Trailers are 13 feet, 6 inches high, right? Not always the case for Hub Group, which developed a special 14-foot-high trailer spec for a dedicated customer based in California.
Many western states allow 14-foot-high trailers – a couple even 14-foot-6-inches, explains Gerry Mead, executive vice president of maintenance and equipment for Hub Group and a former HDT Truck Fleet Innovator. “Of course, they operate on designated highways, and you still have to be aware of your bridges.”
Even though 14-foot trailers aren’t exactly new, Mead says, for this specific customer’s needs, there wasn’t anything off-the-shelf that would work. So he and his team worked on developing a spec that would allow the greater amount of freight without being too heavy for the floor or making the combination overweight – while dealing with the driving dynamics of 6 more inches of trailer height.
“If you make that wall taller, it changes the dynamics of roof bow placements,” Mead says. “And we were going to haul heavier weights, so we had to pay attention to the crossmembers and the floor. We had to be very careful in how we spec’ed it. We came up with a strong, capable trailer that can haul a lot more weight. These weren’t something you’re going to go rent.”
Mead worked with suppliers such as Hyundai trailers, Havco floors, ConMet, Phillips Industries, and Truck-Lite.
To develop a trailer that was lightweight and strong, Mead says, they moved the crossmembers closer together but used a lighter-weight composite floor.
“We brought the roof bows in [closer] to give more strength to the roof area, and that gives you more connection points on the sidewall.” Because trailers normally sway side to side a bit going down the road, they designed the trailer to reduce that because of the added height.
He likens the design to that of a suspension bridge, where the strength results from the design of the system as a whole.
Mead recently returned from a visit to the California facilities to see how the 20 trailers are doing after six months on the road.
“They look good,” he said. “I’ll be excited to see where they are in a few years.”