TMC, NASHVILLE --  Just in from the United Kingdom is a pneumatic landing gear product that replaces hand-cranked gear and promises to eliminate injuries and save time and money.

The PTS50 uses compressed air from the tractor-trailer system to raise or lower its legs in about 5 seconds and with little physical effort by the driver, said Simon Bois, executive vice president and general manager in North America for Prime Transport Solutions.

The company developed the product in Great Britain and has begun a marketing blitz here.

The speed of operation increases driver productivity and fleet efficiency, and should eliminate painful, debilitating and expensive back, shoulder and arm injuries too often suffered by drivers, said Bois, a Canadian who emphasized that he once drove tractor-trailers and is familiar with the problems from hooking and dropping trailers.

The PST50’s two legs can support 220,000 pounds, and its design includes a locking pin that prevents each leg from collapsing, he said. The legs will not raise a trailer’s nose; they must be freed by the tractor backing under the trailer before the legs can be lifted.

Deployed height can be set to a fleet’s normal fifth wheel height, so most couplings should be smooth.

Legs will rise when a tractor has taken up the weight of the trailer’s nose and its kingpin has been locked onto by the fifth wheel, and air lines hooked up. If the nose is too low, the driver will normally lower the tractor’s rear by dumping air from its suspension bags.

But he cannot raise the trailer by cranking because the PTS50 has no handle and no internal gear mechanism – which saves 20 to 40 pounds.

If dropping the tractor’s air bags isn’t enough because the feet have sunk into soft pavement or soil, the trailer must be raised by an external jack, Bois acknowledged.

A driver operates the mechanism with two push buttons. The internal cylinders work at air pressure as low as 41 psi and as high as 120 psi, or whatever the tractor’s air compressor is set to. Lowering the legs is also fast and sure because there’s nothing inside to hang them up.

Cylinders can be quickly replaced by unbolting a leg's top from the trailer's frame or removing the pin-slide housing to access the upper and lower cylinders, respectively, he said.

Boise said he is aware of pneumatic landing gear products that have not been accepted in the past, but believes their timing was probably wrong because not enough tractors had air-ride suspensions. “Air-ride makes this possible,” he said.

The PTS50 is set for testing by four major fleets in the U.S., but in the meantime is offered for sale.

Its list price is $1,200 – a premium over the $200 to $700 cost of manual landing gear, but one that will be quickly recouped through savings in driver time and fuel from 97% less engine idling, and freedom from damage due to the product’s stoutness, Bois claimed. Eliminating injuries will also more than pay for the device.

If the PTS50 catches on as he expects, the list price will come down through volume manufacturing. For now the legs are made in the UK and the cylinders in Italy. “My dream,” he said, “is for manufacturing to move here and provide jobs for workers here.