Trailer Talk

How Fruehaufs and Whites Once Hauled Unique Steel Houses

Blog commentary by Tom Berg, Senior Contributing Editor

Lustron's fleet included 200 White WC-42s (though the number was probably 160) and 800 custom-made Fruehauf flatbeds with racks and boxes. Vehicles were painted a vivid blue-and-yellow.

Trailers were loaded with panels and hardware as they left the assembly line, then hauled to their destinations. At building sites, parts that were needed first had been loaded last, so they came off in the exact order required for erection. READ MORE

Tags: Private Fleets, Specialty Vehicles, Fruehauf, White Motor Co.

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Sunday, May 7, 2017 7:06 PM | » Comments(0)

Truck Driver 'Didn't Know' He Was Dragging a Car

Blog Commentary by Tom Berg, Senior Contributing Editor

It appears the car has been pulled up under the trailer's corner by its spinning tires. Like many truck-car accidents, the car's driver seems to be at fault. But still....

Checking the mirrors should be a normal part of driving, but maybe 'Mike' had other things to look at than the car caught up in his trailer. Tom Berg has more in the Trailer Talk blog. READ MORE

Tags: Driver Safety, Driver Behavior, Driver Training, Safety

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, April 26, 2017 5:39 AM | » Comments(5)

Where Did the North Koreans Get Those Missile-Toting Trucks?

Blog commentary by Tom Berg, Senior Contributing Editor

Civilian version of Wanshan's WS51200 is meant for off-road hauling of timber, ore and fuel. But paint it olive-drab and outfit it with an erector-launch body, and the rough-terrain truck becomes a military threat.

Where did North Korea get its trucks and trailers to haul weapons? On the internet there are reports that the trucks and tractor-trailers were made in China, with – yikes! -- American and German components. Tom Berg explores the question in the Trailer Talk blog. READ MORE

Tags: Cummins, China, ZF, Military Vehicles, Military Trucks, North Korea

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Tuesday, April 18, 2017 8:20 AM | » Comments(1)

Rear Impact Guard Puts Wabash Up for Swedish Steel Prize

Blog Commentary by Tom Berg, Senior Contributing Editor

HDT's Tom Berg says his friend Mike, who died in a rear underride crash more than 44 years ago, would be happy about recent safety advancements. Read more in the Trailer Talk blog. READ MORE

Tags: IIHS, Rear-End Collisions, High-Strength Steel, Wabash National, Safety, Rear Impact Guards

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, April 12, 2017 7:12 AM | » Comments(1)

Drop Decks, Aluminum Transition Radii, and the Romans

Blog by Tom Berg, Contributing Senior Editor

Can you see a Roman arch in the radius under the transition area of this Mac single-drop aluminum trailer? The radius directs weight away from the 90-degree joint above.

I looked at the transition radius on a Mac aluminum drop deck and it occurred to me that the radius is an arc, a portion of an arch – that engineering marvel devised by Roman engineers more than 2,000 years ago. READ MORE

Tags: Aluminum, Dropdeck Trailers, Engineering, Trailers, Steel

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, April 7, 2017 12:10 PM | » Comments(0)

Semitrailer Inventor August Fruehauf to Enter Automotive Hall of Fame

The semitrailer, says, “triggered the wide-scale distribution of modern consumer goods."

August Fruehauf, a German immigrant and blacksmith, found inspiration for the semitrailer from the horses he shoed.

Fruehauf, as a blacksmith, noted that horses that pulled rather than carried loads were in better shape. He reasoned that trucks would likewise last longer if they towed rather than toted loads. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, Trucking History, Fruehauf, Semitrailers

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, March 29, 2017 11:09 PM | » Comments(0)

Second Connector Needed for Tractor-Trailer Communications?

Stopping distances could be even shorter and stability better with more precise signaling between tractors and trailers, which an extra cord or LAN would allow.

Second electrical cable (lower right) on this beverage trailer carries power to charge its liftgate batteries. It coud also carry signals to a high-performance braking system.

Increasing need for electronic communications between tractors and trailers could require use of a second electrical line, say brake-performance specialists. READ MORE

Tags: Brakes, Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake, Safety, Bendix, Air Brakes

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, March 22, 2017 3:21 PM | » Comments(0)

Jackknifes Happen Often on Dry Roads, Too

This all occurred in just a second or two, though it took several seconds for the rig to stop, the trailer jammed against a corner of the tractor’s sleeper.

The rig lurches to a stop with probable damage to the tractor's sleeper and who knows what else. No word of any injuries.

Anti-lock braking systems are supposed to keep brakes from locking, but this time didn’t. Why might that be? READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, ABS, Safety

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Monday, March 13, 2017 8:47 AM | » Comments(4)

Regulations Will Widen Use of Aero Devices, Wabco Says

Operators will realize solid fuel savings that will pay for the devices in under two years, unless the devices are damaged or need other repairs.

Trailer skirts are common on vans and reefers, and soon will become standard equipment. Other devices will be necessary to meet federal requirements by 2021. Photo: Tom Berg

Starting Jan. 1 of next year – fewer than nine months from now – all new 53-foot box-type trailers will come with trailer skirts, like ‘em or not. Tom Berg has more in his Trailer Talk blog. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, Fuel Economy, Aerodynamics, Emissions, EPA

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Sunday, March 5, 2017 10:30 PM | » Comments(1)

FlowBelow Shows Aero Device for Trailer Wheels

The Trailer AeroKit uses wheel covers plus fairings in front, between and behind the wheels, similar to a tractor AeroKit.

Trailer AeroKit includes fairings ahead, between and behind the wheels on a trailer's tandem. Photos: FlowBelow Aero

Wheel covers and fairings smooth the complex air flow around trailer wheels and suspension. They complement other trailer aerodynamic devices. Tom Berg highlights one of the newest entrants in his Trailer Talk blog. READ MORE

Tags: Fuel Economy, Aerodynamics, Trailers, FlowBelow

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Monday, February 27, 2017 12:20 AM | » Comments(0)

On Slick Pavement, ‘The Sliding Wheel Wants to Lead’

Whichever wheels are skidding on a tractor-trailer will want to get in front and take the rest of the rig with it.

ABS is supposed to prevent jackknifes, but somestimes can't when pavement's icy, as on this freeway in the Northeast a few weeks ago.

When encountering a slick road, it’s a real good idea to test the brakes to see how the rig behaves. Then you'll know what to expect in a real application. READ MORE

Tags: Driver Safety, Safety, ABS

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, February 24, 2017 9:03 AM | » Comments(4)

Old Sayings Apply While Driving Through Bad Weather

Slow way down in blinding conditions? Sure, but not so suddenly that you get rear-ended. Even better, park the truck in a safe place and wait out the storm.

Maybe that container simply had to get there no matter what. But now its contents have been badly shaken up in this tipover.

Fog and whiteouts caused by blowing snow can often be anticipated by considering the time of the year and what regularly happens along certain stretches of roadway. READ MORE

Tags: Driver Safety, Weather, Safety, Weather Alerts

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Thursday, February 16, 2017 7:01 AM | » Comments(0)

The Twin 33s Idea Returns. Will It Fly This Time?

Revival might be riding on enthusiasm over President Trump’s pro-business beliefs and his promise to improve America’s infrastructure.

A pair of 33-foot pups would have 10 feet more floor space for cargo than a set of 28s, as the labels on this concept trailer show. And two 33s would have 13 more feet than a single 53-foot van. Will truckload shippers demand their use?  Photo: Tom Berg

A pair of longer pups would haul more than two 28-footers, so LTL carriers and shippers are in favor. But truckload carriers still want no part of them. READ MORE

Tags: Fleet Management, Productivity, Trailers, TCA, Double Trailers

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, February 8, 2017 11:13 AM | » Comments(3)

Tanker Crashes, Driver Dies, Road Damaged, But a Fair News Story

"Tanker trucks hauling food, fuel and chemicals are part of the backbone of the economy. To some people, though, they are a growing danger." That's called even-handedness.

News report of a recent fatal tanker crash painted a sympathetic picture of the truck driver who was killed and explored the sometimes dangerous world of transporting hazardous materials.  Photo: Tom Berg, from WCMH-TV news video

We we might never know why the rig hit the guardrail, because as the story said, the truck and any evidence, electronic or otherwise, were destroyed in the fire. READ MORE

Tags: Fatal Accidents, Hazardous Materials, Tankers, Liquid Tank Trailers, Safety

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Tuesday, January 31, 2017 5:04 PM | » Comments(1)

Who's to Blame in This RR Crossing Wreck?

Remember, “Stop, look and listen”? It's still a good idea for any driver.

The gates came down after the wreck. And what a mess! Note that the impact yanked the fifth wheel off the tractor's frame. That means the fifth wheel's jaws hung onto the lead trailer's kingpin.

Newscasters focused on the non-working crossing lights and gates. But shouldn't the truck driver have looked for a train? Tom Berg has more in Trailer Talk. READ MORE

Tags: Accidents, Driver Safety, Railroads

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Thursday, January 26, 2017 10:23 AM | » Comments(1)

Trucks Block Possible Terrorism in D.C., New York City

Until technology advances, dump and trash trucks do effective blockade duty in NYC. But, is it time to call up the Guard?

Mack LE trash trucks were added to a wide perimeter around Times Square on New Year's Eve. Try driving through that, ISIS!

In Washington, military and civilian trucks helped closed a large swath of the city, ensuring the safety of the new president and crowds at the inauguration. READ MORE

Tags: Security, Mack Trucks, Terrorism

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Friday, January 20, 2017 1:06 PM | » Comments(1)

Why Are So Many Trailers Just Sitting There?

Very few of the trailers seen from the passenger train were at loading docks; most sat in long rows, side by side, looking forlorn and forgotten.

Because of the tracking device on its nose, Schneider dispatchers can find this van any time. Photos: Tom Berg

Managers strive for “productivity” and “equipment utilization,” but how many trailers are moving freight even half the time in their lives? Tom Berg's Trailer Talk blog muses on the number of trailers just sitting around. READ MORE

Tags: Fleet Management, Trailers, Trailer Tracking, Fleet Productivity

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Tuesday, January 10, 2017 10:26 AM | » Comments(1)

Truckers Among Volunteers for Wreaths Across America

Special graphics adorn trailers and tractors for the yearly haul to military cemeteries, where volunteers place Christmas bouquets at headstones.

Children are among the many volunteers who place Christmas wreaths at the headstones of deceased service members and veterans.

Dart Transit owner-operator Pat Wortham explains why he's involved in the yearly effort to honor deceased service members. READ MORE

Tags: Wreaths Across America, Truckload Carriers Association, Dart Transit, American Trucking Associations, ATA

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Thursday, December 29, 2016 12:02 AM | » Comments(0)

Fruehauf’s 'Engineering' Story Told in New Book

“A truck is like a horse. It can pull more than it can carry,” was the slogan of August Fruehauf and his company, and it appeared as part of the firm’s advertising for years.

Vintage ads help Ruth Ann Fruehauf, granddaughter of the founder of Fruehauf Trailer Corp., tell how the company designed and built trailers for many uses. READ MORE

Tags: Trailers, Automotive History, Trucking History, Fruehauf

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Monday, December 19, 2016 12:32 PM | » Comments(0)

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

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, Cargo Management, Europe, Safety & Compliance, Van Trailers

Author: Tom Berg | Posted @ Wednesday, November 30, 2016 10:22 AM | » Comments(2)

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

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, 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, Inspections, Flatbed Trailers, Safety

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)

Author Bio

sponsored by

Tom Berg

Senior Contributing 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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