*Corrected Trailers today come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all specialized or generalized to help fleets accomplish the job. Trailers these days need to be both light weight and capable of hauling huge loads and the design of most new equipment reflects this new yin-yang balance between the two — often competing — interests.
The newest trailers have been affected by a few new regulations, most notably in the refrigerated sector, where the Food Safety Modernization Act emphasizes cleanliness as much as temperature control. This has led to trailer manufacturers offering trailer linings that are easier to clean but can still store food at the desired temperatures.
“The FDA compliance of the lining is something that is very important for people who are choosing to haul FSMA food and products,” says Craig Bennett, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Utility Trailer. While FMSA only requires trailer manufacturers to offer a product that maintains the right temperature, the new rules have put the onus on shippers and carriers to keep these metal containers clean, offering a new selling point for trailer makers.
On the environmental front, manufacturers such as Great Dane are participating in the Environmental Protection Agency’s SuperTruck 2 program, researching out-of-the-box ways to improve fuel economy. Lessons learned will help in the development of trailers that will meet 2027 GHG Phase 2 requirements and provide fuel savings for fleets. The company is also working with aerodynamic device makers to develop solutions for fleets to meet or exceed GHG regulations, according to Chris Lee, vice president of engineering for Great Dane.
Another interesting development has stemmed from recent tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showing the effect that side-impact guards can have on collisions with small vehicles. In those demonstrations, the guards prevented the test vehicle from sliding underneath the trailer, preventing the decapitation of test dummies.
However, with side-impact underride guards come a familiar debate surrounding safety regulations — how much of the burden of safety should be on trucking companies and manufacturers? While the devices are likely to reduce the deadliness of certain impacts, they add weight and cost in a market where neither addition is welcome.
“It’s going to be very expensive and very heavy to accomplish a side guard that can stop an automobile going 30 mph,” says Bennett. While rear impact guards have long been mandated, and there have been recent advancements in design to make them safer without adding more weight, side-impact guards present more challenges.
“The rear of a trailer is only 8 feet wide and the side of the trailer is 38 feet wide — so you have to have something that is strong enough to stop a car and is 38 feet long,” Bennett explains, adding that “it’d be a significant engineering challenge to make a device that will flex up and down as the trailer flexes and yet be rigid in the side-impact area.”
While there is no mandate from the Department of Transportation for the safety devices yet, it may become a future concern for manufacturers and fleets alike.
Meanwhile, trailer makers have been beefing up their rear underride protection, and IIHS earlier this year honored five North American trailer manufacturers with its new Toughguard award recognizing superior rear underride guards: Great Dane, Manac, Stoughton Trailers, Vanguard National Trailer, and Wabash National.
Following is our annual update of the latest trailer products, presented in alphabetical order by company. We compiled this information from trade shows and news releases and contacted the manufacturers for their latest product news.
Doonan announced two new trailers late last year, the Series 2 V-Channel Trough Flatbed Coil Haul trailer and Chaparral II Flatbed Liftgate trailer. The Series 2 V-Channel is designed for special loading applications where coils cannot be transferred into and from a recessed trailer well, but still require securement on the flatbed. The 44-foot x 96-inch, 110,000-pound GVWR, all-steel, tri-axle trailer with bulkhead cradles 3- to 7-foot-diameter steel coils shotgun style inside a V-shaped, rubber-lined steel trough on the center surface of the flatbed. The channel cribbing cushions the coils and allows for efficient loading and unloading.
The Chaparral II Flatbed Liftgate Trailer was created by installing a Maxon Raillift RC-2B series liftgate on a Chaparral II flatbed. The trailer provides better capacity and durability for demanding applications, according to Doonan, while the self-contained liftgate allows for easier loading and unloading from the rear of the trailer and keeps a level ride throughout the lift for better load stability.
East Manufacturing introduced a new Lightweight Tipper Trailer this year, designed for refuse hauling operations. East says it re-engineered the trailer to increase payload by removing 1,200 pounds of weight from the existing design. It reduced the weight of the fifth wheel plate area, suspension subframe and from the sides of the trailer body. The company also replaced the original steel bumper assembly with an aluminum one.
The Lightweight Tipper Trailer maintains a double-wall construction on its aerodynamic East Genesis smooth-sided design with an advanced system of floor-to-wall attachment. It is designed to be easier to clean and not show pings and dings on the outside like traditional external post walls, according to East. The outboard Genesis design is also able to provide more capacity than traditional external post trailers.
With FSMA regulations in mind, Great Dane has partnered with Microban International on an antimicrobial product protection that's offered on the company’s Everest reefers. It is standard in Great Dane’s PunctureGuard and ThermoGuard reefer liners. The antimicrobial protection will not wash off or wear away and can protect against the growth of bacteria that causes stains and odors.
In addition, the Rig30 rear impact guard will be offered as standard equipment on all of Great Dane’s trailer models beginning later this year. Rig30 passed the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s tests for underride crashes of a midsize car in all three test modes, full-width, 50% overlap and 30% overlap. The guard exceeds current rules as well as proposed new requirements from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that would align with U.S. and Canadian regulations.
The company late last year introduced a new telematics system called FleetPulse to keep drivers and fleet managers informed about basic pre-trip inspection checks and send alert notifications on the road. The system monitors brakes, tire inflation, scale weight, door sensors, and lights while tracking location and scheduling preventive maintenance. FleetPulse can be accessed through a mobile app or desktop computer. It will be available later this year.
Mac Liquid Tank Trailers developed an auxiliary lighting system for gasoline trailers intended to improve safety during nighttime filling station deliveries. The Total Area Lighting Kit (TALK) provides bright white LED light strips above the discharge tube area and on the steps of the ladder to help drivers better see what they are doing in darkness.
The TALK system also includes two 8-foot long light bars that swing out from stowed mounting positions along the body of the trailer. These have red LEDs on the front and back to provide a very obvious work-zone barrier to help keep cars from wandering into the area while the driver is unloading. There are white LED strips along the bottom of the bars to light up the work area. Strobe lights on the tips of the bars provide additional awareness of the driver’s work area.
Because the TALK system uses only LEDs, the current draw will be minimal and won’t compromise healthy batteries during the unloading process.
Stoughton is putting the spotlight on a few new design features for its Z-Plate and aluminum sheet and post trailers that are now common or standard between the two models, aimed at improving durability and increasing interior space. By standardizing components for the dry van trailers, Stoughton says it will be easier for fleets to maintain a smaller parts inventory and streamline repair and maintenance flow.
A new top rail design allows for improved water shedding and water tightness. A new roof bow design can decrease installation time and eliminate the need for exterior scaffolding, while a new front wall assembly features shared, interchangeable components for dry van corner posts and top corner castings.
The Z-Plate trailer now has a redesigned lower rail to move the rivets away from the scrape zone, improving durability. A new aluminum side rail and scuff combination has been increased to a 12-inch height, again to prevent damage during loading and unloading.
Talbert Manufacturing is offering a new 50-Ton Bus Hauler this year, the 50CC-BH, for hauling oversized equipment, including excavators and Class A trucks as well as buses. The hauler is designed with an in-deck winch that allows for equipment loading from the front or the rear. Talbert says the trailer can also be used to haul equipment with lower clearances and long wheelbases such as graders and aircraft refueler trucks.
The 50CC-BH was designed with extra steel in the main and side beams of the deck as well as in the gooseneck and rear axles. This allows the trailer to hit its 50-ton capacity rating, without increasing weight by a significant amount, according to Talbert. The trailer features rollers and a snatch block for pulling equipment from either end of the trailer using the 20,000-pound planetary in-deck winch.
This year, Utility Trailer Manufacturing is offering a new combo flatbed, the 4000AE, designed to be nearly as lightweight as an all-aluminum trailer. Utility replaced the steel crossmembers featured on the 4000A trailer design with 3- and 4-inch aluminum crossmembers, which dropped overall weight by 536 pounds.
A new dry van was also announced late last year, the 4000D-X Composite TBR, or Tall Bottom Rail trailer. Utility says the TBR is loaded with features aimed at increasing strength and durability. The trailer is made for heavy hauls that put a beating on equipment as well as abuse from forklifts and lower wall rubbing. The trailer’s bottom rail is 10 inches taller and 50% thicker at floor level than the standard model for increased strength. Its riveted structural components and wear band have been raised above the pallet impact, rub, and work level, replaced by the solid, one-piece interior surface of the aluminum Tall Bottom Rail.
Utility is also offering roll stability as standard equipment on its 3000R refrigerated trailer, developed by Bendix to minimize rollovers and make the trailer an active part of a vehicle’s overall electronic safety system. The system is self-contained within the trailer and doesn’t require the tractor to also have a roll stability system.
Molded structural composites could be the next game-changing innovation in the refrigerated market, according to Wabash, which released its new Cold Chain Series refrigerated van trailer with the new technology. The trailer features a version of the technology with what Wabash calls molded structural composite with thermal (MSCT), offering increased thermal performance over conventional reefer designs. It is also designed to be lighter while improving puncture and damage resistance. Another added benefit of MSCT is a higher floor rating, up to 24,000 pounds, which will improve asset utilization, according to Wabash.
“We’ve taken an existing material used in numerous industrial applications (MSC) and re-engineered it for trailer and truck body applications,” says Dana Stelsel, corporate communications manager at Wabash. “The result is a material that outperforms traditional materials in the trailer industry.”
Wabash also was a finalist for the annual Swedish Steel Prize for its use of lightweight, high-strength steel in its RIG-16 rear impact guard for trailers.
XL Specialized Trailers
The newest addition to the XL Specialized lineup is the XL 80 Power Tail trailer, designed for transporting medium-duty construction equipment. The trailer has a hydraulic fold-under flip-tail ramp for faster loading and unloading of equipment. The load angle is only 10 degrees for equipment such as manlifts, forklifts and paving equipment. A hydraulic pop-up ramp connecting the deck to the gooseneck is standard, as well as a step-and-grab handle on each side of the gooseneck for climbing on the deck. An 18,000-pound hydraulic winch with a wireless remote and an air kick-out for hauling inoperable equipment or static loads is also standard. The trailer is rated at 80,000 pounds overall and 50,000 pounds concentrated in 10 feet.
XL Specialized introduced a slew of new trailer iterations at this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show, including the redesigned Low-Profile Hydraulic Detachable Gooseneck trailer line, which includes the XL 110 Low-Profile HDG and XL 120 Low-Profile HDG. The biggest update to the gooseneck is a new relief cutout that provides more space between the trailer and truck. With a low-profile design, the HDG trailer is designed to be versatile for equipment hauling.
The company is also offering galvanized, corrosion-resistant versions of two of its trailers, the Mechanical Detachable Extendable trailer and the Mini-Deck Lowboy. By putting trailer components through the hot-dip galvanizing process, a protective barrier is formed between corrosive elements and the underlying steel can better withstand bad weather and road conditions.
Correction: The original article incorrectly stated that the Utility 3000R trailer’s roll stability system was developed in conjunction with Bendix and Hendrickson. Bendix was the only company involved in its development.