Trailer Talk

CO2, Bad as a GHG, Becomes Good as a Refrigerant

NaturaLine CO2 reefer units go to sea on containers hauling perishables. Photo: Carrier Transicold

The same CO2 that government regulators work to control as a greenhouse gas responsible for global warming might be embraced as a more environmentally friendly compound to keep our perishables at safe temperatures. READ MORE

Tags: Carrier Transicold, Transport Refrigeration, Reefers, Refrigerated Trailers, GHG

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, October 9, 2015 12:00 AM | » Comments(0)

‘Platooning’ Tractor-Trailers Raise Questions at TMC Meeting

Productivity, safety and fuel economy could be increased by running trucks together. But is it practical?

Image: Volvo Trucks

ATA's Technology & Maintenance Council just adopted a White Paper: Automated Driving and Platooning Issues and Opportunities discussing where development is and what its prospects are. READ MORE

Tags: Productivity, Fuel Economy, Truck Platooning

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Thursday, October 1, 2015 3:00 PM | » Comments(0)

Tri-Axle Trailers and Economics in the 'Market'

Another trailer axle would add 11,000 pounds of gross weight, but does it make dollars and sense?

Regular road tractors can pull tri-axle trailers with gross combination weights as high as 100,000 pounds in Maine, says Hartt Transportation.

The strongest argument against heavier rigs is the lack of payback due to low revenue from stingy shippers. That's the "market" at work. READ MORE

Tags: Productivity, Trailers, Size and Weight, Vehicle Safety Regulations, Longer Combination Vehicles

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Monday, September 21, 2015 8:00 AM | » Comments(0)

Fairings Over Tractor's Tandem Save Fuel for Tanker Fleet

FlowBelow Aero devices control air flow and boost economy by 3%, says Indian River Transport.

Wheel covers and fairings between and behind the tractor tandem's wheels reduce turbulance and save fuel.

Stainless steel tanker trailers look smooth enough to easily slip through the air, but they have characteristics that cause drag. One fleet has turned to an aero system for the tractor tandems to help smooth the air flow over the trailer. READ MORE

Tags: Fuel Economy, Aerodynamics, Tankers, FlowBelow, Trailers

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, September 9, 2015 5:00 PM | » Comments(0)

Replacing Rivets with Adhesives Yields Smoother Sides That Could Save Fuel

Computational fluid analysis interpreted air flow over the trailer panels’ surfaces, finding some drag produced by rivet heads.

As trailer aerodynamics improve, the small amount caused by air flow over sidewall surfaces will become more important. Art via Lord Corp.

Lord Corp., which makes bonding adhesives, has done research that indicates eliminating rivets from a trailer’s walls might cut aerodynamic drag by about 1%. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, Fuel Economy, Aerodynamics

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, August 26, 2015 3:00 AM | » Comments(0)

Crash Argues for Better Impact Guards, and Better Driving

You’d think the woman driving the van would’ve seen the rig sitting there with its tail and marker lights on, and its red-and-white reflectors aglow from her van’s headlights.

In spite of the underride, the van's driver door opened and the motorist removed that way. Photo: Tom Berg, image via WCMH-TV

Senior Editor Tom Berg ponders fatal rear-end crashes -- a type of crash that killed a college buddy many years ago. READ MORE

Tags: Fatal Accidents, Underride Guard

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, August 14, 2015 2:00 PM | » Comments(0)

United Technologies Execs Tackle Food Waste Problem

One-third of all food produced goes to waste. If it weren't, it's possible that nobody would go hungry.

Proceeds from book sales will be donated to food charities, UTC says. Art via United Technologies

“If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the United States." Tom Berg's Trailer Talk blog looks at a new book on food waste whose authors are with the parent company of Carrier Transicold READ MORE

Tags: Carrier Transicold, Food Production, Food Transport

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, August 5, 2015 9:00 AM | » Comments(0)

Trailer Weight Cutting Suggestions Total 2,500 Pounds

How many of these items are usable in your van trailers?

Aluminum crossmembers instead of steel can save 203 pounds in a van or reefer, according to ICCT's list. Another 430 pounds can be slashed by using aluminum in the upper coupler assembly, but the kingpin remains steel. Photo: Tom Berg

While poring through more than 1,300 pages of proposed regulations, staffers found themselves immersed in details of trailer design, including weight reduction. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, Size and Weight, Regulations, GHG

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, July 22, 2015 3:00 PM | » Comments(0)

Containers Get Second Lives as Homes, Offices, Warehouses

These steel boxes are exceptionally strong, fire resistant and weatherproof, and deserve to be repurposed instead of going to scrap.

Photo by Tom Berg

Containers are made of heavy gauge steel and make excellent structural components. And they’re far cheaper and “greener” than buying traditional materials like lumber for that purpose. READ MORE

Tags: Intermodal, Containers

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, July 17, 2015 12:00 AM | » Comments(0)

The Army Uses Serious Rigs to Haul Armored Vehicles

Armored vehicles can “road march” to battlefields, but suffer high rates of wear and tear when doing so. It’s far better to carry them.

M1000's five axles are mounted along most of its bed length. Loading ramps are part of the trailer's equipment. Photo from U.S. Army via YouTube

The U.S. Army operates some of the more serious tractor-trailer combinations in the world, as Tom Berg explores in his Trailer Talk blog. The M1000 gooseneck trailer, for instance, weighs 50,000 pounds before it's even loaded. READ MORE

Tags: Military Trucks, Heavy-Haul Trailers, Trailers, Military

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Thursday, July 9, 2015 10:00 AM | » Comments(0)

Designing, Testing Tires for Drop-Deck Trailers Challenging

Spread tandems sometimes generate extreme lateral forces, and drop-decks use smaller sizes that are especially vulnerable to damage.

Wide-spread tandems, especially on drop-decks, can subject tires to extreme lateral forces in sharp turns. Photo via Utility Trailer Mfg.

Dropdeck trailers with spread-axle tandems are torture on tires. Tom Berg explores one tire maker's quest to design a product to stand up to the beating in his Trailer Talk blog. READ MORE

Tags: Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Dropdeck Trailers, Trailers, Tires

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Thursday, July 2, 2015 1:00 PM | » Comments(0)

Samsung System Tells Motorists When It's Safe to Pass

Ever get stuck behind a semi you want to pass? You'd appreciate the large-screen TV on its rear doors.

Many traffic accidents in Argentina happen when motorists try to pass slower vehicles on two-lane roads.Here's a fix. READ MORE

Tags: Samsung, Driver Safety, Passenger Cars, Technology

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Monday, June 22, 2015 3:00 PM | » Comments(0)

A Fruehauf Lowboy Carried Palomar Observatory's Mirror

At 20 feet in diameter and weighing 28,000 pounds, the load was big, heavy and priceless.

Massive mirror was placed on a supporting and adjustment structure at the observatory. Photo via Fruehauf Trailer Historical Society

What transpired was a meticulously planned two-day journey involving Belyea Truck Co. and Pacific Crane & Rigging, plus support vehicles, California Highway Patrol motorcycle escorts, and cars bearing press reporters and photographers. READ MORE

Tags: Heavy Haul, History, Trailers

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, June 17, 2015 6:00 AM | » Comments(0)

ULX40 Follows Trend Toward Mechanical Suspensions on Vans

New composite leaf springs should last longer than steel and ride almost as well as air-ride, SAF-Holland says.

Composite springs vary in shape and thickness across their length. ULX40, with 40,000-pounds capacity, comes with drum or disc brakes.

Air-ride's more complex and requires more maintenance, so some fleets that watch costs very closely never got on the air-ride band wagon. READ MORE

Tags: Suspensions, SAF-Holland, Lightweighting, Trailer Suspensions

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, June 5, 2015 10:40 AM | » Comments(0)

Are Trailers More Aerodynamically Important than Tractors?

Experts agree that wind drag on trailers is more significant than what the tractor faces.

Photo via ATDynamics

ATDynamics, now part of Stemco, says 75% of wind drag at highway speeds comes from the trailer. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, Aerodynamics, Fuel Efficiency, Trailer Skirts

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Monday, June 1, 2015 5:19 AM | » Comments(0)

Piggyback Equipment at Pennsylvania’s Toy Train Museum

Trucks, on the road or on flatcars, are often part of model railroads, as Senior Editor Tom Berg found at the Toy Train Museum.

Photos: Tom Berg

There was a time when railroads were in the motor transport business, as their parent companies recognized that freight was being grabbed by fast, flexible long-haul trucks and they might as well grab some of the revenue. READ MORE

Tags: Piggybacking, Trailers, Museums

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Thursday, May 7, 2015 8:29 AM | » Comments(0)

EkoStinger: A Different Way to Beat the Wind

An arrow-shaped aero device diverts wind away from the tandem, while a covering of the frame rails and crossmembers reduces turbulence there.

Photo via Eko Stinger

Unlike most skirts that are stationary, the stinger moves with the tandem as it’s slid fore and aft, so it smooths air flow no matter where the tandem is set, said the system’s inventor. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, Aerodynamics, Fuel Efficiency

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Tuesday, April 28, 2015 11:53 AM | » Comments(1)

Right Place, Right Railroads Help ‘Cool’ Intermodal Shipments

Sometimes intermodal shipping works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Photo courtesy Tiger Cool Express

Senior Editor Tom Berg explores why one intermodal refrigerated operation is expanding, in contrast to another that is suing railroads in blame for its demise, in his Trailer Talk blog. READ MORE

Tags: Railroads, Intermodal, Drayage, Tiger Cool Express

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Monday, April 20, 2015 12:00 AM | » Comments(0)

Founders of Failed ‘Cold Train’ Blame BNSF Railway, Sue for $41 Million

Cold Train containers being handled at the Port of Quincy's BNSF intermodal rail line. Photo courtesy Port of Quincy.

Claims made by Cold Train founders in their $41 million suit, announced on Tuesday, illustrate how the railroads, like truckers, can’t handle all the business being thrown at them. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, Lawsuits, Intermodal, Reefers, BNSF

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Tuesday, April 7, 2015 4:46 PM | » Comments(0)

Price and Weight Comparisons: Steel, Combo and Aluminum

Manac offered a quick look at the three trailer types in its booth at MATS.

Photo: Tom Berg

Different buyers have different considerations, which is why trailer manufacturers offer the three different types. Manac offered a quick look at the three trailer types in its booth at MATS. READ MORE

Tags: Manac Inc., Trailers, Aluminum

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Tuesday, March 31, 2015 11:09 AM | » Comments(0)

Refiners Buy Tankers to Ensure Supplies of Better Crude Oil

Photo via Vantage Trailers

Refiners are buying trucks to fetch more desirable crude oil than what they’re getting through pipelines. READ MORE

Tags: OIl, Trailers, FTR, Tankers

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Tuesday, March 24, 2015 11:48 AM | » Comments(0)

Why Safe Coupling Procedures Matter

Four people died when their car ran into a semitrailer sitting on a busy highway. How'd it happen?

For a better chance at properly hitching the fifth wheel onto the kingpin, hook up and charge the air hoses, then set the trailer’s brakes before backing onto it.  Photo courtesy of Con-way

It could've been driver error, mechanical failure or both, and we won't know for a while. But it sure matters. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, Fatal Accidents, Driver Safety Tips

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Tuesday, March 17, 2015 12:51 PM | » Comments(2)

SmartWay Elite Level Even More Efficient, Says EPA

Better aero fairings must save at least 9% in fuel to get the new designation

What does the new "Elite" level of fuel-saving devices offered by the EPA SmartWay program mean? Senior Editor Tom Berg explores the topic in his Trailer Talk blog. READ MORE

Tags: SmartWay, EPA, Aerodynamics, Fuel Efficiency, Trailers

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Thursday, March 12, 2015 1:20 PM | » Comments(0)

Edge Fairings Gain SmartWay Elite Status

Elite means a set of equipment will save at least 9% in fuel at highway speeds – nothing to blow off with a shrug.

Photo via Transtex

The Tail resembles the Trailer Tail from ATDynamics, but seems unique in that its panels automatically deploy when the rig reaches about 45 mph, then fold up as it slows down. READ MORE

Tags: EPA SmartWay, Trailers, Fuel Economy, Aerodynamics, Transtex Edge

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Tuesday, March 3, 2015 8:00 AM | » Comments(0)

Blinding Snow Turns a Trailer into a Tow Truck

A trucker unwittingly takes a minivan for the ride of its life.

A minivan plowed into the rear of a semi on I-75 in northern Michigan, and got dragged along for miles by the rig because its driver was totally unaware that he had something hanging on. READ MORE

Tags: Winter Driving, Trailers, rear-end collisions

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Thursday, February 19, 2015 5:00 PM | » Comments(0)


Author Bio

sponsored by

Tom Berg

Senior Editor

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.


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