The History of Sidetracker Engineering Ltd
Celebrating over 50 years of manufacture in the UK, Sidetracker Sideloaders are still at the forefront of innovation and reliability when it comes to moving long and awkward loads and is still in the same family ownership.
Working for the Production Engineering Research Association in the 1950s on projects to improve productivity, Chairman Peter Dobson saw a need for efficient materials handling equipment in factories, particularly where long loads were involved. Eventually, he patented designs for a multi-directional transport system and then in 1963 formed the company. The first trucks, built part-time in an old stable, were un-powered models which had to be pushed, but they did incorporate a multi-wheel design which allowed them to move sideways as well as forwards and backwards.
The first fully powered production model was sold to Chesterfield Transport Department for use in the bus maintenance workshop. It was a four-way model and had a ton capacity. This was followed by models with greater load capacities and higher lift heights, and a guided narrow-aisle system was also developed.
In 1976 the company, by now in a purpose built factory, produced its first fully multi-directional model which incorporated many of the design principles that are still applied today. Since the earliest days reliability has been one of the most important considerations, because it was recognised that unlike general purpose pallet trucks – a high proportion of customers would only operate a single Sidetracker and they would usually not be able to hire a short-term replacement quickly if anything serious went wrong.
It is this design principle that led to the inclusion of dual power systems on every model, which enables them to operate without loss of load capacity or lift height, even if one power unit is removed for repair. For the same reason, the trucks continue to use electro-hydraulic control systems rather than electronics, which can still be adversely affected by rough surfaces and the treatment trucks typically receive.
While the company has avoided innovation for its own sake, many technical advances have been developed and incorporated over the years. The rail guidance system designed 35 years ago was probably the first in the UK, and recently the company developed a multi-direction truck with joystick controlled all-wheel steering.
The rugged simplicity of the battery-powered Sidetrackers also means they are able to operate outdoors, and many customers use them as multi-purpose load handlers rather than solely for narrow aisle warehouse duties. The specification of the latest models makes them ever more versatile: load capacities now reach 15,000kg and lift heights can be over 10m.