Trailer Talk

Is There a Great Future in Plastic Trailers?

Plastics -- specifically, molded structural composites -- might constitute the future of trailers. Some are used in Europe, and Wabash National is ready to build them here.

Dustin Hoffman's character, Ben Braddock, listens as Mr. McGuire (Walter Brooke) advises him to seek a future in "plastics." Photo: Tom Berg, from "The Graduate" (Embassy Pictures, 1967), via YouTube.com.

Plastics -- specifically, molded structural composites -- might constitute the future of trailers. Some are used in Europe, and Wabash National is ready to build them here. Werner Enterprises, K&B Transportation, Combined Transport, and Leonard’s Express will acquire some MSC trailers for testing, and three dealers will help bring the trailers to market. READ MORE

Tags: Reefers, Wabash National, Composites, Refrigerated Trailers

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, December 9, 2016 11:19 AM | » Comments(0)

European Cargo Securement Devices are Diverse

American and Canadian rules require stuff in a van or reefer to be tied down, but it’s out of sight and can be overlooked by inspectors.

Koegel equipped its Cargo display trailer with various types of load-securing devices for several kinds of freight. This one includes curtain sides and a fold-up roof tarp for side and top loading. Photos: Koegel

Like here, tying down the goods is a concern in Europe, because a dominant German trailer builder recently displayed a van with numerous securement options aboard. Tom Berg has more in his Trailer Talk blog. READ MORE

Tags: Vans, Europe, Cargo Securement, Safety & Compliance, Van Trailers

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, November 30, 2016 10:22 AM | » Comments(1)

Lights Help with Hooking Up, But Inspections Still Necessary

Whoops! Landing gear collapsed and the trailer fell on its nose as a tractor pulled away.  Photo: "Trailer James" via YouTube.com

There’s dropping trailers, as in hook-and-drop operations, and there’s dropping a trailer, as in whoops! In his Trailer Talk blog, Tom Berg looks at two recent product announcements aimed at addressing the potential of trailers coming loose from fifth wheels. READ MORE

Tags: Fifth Wheels, SAF-Holland, Purkey's Fleet Electric, Vehicle Safety, Drop and Hook, Trailers

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Monday, November 14, 2016 10:47 AM | » Comments(0)

Powered Trailer Axle Provides an Off-Road Boost

Run off the tractor's wet kit, the hydraulically driven axle adds traction in rough conditions and can eliminate 4x4s used by some European operators.

The 4x2 tractor can't get the rig moving on a slippery upgrade, so the trailer's powered rear axle provides a boost. Photo: Tom Berg from SAF-Holland video

“SAF Trak” axle is powered from the tractor’s hydraulic wet kit. On the trailer, two hydraulic motors, one at each axle end, turn the wheels to help get the rig moving in slippery conditions. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, SAF-Holland, Dump Trailers, Global Trucking

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, November 4, 2016 8:12 AM | » Comments(1)

Can You Remember Every Pre-Trip Item?

If you do it from memory, you’re probably missing something.

It's not likely that there's anything wrong with this brand-new flatbed, but check it anyway. Photo: East Mfg. Co.

Pre-trips are supposed to be done before the vehicle is pulled away from a parking place and heads for the highway. In this blog from Senior Editor Tom Berg, we run through each item in a pre-trip inspection. READ MORE

Tags: driver safety, Vehicle Safety, Flatbed Trailers, Pre-trip Inspection

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, October 26, 2016 1:49 PM | » Comments(1)

For Tankers, 'Vapor Recovery' Works Two Ways

Hauling fuel for this company is a lot easier than dealing with heavy freight containers, says driver Jeff McMannus.

Driver Jeff McMannus checks progress as he delivers a load of biofuel through an appropriately green hose. He was careful to avoid spills. Photos: Tom Berg

He stood at an open pipe at the tanker and held his hand in front of it, checking air as it flowed inside. During product loading, vapor-laden air is drawn out of the tanker to keep it from bursting. READ MORE

Tags: Biodiesel, Environmental Protection Agency, Trailers, Biofuels, Tankers

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, October 14, 2016 9:59 AM | » Comments(0)

SuperDuty Pickups Ably Tow, and Back, Heavy Trailers

Towing is a big deal for some pickup-truck owners, and Ford says its 2017-model SuperDuty pickups are more capable than ever.

This Load Max gooseneck trailer, laden with block and stone, weighed 29,960 pounds, a Ford engineer said. The F-450 easily handled it. Photos: Tom Berg

The heftiest trailer was a Gladiator Load Max gooseneck, loaded with concrete blocks and decorative limestone, and weighing almost 30,000 pounds. READ MORE

Tags: Vehicle Safety, Trailers, Ford F-450, Ford F-250, Ford F-350

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, September 30, 2016 12:00 AM | » Comments(0)

Trailers an Important Part of 2016 SuperTech

Techs from TravelCenters of America dominated the Trailer Track competition, winning 12 of 15 awards announced.

Check the lights? Sure. The electrical system was among 12 items tested in the Trailer Track competition at TMC's SuperTech event in Raleigh, N.C., Sept. 18-21. Photos: Marsh Galloway

Trailers get little enough attention in the real world, and this new focus gives them the respect they deserve. Trailers (and truck bodies) are where the payloads go, after all. READ MORE

Tags: Maintenance, Vehicle Maintenance, Trailers, TMC, TMC SuperTech

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, September 23, 2016 12:59 PM | » Comments(1)

TMC Looks at Special Trailer Repair Issues

A new or existing task force might bring in trailer-builder and repair-shop representatives to speak to it.

This lowboy's deck remains unbowed, but overloading has been known to bend the structure. How do owners repair such damage? Photo: Rogers Brothers Co.

How do you repair a lowboy trailer whose deck structure has lost its arc? That might deserve some scrutiny, the organization figures. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, TMC, TMC SuperTech, Lowboy Trailers, Trailer Repairs

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, September 21, 2016 6:32 AM | » Comments(1)

Hyliion's Powered Trailer Axle Goes to Europe

The company is exhibiting at the giant IAA truck show in Hannover, Germany, by sharing a booth with its battery supplier, Gentherm.

Like the North American version, the powered axle for Europe would replace a "passive" axle. Image: Hyliion Inc.

The Intelligent Electric Axle axle replaces a “passive” axle on a standard trailer tandem or tridem, and promises big fuel savings – 10 to 20% from hybrid-powered operation alone, Hyliion claims. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, IAA, Fuel Economy, Europe, Hybrid Trucks, Hyliion

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Sunday, September 18, 2016 3:53 PM | » Comments(0)

Trailer Aerodynamics Not Overly Popular, Study Shows

Among seven categories of fuel-savings devices for over-the-road rigs, trailer aero devices had the lowest acceptance rate, about 21%.

Trailer aerodynamic devices have caught on, but it apparently took the California ARB rules to force most fleets to begin adopting them. Photo: Tom Berg

It appears that it took a government decree to push operators into it, and it will take another set of rules to force further adoption of drag-reduction methods for trailers. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, Fleet Study, Aerodynamics, NACFE, Trailer Aerodynamics

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Monday, September 12, 2016 8:30 AM | » Comments(0)

Phase 2 GHG Regs for Trailers Both Simple and Complex

Box-type and vocational trailers are both affected in 2018-27 rules, and the U.S. is the first country in the world to regulate them.

Flatbeds, among the vocational trailers newly regulated for fuel economy and emissions by the federal Phase 2 rules, will need tire pressure management devices and low rolling-resistance tires to comply. Photo: Tom Berg

Trailers have long been regulated for safety. But trailers’ contributions to fuel economy and reduced emissions are new matters for for federal authorities. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, EPA, Fuel Economy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, NHTSA

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, August 24, 2016 1:53 PM | » Comments(2)

Test Drive Shows the Hyliion Trailer Hybrid Works

The electric-powered tandem captures braking energy that helps propel the trailer to reduce engine effort and thus save fuel.

Hyliion engineer Morgan Culbertson, who wrote the control program, here controls the tandem with sliding toggles. Production models will be automatic and not linked to the tractor.

Company execs say Initial assembly of fleet-test units will be later this year with full production a few months later. READ MORE

Tags: Alternative Fuels & Hybrids, Hybrids

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, August 19, 2016 8:21 AM | » Comments(2)

Tailgating Driver Not a Complete Idiot

Incredibly, she was not hurt at all because she was wearing her seat-and-shoulder belt. And we can hope she received a life's lesson.

Out-of-control car has bumped the semi and now veers to the left and will mangle itself on the rock wall, then.... Photo: Tom Berg from ADPS video.

A motorist doing some high-speed tailgating on an Interstate highway in Arizona loses control, bumps a semi and crashes big time. READ MORE

Tags: Seat Belts, Driving Safety, Tailgating

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Monday, August 8, 2016 5:30 AM | » Comments(3)

NTSB Confirms Tesla Was Speeding When It Hit That Trailer

That explains why the rig turned left in front of the approaching car; the truck driver thought he had more time than there really was.

The speeding Tesla went under the 53-foot van in the area circled in red. The trailer sustained very little damage but the car's upper portion was mangled. Photo: NTSB

If Joshua Brown had been watching where his car was going, he’d have simply stepped on the brake pedal and probably avoided the crash. READ MORE

Tags: driver safety, Vehicle Safety, NTSB, Autonomous Vehicles, Tesla Motors

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, July 29, 2016 11:30 AM | » Comments(3)

Force Field Could Form 'Electric Boat Tail' to Cut Turbulence

Now being developed for aircraft and cars, the concept has fuel-saving possibilities for tractor-trailers, its backers say.

Actuators installed on the top and sides of a van. They will work with swing and roll-up doors.

Plasma, the stuff of lightning and the Northern Lights, can be harnessed to alter the flow of air over trucks. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, Aerodynamics, P.S.I.

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, July 22, 2016 8:15 AM | » Comments(0)

Keeping Ice Cream Cold’s Especially Important This Month

July is National Ice Cream Month. Act now or act soon to get special deals on this happy food. Of course it comes by truck.

For many years, Ralphs rigs have carried all manner of foodstuffs to the chain's stores throughout southern California. It's now owned by Kroger. Image: Ralphs Grocery Co.

Barry, a Ralphs driver, rejected a load because it was too warm. He was especially conscientious, but his action exemplifies care shown by workers all along the "cold chain." READ MORE

Tags: Reefers, Food and Beverage Fleets, Transport Refrigeration

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Sunday, July 17, 2016 12:01 AM | » Comments(0)

Electronic Measuring Devices Warn If Obstacles Are Too Low

OWL and Giraffe gauge wires and bridges above, and could make poles obsolete, their makers say.

OWL magnet-mounts on the roof of a pilot car and is plugged into a laptop with an operating program. It knows how far from the road it is, and includes that in its vertical obstacle measurements. Photo: LSA Autonomy

In many states, rigs carrying oversize loads are escorted by pilot cars, some of them equipped with poles to gauge overhead obstructions. There are better ways. READ MORE

Tags: Technology, Oversize Loads

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, June 29, 2016 11:55 AM | » Comments(2)

Inventor of Flip-Type Placards Retires at Age 95

Abe Samuels devised an easy way for carriers to display proper hazmat labels for many types of dangerous goods.

It was a challenge when a carrier transported a mixed load of various dangerous goods that needed to be identified. Today there are nine categories of hazards with 24 divisions among them. READ MORE

Tags: Hazardous Materials, Hazmat, Labelmaster

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Tuesday, June 21, 2016 9:08 AM | » Comments(1)

Lift Gate Trailers Can Load Normally with New 'Lok' Device

Jeffrey Soule perfected his Liftgate-Lok over months of designing and testing. Its bar "fought the Dok Lok to a tie," he declared.

Liftgates do not have a place that dock restraints can grab onto, so many safety-minded shippers will not load them. This greatly cuts backhauling opportunities.

Lift gates cannot mate to dock restraints because they lack attachment points for the hooks, so shippers won't load the trailers, until now. Tom Berg has the details in his Trailer Talk blog. READ MORE

Tags: Vehicle Safety, Lift Gates, Dock Restraints

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Monday, June 13, 2016 6:54 AM | » Comments(0)

Tanker Fleet Manager Praises Air Disc Brakes

Jim Fox, a manager at aviation-fuel-hauler Pinnacle Express, is a strong believer in disc brakes. This mechanic and million-mile former driver declares that drum brakes are "obsolete." Read more in Tom Berg's Trailer Talk blog. READ MORE

Tags: SAF-Holland, Liquid Tank Trailers, Air Disc Brakes

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, June 10, 2016 7:41 AM | » Comments(0)

Whoa, How'd This Rig Hold Together?

It seems amazing that the tractor stayed hanging there instead of breaking loose and falling onto the street below. But fifth wheels and trailer kingpins are very strong.

Strong coupling mechanisms supported the tractor and kept it from falling onto the street below. Photos: Tom Berg, from ABC World News Tonight

There are no federal government or SAE strength requirements, so standards were set by the marketplace, and now by European rules. READ MORE

Tags: Accidents, Trailers, Fifth Wheels

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, June 1, 2016 10:49 AM | » Comments(0)

Trailer Aero Devices Help Save 1 mpg, Manager Says

Air Tabs vortex generators and Laydon side skirts smooth air flow and make trailers easier to pull.

Latest tractrors are streamlined Peterbilt 579s. They average 7.7 mpg while pulling Great Dane and Utility vans with full aerodynamic equipment.

“All you have to do is ride a motorcycle behind the trailers to notice the difference” between aero and bare trailers, says John Drake, a Harley-Davidson enthusiast. Learn more in the Trailer Talk blog. READ MORE

Tags: Aerodynamics, Fuel Economy, Trailer Skirts

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Tuesday, May 24, 2016 1:18 PM | » Comments(2)

Unlucky Tip Over on the Tappan Zee Bridge

Did you see that scrap-hauling rig tipping over on the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River last Friday?

Scrap-hauling dump trailer heels over just ahead of car in the adjacent lane on the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River. Photos: Tom Berg, from video by "Hypotenuse"

Did you see that scrap-hauling rig tipping over on the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River last Friday? The rear axle broke loose and the trailer lost its footing. What a Friday-the-13th happening! READ MORE

Tags: Equipment Issues, Safety & Compliance, Dump Trailers, Accidents

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, May 18, 2016 6:34 PM | » Comments(0)

Driverless Tesla vs. Parked Trailer: Owner's Fault?

Was a "beta-test" version of the advanced electric car's control software to blame?

Car was short enough to slip under the trailer and its load and suffer only a smashed windshield. Photos: from KSL-TV news report.

Rear-underride collisions upset safety advocates because they badly hurt auto drivers and passengers. What about a front-underride incident with no driver and no injuries? READ MORE

Tags: Underride Guard, Underride, driver safety, Vehicle Safety

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Thursday, May 12, 2016 11:55 AM | » Comments(3)

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Author Bio

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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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