Spec’ing a trailer

Max Kvidera | September 01, 2010

“You can extend that philosophy to any system under or on the trailer,” such as bushings, he says. Intraax has two bushings per suspension, four per trailer, compared with a mechanical spring suspension’s four bushings per suspension, eight per trailer. Some air ride systems have eight bushings per suspension, 16 per trailer. “Any time you add a part, it can wear out and you have to perform maintenance on it,” Buckham notes.

Wide-base single tires, such as Michelin’s X One, reduce equipment weight and can be spec’d for hauling maximum load weights.

In reefers, a glass-reinforced thermoplastic liner can reduce maintenance expense, says Dave Gilliland, vice president of branch sales and operations for Great Dane Trailers. The high-end Thermoguard product seals the trailer’s insulation and reduces “outgassing effects” that cause foam insulation to degrade. “It helps the trailer maintain excess cooling capacity, reduces operating costs because the reefer unit runs fewer hours and consumes less fuel, and increases the unit’s productivity,” he says. “It keeps the trailer thermally efficient for a longer period of time.”

Similar premium products could include a puncture guard liner to protect the trailer interior against punctures, CorroGuard thermoplastic coating to apply to suspensions and landing gear, and a steel liner with a rigid backing instead of a plywood liner.

Reduce weight

Weight reduction helps operators who typically “load out” at 80,000 pounds because it means additional payload. It also helps those who usually “cube out” because every pound saved increases fuel-efficiency.

Lighter weight usually carries a higher price, but every pound saved on equipment means more potential payload. Furthermore, for every 300 pounds you eliminate, you gain 0.2 percent in fuel efficiency, Paccar says.

The biggest weight saver is spec’ing aluminum, which is also more corrosion-resistant than steel. Utility Trailer’s Chuck Cole says for dry vans you can spec aluminum side posts and roof bows, while reefers are largely of aluminum construction. Reefers also offer more lightweight linings than in the past.

Jerry Richardson, product specialist at Wabash National, says aluminum can be substituted for steel in cross members that support the floor and for hardwood flooring. Aluminum rims can replace steel disc wheels.

“There’s an inverse correlation between getting the weight out and cost,” says Mark Kulyk, president of Rogers Bros. “You can change material from steel to aluminum that removes weight, but it drives up the cost dramatically.”

Aluminum also has reduced durability and lesser strength, Gilliland notes, so you will have to protect the floor and walls more during loading and unloading. “For example, in a trailer floor, it has less carrying strength and doesn’t last as long as a wood or composite floor,” he says.

Match tires to the job

Choosing the right tires for the application will contribute to lower cost per mile and minimal maintenance costs. For example, for a regional application with lots of backing and turning into distribution centers and tight docks, the appropriate tires would have a deeper tread depth and a compound that’s more resistant to scrubbing against curbs and other impediments.

When asked to assess the resale value of spec’ing additional technology, the most common response from trailer buyers is that the features will make the trailer easier to sell, even though the features might not boost the actual value. The respondents were polled for the CK Commercial Vehicle Research 2010 Trailer Study (www.ckcvr.com).

For long-haul, the better trailer tire is one that has a shallower tread depth and is more resistant to temperature buildup. “The pure over-the-road trailer tire is also better for fuel efficiency,” says Don Baldwin, product category manager at Michelin.

In turn, for a tractor-trailer combination running long haul, more of the fuel efficiency will come from the trailer tires, Baldwin says. The trailer tires will have shallower tread depth and lower rolling resistance than drive tires, he adds.

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