Trailer Talk

Trailer Weight Cutting Suggestions Total 2,500 Pounds

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

July 22, 2015

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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
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

The International Council for Clean Transportation, a study group based in San Francisco, analyzed the recently announced Phase 2 proposals for reduction of fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. We are using ICCT’s summaries in our reporting on Phase 2 and what it might mean to manufacturers and users of trucks, tractors and trailers. 

While poring through more than 1,300 pages of proposed regulations, staffers found themselves immersed in details of trailer design. Although the EPA-NHTSA proposals for trailers concentrate on aerodynamics and low-rolling-resistance tires, cutting weight also saves fuel and GHGs simply because the trailer is easier to pull around. 

There are many ways to reduce trailer weight, as ICCT’s concise list notes:

  • Hub and drum (per axle) -- Cast iron to aluminum, 30
  • Floor -- Hardwood to aluminum, 375
  • Floor -- Hardwood to composite, 245
  • Floor crossmembers -- Steel to aluminum, 203
  • Landing gear -- Steel to aluminum, 50
  • Rear door -- Steel to aluminum, 187
  • Rear door surround -- Steel to aluminum, 150
  • Roof bows -- Steel to aluminum, 100
  • Side posts -- Steel to aluminum, 300
  • Slider box -- Steel to aluminum, 150
  • Suspension assembly structure -- Steel to aluminum, 280
  • Upper coupler assembly -- Steel to aluminum, 430

Do the arithmetic and you’ll find that these suggestions add up to exactly 2,500 pounds saved from a standard sheet-and-post van trailer or reefer. Not included is a common one: Going from steel wheels to aluminum, good for another 160 or so pounds, and from dual wheels and tires to wide-base singles, which cuts about 400 pounds per tandem.

Most of ICCT's suggestions involve trading steel for aluminum, which certainly saves pounds. But aluminum can be expensive, and it’s a comparatively soft material that doesn’t always hold up in some applications and conditions. Like many things in shopping (and spec’ing), you pays yer money and takes yer choice.

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Author Bio

Tom Berg

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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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