What makes a semitrailer easy to sell at a good price? Structural soundness, with emphasis on the floor and roof, and good appearance that comes from regular maintenance
Condition of floor, walls and ceiling, as in this reefer, are among the things a prospective buyer looks at. Solid specs and regular maintenance keep a trailer usable and resalable.
Condition of floor, walls and ceiling, as in this reefer, are among the things a prospective buyer looks at. Solid specs and regular maintenance keep a trailer usable and resalable.
and refurbishing where needed. And the trailer should be spec'd so it's easy to use for its intended application.

Those are among the pieces of advice from Xtra Lease, which owns more than 100,000 trailers of many types, buys 3,000 to 8,000 in a given year, and sells them while they're fairly young and usable to another owner. A look at their specs should give you food for thought when spec'ing your own trailers with resale in mind.

"Resale is important to us because we manage a trailer from cradle to grave," says Steve Zaborowski, a senior vice president at the St. Louis-based leasing and rental company. "We deal with four or five manufacturers, based on quality of their products, research and development activities that give them the capability to solve problems that we encounter, and the ability to distribute vehicles to our 80-plus service branches." Trailers are deployed to leasing and rental operations.

User-friendly specs

Xtra has performance specifications for each trailer type that manufacturers are required to meet, Zaborowski says, and equipment specs are based on experience. The company has lists of specs for various trailer types on its web site (www.XtraLease.com), with links to sub-types below main models. Vans, storage trailers, reefers, flatbeds and container chassis are the main categories shown.

Perusing the specifications shows the company's managers have serviceability and long life in mind. Vans have durable oak floors and aluminum scuff plates, which give long life with minimal maintenance. Apitong wood and aluminum are used on flatbed floors and aluminum floors are used in reefers. Reefer units have microprocessor controls for quick pre-trip check-outs with indicator lights visible in the driver's mirror, and glad-hand couplings are offset to the road-side of the trailer for convenience. Wheel hubs use synthetic grease that runs cool and long, and hubcaps are steel for resistance to leaks and damage.

For serviceability, inside widths on swing-door 53-foot vans are 100 to 101 inches and openings for roll-up doors are 94 inches. Ceilings are 110 inches tall throughout vans because users - and later, buyers - want "cube" for cargo and room for forklifts to move in and out. Users and buyers also want cargo-securement equipment, which means logistics rails or posts to which tie-downs and bars can be attached. For safety, vans and refrigerated trailers have assist handles and non-skid top surfaces on the horizontal bar of rear-underride guards to help drivers and loaders climb aboard safely.

Because of a wide variety of products that customers carry, Xtra Lease this year increased floor ratings of its new vans to 24,000 pounds, up 4,000 to 8,000 pounds from previous specs. This is done by using minimum 10-inch centers for crossmembers (versus 12 inches before) with 8-inch centers at the front and rear. The company keeps dry vans in long-haul service for 10 to 12 years, then in local cartage service for another two to five years. Some are retained beyond that for use as storage trailers.

Flats and reefers

For California service, new rules from the state's Air Resources Board for reefer diesels allow them to be used for eight years before they must be modified with diesel particulate filters. That in effect lops two years off a reefer trailer's service life, though second owners who don't operate in California could still use them. Xtra Lease has acquired enough new reefer trailers to handle needs there and throughout the country; all are spec'd the same.

The company runs 15 to 20 different types of flatbeds, Zaborowski says, from straight platforms to single- and double-drop extendables and lowboys. Many are steel, but an increasing number are "combo" steel and aluminum to cut weight. Xtra Lease does not have any all-aluminum flats because they are special items that are a minority in this segment, and they are expensive. As with other trailer types, suspensions are both air-ride and steel-spring, which it calls "spring-ride," to suit customers and cargoes.

Though Xtra's specifications say "sealed-beam" external lighting on all trailers, the company has gone to light-emitting diode fixtures with anti-theft grommets because the LEDs run cool and last so long. Sealed wiring harnesses are also used to minimize electrical problems.

A major problem has been corrosion from road salts, which damages paint, brakes and other parts of a trailer, Zaborowski says. Zinc-epoxy primer under painted surfaces and galvanized steel for certain members at the rear of trailers are among the things that manufacturers have suggested to fight corrosion.

When a prospective buyer looks at a trailer, he or she wants to see that it's in good, serviceable condition. It's likely to be that way if it's regularly maintained according to manufacturers' recommendations, and Xtra Lease strives to do this, Zaborowski says.

Appearance also counts, so crews refurbish rusty steel surfaces by blasting them clean and repainting them. That way the new owner can buy the vehicle and put it right to work.

From the September 2009 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.