Trailer Trends: Recession Doesn't Stop Advances in Trailer Technology
July 2010, TruckingInfo.com - Feature
Even through the Great Recession, many trailer and body makers spent time and money developing advanced products that promise to improve operating efficiencies and save money for their customers.
Carrier Transicold's AeroFlex fiberglass trailer side skirts are just one of many trailer innovations.
They're betting their investments will pay off soon, as trailer orders are picking up in response to increased amounts of freight being shipped. Many orders will be for new, improved equipment.
For instance, Wabash National has begun building ArcticLite refrigerated trailers for Prime Inc. The 53-by-102 vans have DuraPlate AeroSkirts, low rolling resistance tires, SolarGuard roofs and a specific insulation package. The builder's plant in Lafayette, Ind., started on a first group of 725 trailers in April. Prime's order calls for 4,000 ArcticLites over 34 months.
Other companies that have recently placed large orders for trailers include Xtralease and Swift.
Some manufacturers displayed their latest designs at truck shows earlier this year, including the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., and The Work Truck Show in St. Louis. Some companies held press conferences to call attention to their new products, while others bought booth space and waited to be discovered. Still others issued announcements by e-mail. Here are some we've found in recent months - and this doesn't even include advancements from suppliers in areas such as suspensions, tires and lighting.High-Tech Plastic
Plastic and aluminum are combined in the design of two lightweight end-dump semitrailers displayed by Wink Trailer, a new manufacturer that set up a booth at the Louisville show. The "Innovator" half-round and "Revolutionizer" flat-side models use aluminum frames with polyethylene plastic sheeting to reduce weight and cost compared to all-aluminum vehicles. The plastic is of ultra high-molecular-weight (UHMW) composition commonly used in dump liners to reduce freezing and sticking of loads. A typical 39-foot half-round trailer weighs about 10,000 pounds, which is 1,000 pounds less than an aluminum dump trailer, according to Jimmy Wink, a proponent of the half-round concept and founder of the recently formed company in Rockport, Ind. The square-profile Revolutionizer trailer uses UHMW plastic in its sides and bottom.Hybrid Dump 'Trailer'
East Manufacturing has designed an aluminum dump trailer with flat sides and a half-round bottom, and the builder displayed a prototype at the Louisville show. The bottom of the yet-to-be-named model sits about 7 inches lower than a standard half-round vehicle for a lower center of gravity and greater stability during dumping and while under way, representatives said at the show. The flat sides are formed of welded aluminum box sections from East's Genesis design to add strength and rigidity.
The flat/half-round profile yields 2 cubic yards more volume than with a straight half-round trailer of the same length, and weighs 9,500 to 10,000 pounds. The company is testing the design to ensure high strength and plans to begin production this summer.Steerable Axles
Powered steerable axles are employed on chip trailers produced by Western Trailers for use on twisting trails in the woods of Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Ridewell supplies the "Force Steer" axles, which allow long box trailers to go where more maneuverable log racks can be pulled on the rough dirt trails. The chip trailers take on brush and other wood waste left from timber cutting and carry it to co-generation plants to produce electricity.More Stable Dumps
Mac Trailer is promoting "full-stance" tandems on end-dump trailers. All wheels of the tandem stay on the ground while the trailer rises because its body pivots on the tandem's subframe. This makes the trailer more stable during tipping than frameless vehicles whose forward axles rise with the body, the company says. The rest of the body is frameless, so the complete vehicle weighs up to 2,000 pounds less than a full-frame trailer.Auto Lift Axle
A sensor-activated lift axle was mounted at the forward position of a Merritt spread-tandem aluminum livestock trailer, which also featured easy-sloping moveable racks and other items to reduce stress for hogs it'll haul. The "Pork Pot" model's lift axle automatically raises or deploys when the trailer's light to reduce tire scuffing and needless miles.AG, Windmill Models
Trail King displayed three interesting models in Louisville. An aluminum Super Hi-Lite live-bottom hauler of agricultural feeds and fertilizers features "rolled" sides that help save 600 to 1,000 pounds over more conventional construction. An external-ring aluminum dry-bulk tanker, also for ag supplies, weighs only 10,000 pounds. A 128-foot-long extendable windmill "blade" trailer has self-steering rear axles automatically triggered by an electro-mechanical fifth-wheel sensor.Weight-Tranfer
Talbert Manufacturing recently announced the Equalizer, a nitrogen-assisted weight-transfer system for spread axle trailers. It hydraulically transfers loads and dampens road shock to smooth the ride. The suspension system oscillates around a central self-tracking pivot point to provide proportionate weight distribution in each axle grouping, regardless of varying road conditions. Operators can make easy and quick adjustments, and maintain those settings to maximize loads safely and efficiently.
The system has a dual 2-speed landing gear to ease connections to trailers, and can be easily lifted out of the way for backing. It allows a 14-foot, 1-inch spread with 54-inch axle spacing; and a 14-foot, 7-inch spread with 60-inch axle spacing. It is powered by a Honda gas engine power pack. The Equalizer is available for use with Talbert 55SA (55-ton) and 60SA (60-ton) 3+1 spread axle series trailers and axle attachments.Revolution Platforms
Fontaine Trailer's third in its Revolution line of platform trailers is a 48-foot-by-102-inch dropdeck trailer that weighs only 9,300 pounds. The Revolution Hybrid Dropdeck features steel main beams with an extruded aluminum floor. The patented design is lighter and stronger and boasts a concentrated load capacity of 54,000 pounds in just 5 feet.
The Fontaine Revolution Hybrid features a sleek unitized design, made possible by technology borrowed from the aerospace industry. This maintains the integrity of the trailer geometry under load and under centrifugal force, says the company.Tough Side Skirts
Utility Trailer Manufacturing has designed belly skirts that save 4 to 5 percent in fuel and resist collision damage from high-center obstructions.
Called Utility Side Skirt (USS) 120 and -160, the aerodynamic enhancers use galvanized steel supports and UV-protected fiberglass-reinforced plastic panels. Both materials are corrosion resistant and flexible, and extensive structural testing at Utility's facility in southern California show that the supports spring back into shape after being bent as much as 70 degrees either way by impacts with loading dock aprons and the like. The USS-120 and USS-160 are CARB-compliant for California operations (though users should further verify this with CARB), and are certified for the federal EPA's voluntary SmartWay program.Fuel Saving Skirts
Silver Eagle Manufacturing now offers Aero Saber trailer side skirts that showed 5.7 percent fuel savings at highway speeds in TMC-SAE Type 2 testing. The skirts have aluminum skins and steel braces; there's 18 inches of bottom clearance, including 16 inches of flexible rubber, so the skirts pass undamaged over roadway obstructions like snow piles and railroad crossings.
Silver Eagle continues to offer Solus-designed Mid Length fiberglass skirts that got 4 percent fuel savings in the same type of tests.Flexible Skirts
Carrier Transicold has begun selling AeroFlex fiberglass trailer side skirts through its North American dealer network. Developed