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Whale Tankers and Penny Hydraulics Ltd Celebrate 20 Year Partnership

Whale Tankers and Penny Hydraulics Ltd Celebrate 20 Year Partnership


​Whale Tankers is a world leading British manufacturer of waste and cleaning equipment whose progressive product evolution has spanned over four decades. The company formed a partnership with award-winning lifting equipment manufacturer Penny Hydraulics Ltd to develop an innovative gully cover lifter for highways tanker vehicles used by local authorities. Now a longstanding partnership, the relationship between Whale & Penny goes from strength to strength as they celebrate 20 years of collaboration on their well renowned ‘GridLift’ mechanical handling device

Whale Tankers has been based at the same location in Ravenshaw, Solihull since 1969. Following its first fledgling years offering a mobile welding service trading under the name ‘Fusion (Bickenhill) Ltd’ it moved into the Vacuum Tanker construction market and quickly changed its name. High standards of build and attention to customer needs has ensured that the company has grown steadily to its current highly respected position in the world market. A wide range of options are available on all tanker models offered and the company also has a division called JetTec selling trailer mounted and van mounted high pressure jetting equipment.

Continuous investment in product innovation has also proved instrumental in Whale’s ongoing success. The company’s range is well respected not just in the UK but also across the international markets too – being well known for outstanding quality, value and reliability, setting a benchmark which many others in the industry strive to emulate. Through continuous improvement, the company remains committed to producing a diverse product range, engineered to meet specific customer requirements. Well placed to face the future with confidence, they remain focused on developing their products through partnerships and investments, ensuring that they remain at the forefront of the industry.

20 years ago, Whale Tankers approached Penny Hydraulics to collaboratively develop a unique lift to address a specific load handling problem; mechanically lifting gully covers. Back then, Penny Hydraulics supplied a small winch crane to lift the covers. Over time customer expectations shifted and the two companies worked together with the end user to develop the first prototype GridLift

The new hydraulic GridLift was initially introduced to Atkins working on a local authority contract and was fitted to a gully tanker, it was quickly evident that accidents and working time lost through injuries caused by the manual handling of gully covers could be reduced significantly. This model was a great success for Atkins who rolled out the GridLift across their fleet. Following their customers feedback and their own detailed analysis, Whale Tankers offered the device to its other local authority highways contracts in the UK.

“Following installation of the first GridLift, feedback proved that manual handling related injuries were drastically reduced,” says Richard Short, Sales Director at Penny Hydraulics Ltd. “It was proven that the lift was really making a positive difference.”

Clients of Whale Tankers and users of the specialist tanker and jetter vehicles include many of the UK’s Municipal Operators, Civil Engineering and Specialist Leasing Companies who hold the responsibility for emptying the country’s vast number of gullies and maintaining the highways network. The various tanker fleets clean and empty gullies on a regular basis. Each vehicle tending to have its own two-man crew to inspect and clear around 85 gullies per day. Despite only accounting for a small percentage of councils’ highways work, gully lifting activities proved to be the cause of a disproportionate number of accidents. The severity of accidents tended to be high and resulted in many working days being lost each year.

The GridLift can lift up to 250kg for normal operations and is designed for installation on highways maintenance vehicles - including vacuum tankers - to lift gully and drain covers and eliminate the need for manual handling. It was devised to replace existing gully cover handling equipment such as electric winches as many operatives considered these to be unsafe and difficult to use. Mounted laterally on the tanker chassis, hydraulic rams extend and retract the lifter to raise and lower the gully lid enabling smooth, precise and accurate movements with no re-coil for the best possible combination of performance and safety. 

The GridLift is designed to pivot so that the cover can be moved aside for easy access and cleaning of the gully and a separate frame locks into place on the end of the vertical arm and attaches securely to the gully cover by simple twist clips that can accommodate castings with different profiles. A remote control key pad allows maintenance crews to stand safely away from any moving parts during lifting and lowering and two independent locking pins secure the device safely in the retracted position when the vehicle is moving to comply with vehicle safety regulations.

Crews are able to clear each gully in less than two minutes. The GridLift made the overall gully cleansing process more efficient in an additional way too - it can be used to unseal covers that have become stuck in their frame. This avoids the need for a special crew to go out and rectify the problem.

“The GridLift we’ve developed with Whale Tankers is a great solution,” said Short. “There was no off-the-shelf product to suit this particular requirement and instead we worked closely and collaboratively with the engineers at Whale and the end user to develop a product to suit the precise needs of the application. The GridLift improves productivity and is easy to use - Whale’s customers have been using Penny Hydraulics lifting equipment out in the field for 20 years now and their feedback has always been extremely positive, leading to many repeat orders. We look forward to continuing the partnership for many years to come.”

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