Advanced Composite Bulk Liquid Road Tankers – Felco Manufacturing (QLD)

Felco Manufacturing based in Toowoomba, Queensland, stands as one of the most experienced and respected manufacturers of composite bulk liquid transport tankers in Australia. For over 40 years, it has produced and deployed hundreds of tankers for use in road watering and dust suppression operations, as well as for the bulk transport of heavy, dense and corrosive liquids.

Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director, Composites Australia Inc., and Neil Waller, Business & Market Development, Felco Manufacturing

With over 1.5 billion tonnes of freight crisscrossing the nation annually, the logistics of moving bulk liquids required for the agricultural sector over great distances is complex and challenging. Connecting primary producers with animal feed supplement suppliers through extensive, often degraded and remote transport routes requires robust and reliable equipment.

Transporting up to 150 tonnes of dense molasses and derivative animal feed supplements across unforgiving corrugated and potholed gravel roads and property tracks, is an intense testing ground for cartage contractors and their equipment. Consignments, which are very high value and time critical, can travel routes throughout Australia, from Queensland down to the southern tips of Victoria as well as into the heart of the Northern Territory’s and North West Western Australia’s cattle stations. Some are freighted offshore to New Guinea, the Solomons and other Pacific Islands.

“Drawing from our experiences, we advocate for the road transport industry, spanning all genres, to embrace ambitious projects,” stated Mr. Tim Wheeler, Managing Director of Felco Manufacturing.

Tim and his team of composite engineers and technicians operate three composite manufacturing businesses within a single precinct at their Toowoomba facility from which they produce a wide range of hand laid and vacuum resin infused products. Products range from defence submarine casings to Volvo truck bonnets, motorhome nose Lutons, caravan panels and Neocot™, a critical medical device that has saved hundreds of lives around the worldwide.

The company’s truck and semi-trailer mounted bulk liquid haulage tankers – ranging between 2000 to 20,500 litres capacity – are fully engineered and tested, and then handcrafted by the Felco team of advanced composite technicians. Some are designed to transport water for road watering and dust suppression and others act as a strategic mothership for fighting bush fires. Others are made for the transport of molasses and for non-DG (Dangerous Goods) diesel and corrosive fluids.

Felco’s bulk liquid haulage tanker
Felco’s bulk liquid haulage tanker designed and engineered to transport water for road watering and dust suppression.

Tim highlights the importance of comprehending how dynamic displacement affects the transportation of molasses or similar fluids, ultimately influencing the stability of the load. The laminate design effectively distributes dynamic loading and unloading stresses laterally, away from known stress points, ensuring that the tank’s integrity is maintained throughout transport. The complexity of this layup, though not visible from the outside, involves various laminate materials and different biases, profiles and shapes, all critical to the tank’s performance.

Tanks are securely mounted in a hot dipped galvanised herringbone cradle frame designed to flex independently of the truck chassis thanks to Felco’s proprietary pivot and spring mount system. This setup ensures that the composite fibre tank vessel is not subjected to the flexural forces from the truck chassis as it twists and flexes and vibrates across substandard road surfaces. According to Tim, this triple flexural suspension system is one of the secrets behind Felco’s reliability in extreme applications. Tim is quick to highlight the extraordinary skill required in engineering and manufacturing with the materials that make up advanced composites. 

“Unlike steel and aluminium fabrication, where values for different profiles can be found in charts, working with composites presents a more complex challenge due to the vast array of wet chemistry and dry laminates and their potential combinations. This complexity marries the science into an art form, where only time and experience can lead to innovative solutions for formidable challenges.”

Tim maintains that the exciting future of the advanced composite fibre industry is also heavily dependent on skilled technicians who must have time to develop dexterity and respect for the complex characteristics of raw materials – particularly necessary to produce complex plugs and moulds. For these reasons, the company has an ongoing commitment to training, offering new trainees the opportunity of undertaking a trade qualification through PARTEC Institute, the Composites Training Centre in Brisbane. Training is delivered both on-site as well as at the institute. Felco continues to serve the growing need for bulk liquid transport solutions for the intensive feedlotting and animal grazing industries. For over 20 years its tankers have operated reliably on some of the world’s most challenging road surfaces. Tim is rightly proud of the Felco team of Engineers and Technicians who continue to design and manufacture tankers that are likely to outlast the trucks or trailers they are mounted on.


The transport of bulk liquids is subject to stringent regulations, which can vary b

ased on the nature of the liquid being transported. These regulations are critical for ensuring safety, environmental protection and compliance with industry standards. In Australia, the legislation governing the transport of such materials is encapsulated by the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), with specific standards and requirements detailed in the Heavy Vehicle (Vehicle Standards) National Regulation. Originating in Queensland, this comprehensive legal framework sets out the obligations and standards for vehicles engaged in the transport of bulk liquids, encompassing aspects such as vehicle specifications, safety equipment and operational procedures. Compliance with these regulations is mandatory, ensuring that vehicles are appropriately equipped and operated to minimise the risk of accidents, leaks, or spills during transit, thereby safeguarding public health, and the environment.

Felco’s bulk liquid tanker paired with Kenworth’s traditional T909 truck clad with components produced by Bolwell Corporation. Photo by Rod Monti.
Felco’s bulk liquid tanker paired with Kenworth’s traditional T909 truck clad with components produced by Bolwell Corporation. Photo by Rod Monti.