation Drake, joins the company. Sam was a diesel fitter and his knowledge of troubleshooting issues is a great asset to all of our customers.

2006 – Noel (the legendary foreman) retires after 35 years with Drake Trailers. Noel never missed a days work and his knowledge of the equipment was limitless.

2007 – Drake Trailers introduces robotic welding into trailer manufacturing process allow the business to become more competitive

2009 – Launch of Drake Collectibles, diecast models of your favourite Drake trailers and prime movers

2010 – First telescopic steerable trailer. Brought about by the onset of windfarms and the need for carry unusual payloads.

2010 – Steering Widener enters the marke to fill a niche in the range of highway trailers for manoeuvrability with stability.

2012 – Maggie Drake becomes first female member of responsibility at Drake Trailers

2012 – Khali Lake is appointed as general manager

2014 – Drake aligns with Sunseeker East Coast Australia. Exciting new partnership between Drake Trailers and luxury yacht manufacturer Sunseeker East Coast Australia, with John Drake appointed as Managing Director of the prestigious yacht brand.

2015 – Drake Trailers aquires O’Phee Trailers – one of the leading manufacturers of semi-trailers in Australia, bringing about new capabilities and products.

2015 – Release of the Full Widener Rear Steer. The brand-new trailer came with enhanced manoeuvrability and efficiency. The steerable axles at the rear help to reduce wear on tyres and running gear

2015 – Low Boy Drop Deck hits the trailer market. It’s Australia’s toughest drop deck trailer, with 30-40 tonne capacity and trailer lengths from 45-55ft.

2015 – A year of new trailers as the Tilt Slide is released. Capable of self-loading and able to extend to 20 metres, the introduction of the tilt slide trailer is the ideal recovery trailer solution.

2016 – O’Phee Trailers move onsite with Drake Trailers and Drake Collectibles to our central manufacturing facility

2017 – Drake Trailers develops the Mine Site Transporter.

2017 – O’Phee Trailers and Jost partner to use their outstanding parts, including king pins, modul landing legs and fifth wheels.

2017 – Drake Trailers 4X4 Deck Widener is nominated in the “Best Trailer Award” category at the Brisbane Truck Show Awards.

2017 – The Drake Group launches. The expanding portfolio of Drake Trailers set in motion the desire to re-launch as The Drake Group, aligning Drake Trailers, O’Phee Trailers, Drake Collectibles, BoXLoader, and Sunseeker East Coast Australia under the one banner.

2017 – Drake Collectibles launches a new app specifically for diecast and collectible models

2017 – O’Phee iintroduced a brand-new container loading models, The Retract-X and Speedloader. Both feature higher performance and the lowest tare weight on the market

2018 – The Drake Group celebrates its 60th  year in business, hosting an Open Day to commemorate.

2018 – Drake sells its 1000th low loader trailer

Through the entire life of The Drake Group, the company has recognised that it’s the drivers who are out on the road with their trailers that are vital to their success. Feedback and suggestions from drivers have continued to push The Drake Group’s design and engineering teams to innovate further with each new trailer that is made. It’s a policy that will continue to steer The Drake Group well into the future. To see how The Drake Group can help your business move, contact us today.

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