There is no dearth of trailer makers in North America. Statistics show there are at least two dozen manufacturers that produce from around 1,000 to over 50,000 over-the-road commercial trailers of one type or another every year.

Some trailer makers succeed with volume-driven pricing, especially of the more common trailer types. Others of even modest size keep on winning by turning out specialized and even highly customized models produced in concert with customers.

What all trailer makers have in common are the general expectations of all fleets: that their trailers last as long as they want them to while costing as little as possible to own and maintain. Concern about trailer prices is certainly rising of late, given the Trump administration’s combative stance on international trade — in this case, slapping higher tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Still, making trailers is about knowing what your customers want. That’s why regardless of geopolitical storms, trailer makers remain heavily engaged with helping their customers overcome everyday threats to their bottom lines with a range of advances. These include making trailers slip more easily through the wind, making them last longer in severe-service operations, and helping fleets meet strict new food transportation rules.

Here is our annual update of product developments from major trailer makers.

 -  Photo courtesy East Manufacturing

Photo courtesy East Manufacturing

East Manufacturing

East Manufacturing, which provides aluminum flatbed, drop deck, dump and refuse trailers as well as truck bodies, has made the Truck-Lite 99 Series wiring harness standard on all new East BST, BST II, MMX and Narrow Neck flatbeds.

The Truck-Lite 99 Series works as a closed system, thanks to integrating a molded plug with two sealing surfaces, rather than just one. This two-seal plug keeps moisture and debris out of the plug, guarding against corrosion, according to East. The 99 Series uses a clamp as the mounting bracket that wraps around the width of the plug to ensure that the connection is secure. East points out that “typical harness clamps only wrap around the junction itself, so the wider clamp holds the joint more securely, resulting in a more reliable connection.” In addition, Truck-Lite designed a trapezoid-shaped connection that makes installation quick and easy, and allows for proper pin alignment and a positive lock.

Also new from East is its Lightweight Tipper Trailer, which the company says is designed “to maximize payload and still provide the strength to handle the stresses of hauling refuse day in and day out in the harshest conditions.” The tipper trailer has been reengineered to increase payload by removing 1,200 pounds of excess weight from the fifth wheel plate area, the suspension sub frame, and from the sides of the trailer body. In addition, an aluminum bumper assembly replaced a steel assembly.

The Lightweight Tipper Trailer still maintains its double-wall construction on its aerodynamic Genesis smooth-side design with advanced system of floor-to-wall attachment, East notes. “The more aerodynamic design is easier to clean, and will not show any pings and dings on the outside like traditional external post walls,” the company states, “and the outboard Genesis design provides more capacity than traditional external post trailers.”

 -  Photo courtesy Fontaine Trailer

Photo courtesy Fontaine Trailer

Fontaine Trailer

Platform trailer manufacturer Fontaine has released two new models designed for the demands of frac sand haulers: The Fontaine Velocity TX all-steel trailer and the Fontaine Infinity TX aluminum/steel combo. “This is a tough application, and trailers must be able to handle concentrated loads, travel rough terrain, and resist damage from forklift side impacts,” says Ken Webb, vice president of sales and marketing.

To stand up to this demanding service, he says Fontaine starts with “the strongest main beam design in the industry, the Fontaine XtremeBeam. Then we inset the twist-lock mechanism behind the side rail to protect it from side impacts.” By contrast, he says that cutting out the side rail makes the trailer weaker and interrupts the load securement system, “causing more problems when the trailer is used for traditional flatbed loads.” He notes that Fontaine twist locks are positioned on the deck to match the frac-sand container size. “They retract flush with the floor so a user can haul typical drop-deck loads and frac sand with the same trailer for greater hauling versatility,” adds Webb.

 -  Photo courtesy Great Dane

Photo courtesy Great Dane

Great Dane

Great Dane partnered with Microban International to provide antimicrobial product protection in Great Dane’s Everest reefers and in its Alpine refrigerated truck bodies.

According to the trailer maker, having Microban technology in the liner helps protect against harmful bacteria, mold, and mildew for the entire life of the equipment. The exclusive Microban protection is built into Great Dane’s proprietary PunctureGuard and ThermoGuard reefer liners, so it will not wash off or wear away and helps provide ongoing protection against the growth of bacteria that can cause stains, odors, and product degradation, says Great Dane. The company explains that the technology works on a cellular level to disrupt and prevent the replication of bacteria that can cause stains and odors.

“The inclusion of Microban technology in Great Dane reefer liners provides customers with a competitive edge in the market, while also helping them to meet the stringent requirements under the Food Safety Modernization Act by providing cleaner food storage and transport equipment,” explains Brandie Fuller, vice president of marketing.

The trailer maker says tests conducted with two stain- and odor-causing bacteria common to food contamination showed that liners treated with Microban resulted in a 99.9% reduction in microbial growth compared to those without Microban. “This proven antimicrobial technology helps support requirements under the FSMA by keeping reefer liners cleaner and promoting a clean environment for temperature-sensitive deliveries,” according to Great Dane.

Great Dane this year also became the first trailer maker to become a member of the Blockchain in Transport Alliance, joining a coalition that aims to develop blockchain standards, education, and solutions for the transportation industry.

 -  Photo courtesy Heil Trailer

Photo courtesy Heil Trailer

Heil Trailer

For model year 2019, Heil says “substantial upgrades and engineering innovations” to its 1611 Super Jet dry-bulk trailer will make it the lightest food-grade, clean-bore dry bulk trailer available.

“We targeted a number of improvements in key areas,” says Mike Johnson, director of product management. “There are optimizations to the frame, vessel, hoppers, and throughout the unit for greater fill capacity, faster unloading, and easier cleaning. It’s a total package that leads the industry in capacity per pound for dry bulk.”

According to Heil, the strut-framed aerodynamic 1611 Super Jet is the first dry-bulk trailer of this size without the need for internal rings. The company states that its ring-less, clean-bore design “promotes complete clean-out and eliminates areas for bacteria to form, promoting the utmost in cleanliness for critical sanitary and food applications.”

 -  Photo courtesy Hyundai Translead

Photo courtesy Hyundai Translead

Hyundai Translead

Hyundai Translead, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Company Korea, manufactures dry and refrigerated van trailers, domestic containers, container chassis, and converter dollies for the North American market.

One of its most recent innovations, according to the company, is an anti-corrosion package that comes standard on all Hyundai Translead dry van trailers. The package includes the rear frame, rear impact guard, wing plate and “K” bracing, mid-turn signal brackets and mud flap bracket. Additional components that are offered as hot-dip galvanized include the full upper coupler, all crossmembers, threshold plate, slider rails, external upper landing leg tubes, and suspension slider box.

For components that cannot be hot-dip galvanized, the company now offers HT TuffCoat, which was developed with Bradley Coatings Group. This two-component coating is sprayed onto the components to protect them from the rigors of over-the-road use. The coating also acts as a barrier to damage from rocks and other debris as well as to chemicals currently used to de-ice roadways. Components available for HT TuffCoat application include axles, brake chamber and slack adjusters, air tank, external landing leg tubes, suspension beams, and suspension slider box.

 -  Photo courtesy Stoughton Trailer

Photo courtesy Stoughton Trailer

Stoughton Trailer

Stoughton says its new PureBlue refrigerated trailer is designed to reduce maintenance yet uphold consistent temperatures. The company says it spent two years developing the trailer, using proven components, customer input, and thorough testing. The result, it says, is a design that is “more thermally efficient, lighter in weight and safer than other competitive trailers on the road today.”

According to Stoughton, the use of bonded side posts reduces the number of holes in the sidewalls to help preventing moisture intrusion into the trailer. For thermal efficiency and to cut weight, composite framing is used in the front wall and rear doors. In addition, a triple wiper seal on the rear doors helps protect cargo from the elements, while an aluminum scuff and integral composite scuff liner help prevent damage while loading and unloading. The sidewall and scuff have no rivets that loads can snag and tear out.

Stoughton offers a heavy-duty non-skid duct floor as the “preferred floor” in the new reefer, and says this durable floor provides optimum support to loads even in high-use areas. The fully enclosed floor design has a knurled edge top surface for skid resistance. No wood is used at all to help extend the life of the flooring.

The PureBlue reefer include several design elements to protect against air loss and to keep out water. These include platen-foamed sides and roof that ensure the trailer is fully insulated with no voids or uneven areas. Stoughton also designed a composite mounting box for the reefer unit to help keep the heat of its diesel engine from penetrating into the trailer. Like Stoughton’s dry vans, PureBlue trailers comes standard with the company’s new stronger rear underride guard at no additional cost or weight.

 -  Photo courtesy Strick Trailers

Photo courtesy Strick Trailers

Strick Trailers

Strick reports that its most recent output of customized trailers includes three orders built to meet specific customer needs. A 53-foot drop-frame snack trailer developed for Frito-Lay provides a spacious interior for maximum cube. It’s equipped with triple side doors, an advanced hydraulic rear-lift system, abundant skylights, and bright LED “cove” lighting aids drivers in delivering safely and efficiently.

Then there’s the 40-foot Geo local distribution trailer developed jointly with Pepsi. It boasts “bumper-to-bumper” corrosion protection, an advanced onboard pallet jack charging station, and a high-tech Waltco rail gate. Both the charging station and rail gate are powered by a solar panel system.

On the heavier side, the 53-foot “straight floor” van was engineered for Innovative Logistics Group expressly to handle the “extreme service rigors” of delivering in-process automotive parts. The van features a 19-inch-high, 10GA galvanized steel L-scuff that Strick calls “virtually indestructible.” In addition, a woven fiberglass Pecolite roof with roof bows bonded on the exterior combines enhanced weathering capabilities, natural lighting, and a smooth ceiling interior to reduce catch points for forklifts. And at the rear of the trailer, there’s a rear ceiling deflector, to further mitigate damage from freight and the lift truck mast.

 -  Photo courtesy Utility Trailer

Photo courtesy Utility Trailer

Utility Trailer

Utility Trailer Manufacturing has introduced the new 4000AE drop deck trailer. According to the company, it incorporates all the design advantages of the 4000AE composite flatbed rolled out last year, delivering the long-term benefits of both steel and aluminum. “It weighs less than some all-aluminum trailers, yet it’s available at a more sensible combo-trailer price,” says Brett Olsen, marketing manager.

Designed to haul heavy or “awkward” loads, the new trailer features a combination of 3- and 4-inch aluminum crossmembers. It comes standard with a 39,000 lb. coil haul package with a 5-foot span of 4-inch tapered to 3-inch aluminum crossmembers on 8-inch centerlines. It also comes with the ConMet aluminum hub system and provides an additional 541 pounds of weight savings compared to the previous design.

Olsen also reports that Utility is seeing a “dramatic increase” in the percentage of 4000DX Composite dry vans being spec’d with its TBR (Tall Bottom Rail) option. That option includes a heavy-duty tall bottom rail that is 10 inches taller and 50% thicker at floor level than the standard bottom rail, which “still enables the 4000D-X Composite TBR to achieve a minimum 101-inch inside width.” The package also features Utility’s new standard 20,000-pound “fork truck-rated” floor system.

 -  Photo courtesy Vanguard National

Photo courtesy Vanguard National

Vanguard National

Vanguard dry van and CIMC refrigerated trailers may now be ordered with the Meritor Tire Inflation System with ThermAlert as a standard/preferred option. ThermAlert is a wheel-end heat sensing technology that helps prevent wheel-end failures that may result from heat build-up and also warns drivers of tires that are overheating.

According to the supplier, studies show that tire-inflation systems extend tire life by 10% and increase fuel economy an average of 1.4%. Meritor also says that MTIS decreases maintenance costs by allowing longer intervals between retreads and spending less time manually pressure-checking and filling tires with air. MTIS is covered by Meritor’s five-year/unlimited-mile parts and one-year/unlimited-mile warranty.

 -  Photo courtesy Wabash National

Photo courtesy Wabash National

Wabash National

Wabash National has developed two aerodynamic devices. The Ventix DRS (Drag Reduction System) boasts a segmented design to manage air flow across the entire underbody of the trailer to eliminate drag and maximize aerodynamic performance, says Wabash.

The second is the AeroFin XL, a tail-mounted device that manages airflow across the rear of the trailer. It’s designed to deploy and retract in concert with opening and closing of the rear doors of the trailer. The AeroFin XL’s use requires “absolutely no additional interaction from the driver and the device will not interfere with trailer loading and unloading, so there is no adverse impact to freight operations,” says Dana Steisel, corporate communications manager. “And its compact design allows it to fold easily behind the door when in holdback position.” The device works with most door holdback devices, including Wabash National’s proprietary TrustLock Plus system.

According to Steisel, when the Ventix DRS skirting is used with the AeroFin tail device, the combination is verified as an EPA SmartWay Elite aerodynamic device combination, providing 9% or greater fuel savings. If low rolling resistance tires are added, the cumulative fuel economy improvement exceeds 10%. “The result is a greater reduction in vehicle fuel consumption and lower operating costs for your fleet,” she notes.

Related: Spec’ing a Low-Maintenance Trailer

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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