So many choices, so little operating margin. Specialty trailer manufacturers continue to innovate and impress, based on a selection of new product offerings out this spring. But new technologies come at a price: How’s a buyer to decide what is worth the investment, or choose between competing offerings?
Dan Giles, the new chairman of the board of the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Assn., tells American Trucker that, despite all the bells and whistles now available on specialized equipment, the fundamentals haven’t changed.
“The common themes are still the common themes: cost efficiency, weight reduction, reliability, and, where possible and economical, new technologies,” said Giles, vice president at Fontaine Military Products.
Prior to moving to the military unit, he’d been director of engineering and the engineering manager responsible for trailer designs for Fontaine Trailer, the largest flatbed builder in the world—so he should have a pretty good idea about trends.
As to adopting new technology, Giles points to central tire inflation systems as an example of technology that went from an exotic option to commonplace in the industry over the past 10 years.
And the call for weight reduction in commercial vehicles “will never cease,” he explains. For every extra pound added to the weight of tractors to meet government regulations, trailers are expected to make up the difference. That’s led to the growing use of aluminum instead of steel—and “inherently” higher costs.
In heavy-haul, versatility has become important. He points to flatbeds that incorporate twist locks, along with new aluminum products.
To offset the higher costs of light-but-strong materials, trailer makers must develop “novel, innovative” production processes. Fontaine, he notes, has adopted “friction-stir welding” technology from the aircraft industry—and even created a unit to provide the technology to other manufacturers so they could benefit from the process.
But the real shift, as Giles sees it, has not been in the growing sophistication of trailers so much as in the growing sophistication of customers.
Just because the latest and greatest technologies are available doesn’t mean everyone can or should invest in them. The industry still has manufacturers that focus on basic, economical models, while other trailer builders focus on high-end performance.
The key is to understand the payback over the working life of a piece of equipment.
“A lot of buyers today are becoming more in tune with that,” Giles said. “Buyers are becoming more keenly [aware] of the long-term investment and not just thinking short term.”
So the total cost of ownership mantra that truck makers have marketed so heavily has spilled over into the trailer market.
But with so many options, how does a specialty trailer buyer decide?
“I’ve been in the commercial industry 25 years, and first and foremost, buyers need to know their application—what they’re going to use the product for—and buy equipment that will meet their requirements,” Giles says. “That’s the truck and the trailer. It’s load securement; it’s ABS. Trailer dimensions. Tractor horsepower and torque and speed ratios. Tires. Buyers are now thinking about all this stuff.”
Looking ahead, Giles notes that new government regulations have yet to hit the specialty market the way aerodynamics has impacted the van market, but buyers do need to think ahead when making purchases of trucks and trailers.
“We don’t really want the government forcing one size fits all on everybody,” he added. “It just doesn’t work that way.”
Looking ahead, Giles suggests specialty trailer buyers will be even more accepting of new technology because it will pay off in the long run.
“A lot of your higher-end trailer manufacturers, like truck manufacturers, are continuing to work on ultimate materials, ultimate assembly methodologies,” he said. “You’re going to see a continued focus on light weight, on durability, low maintenance, and return on investment—especially on new technologies that will save money over time.”
And as American Trucker discovered recently on the exhibit floors of the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) and the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) annual meeting, Giles’s assessment is spot on.
XL Specialized Trailers
Heavy-haul trailer maker XL Specialized Trailers celebrated its 20th anniversary during MATS, launching four new trailers.
“Our company was built on innovation and we pride ourselves in finding new solutions for our customers, so it is very fitting that as we celebrate 20 years in business, we are introducing many new products at the show,” said Steve Fairbanks, president and CEO.
On display at MATS were several new products, including the XL 60 Hydraulic Detachable Mini-Deck Trailer, the XL 80 Flat Deck Extendable Trailer (FDE), XL 110 Low-Profile Hydraulic Detachable Gooseneck (HDG), XL 140 Hydraulic Detachable Extendable (HDE), and XL Single Axle Power Booster.
The next-generation XL Single Axle Power Booster is designed specifically for a one-axle application booster with a lighter weight of around 2,750 lbs., as well as additional operator-friendly features. It is attached to the rear of a lowboy trailer with a 14-ft., 1-in. spread between the trailer’s last axle and the booster’s axle.
XL Specialized Trailers: www.xlspecializedtrailer.com
Five new trailer models were shown at MATS by Talbert Manufacturing. Each of the new Traveling Axle (TA) Series models will boost the hauling capacity by 5 tons over the models they replace, Talbert said.
Three of the new trailer models—the 4048TA, 4050TA and 4053TA— have a 40-ton hauling capacity, and the new 5548TA and 5553TA trailer models haul as much as 55 tons.
The TA Series trailers feature a state-of-the-art, 36-in. loaded deck height. This low deck height provides additional clearance for bridges and tunnels when transporting tall equipment, the company noted.
Each of the trailers feature Talbert’s signature piggyback cylinder, now with a larger diameter for faster axle travel. Loading is made easier with a 7-deg. load angle. Talbert’s standard equipment for the series includes a 15,000-lb. planetary winch with a two-function, wireless remote.
The TA Series trailers come standard with double keyhole tie-down slots on top of the outside beams and recessed in the center of the main deck.
Talbert Manufacturing: www.talbertmfg.com
Trail King offered an advance look at its new Steel End Dump at MATS.
According to the company, the trailer is a project that has been in consideration over the past few years, and it is now being reintroduced into the product line.
The TKSHR32 Steel End Dump is designed to haul sand, gravel, demolition or rip rap. It features abrasion-resistant steel, an inverted-angle designed top rail, and a high lift tailgate. Improved stability and a maximized footprint are achieved with a lower center of gravity, and the ability to haul increased payload is a result of the 24-in. flat floor structural design.
The TKSHR32’s design is not only suited for a wide range of cargo applications, but for each scenario it is designed to allow ease of operation plus superior loading and unloading through the dump cycle.
“Our customers heavily rely on Trail King’s expert engineering knowledge and capabilities, as well as manufacturing’s careful analysis, to provide premium performance and innovative operating efficiencies in all aspects of the business,” said Rick Farris, vice president of sales and marketing.
Trail King: www.trailking.com
Faymonville is introducing a new specialty trailer for the North American heavy-haul market. The HighwayMax is an extendable on-road heavy-haul
trailer with nine hydraulically steered pendulum axles and a technical payload of 260,000 lbs.
The double extendable highway multi-axle trailer fully complies with
national regulations in respect to axle group dimensions, allowing a maximum payload, the company said. The trailer can be easily retracted to attain a truck/trailer length not to exceed 90 ft., eliminating the need for escorts in most of the United States and Canada, the company says.
The HighwayMax has a low tare weight of approximately 62,500 lbs. with a loading platform that can be extended up to 89 ft., 2 in.
Faymonville said the extremely strong and torsion stiff frame includes multiple lashing rings and load securement points. The trailer is constructed of a fully metalized frame that ensures corrosion protection.
Galbreath has rolled out a new lightweight roll-off trailer offering a shorter overall length for improved maneuverability. The M6 250 Series weighs just 15,650 lbs. yet provides a gross vehicle weight rating of 72,500 lbs. Designed to handle roll-offs with heavy loads like scrap and construction materials, it offers container size capacity up to 30 ft.
The M6 250 Series roll-off trailer is available in outside rail (OR), extendable tail (EX), inside/outside rail (IO), and deadlift (HH) configurations.
Two telescoping lift cylinders provide greater stability when lifting heavy loads. Plus, its lower trailer height accommodates taller containers than standard trailers, the company says.
Silver Eagle Manufacturing
The new patented “T-Dolly” from Silver Eagle Manufacturing displayed at TMC featured an automated “telescoping” tongue that will automatically deploy at highway speeds of 45 mph and higher to close gaps between combination trailers for improved fuel economy.
Gary Gaussoin, Silver Eagle’s president, explained that the “only reason” to have a large gap between combination trailers is to make sharp turns at low speeds.
Closing the gap between combination trailers at highway speeds helps reduce aerodynamic drag, providing a fuel efficiency boost of 2.5% to 3.5%, according to TMC Type IV modified fuel tests as well as field trials Silver Eagle conducted with UPS.
The dolly’s connection to the vehicle’s ABS system allows it to calculate road speed, closing the gap automatically at 45 mph and above while opening it back up at 40 mph and below. This totally shuts off the dolly’s telescoping system at 5 mph and below.
Silver Eagle Manufacturing: www.silvereaglemanufacturing.com.