Damage to trailers from overhanging tree branches got Darry Stuart to thinking.
Stuart, a contract maintenance manager under his DWS Fleet Services banner and a former general chairman of ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council, considered the problem faced by a wholesale grocery fleet and came up with a solution: a curved leading upper edge. It might be a first for its application, but he doesn’t claim originality.
“The curved upper edges have been used on truck bodies for years,” he notes, “so I figured they’d work on trailers, even if no one offered them. They save some fuel, although it can’t be measured, but what I was after was to reduce damage from branches.”
Tree limbs are common above streets and country highways and usually can’t be avoided. Branches batter top nose rails and corner caps of trailers because they snag on the sharp channels usually used. He reasoned that curved surfaces up there would let the branches slide past harmlessly.
Stuart talked with designers at Hyundai Translead in San Diego and got them to incorporate a curved surface in an order for 500 new HT Plate vans. The first two were done with steel; for subsequent units he wanted ¼-inch aluminum but that’s hard to roll, so he settled for galvanized steel. It cost very little more than a standard design.
The curve has a radius of about 12 inches. It works as intended and that kind of damage to these trailers has been greatly reduced, he says. “And if they do get damaged, it’s easy to fix because you don’t get into the roof.”
The feature is on 500 Hyundai Translead 48- and 53-foot HT Plate van trailers with standard galvanized steel underframe. They're spec’d for a 15-year life with aluminum floors, extra crossmembers, a 50,000-pound Hendrickson air-ride suspension for its larger components, and dual steel wheels with Continental HSR2 tires.
The curved top nose rails should help them last that long.