New trailers debut at Mid-America

May 1, 2004
TRAILERS that carry more cargo and trailers that demand less attention were among the innovations seen at this year's Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville,

TRAILERS that carry more cargo and trailers that demand less attention were among the innovations seen at this year's Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky.

New thin-wall designs from Utility and Trailmobile should help fleets squeeze a little more into their dry-freight vans, while Wabash National announced plans to help fleets carry more freight by spending more time on the move and less time getting maintenance.

These and other trailer manufacturers were among the 1,050 companies exhibiting at the annual event in Louisville. In total, the show encompassed more than a million square feet of exhibit space. By the close of the show, 74,454 individuals from all 50 states and 57 foreign countries had filled the aisles to capacity.

Here is a sample of what they saw:

In search of the 10-year trailer

Can a trailer be developed that requires no maintenance for 10 years?

Wabash National announced at the Mid-America Trucking Show that it is working to do just that. The company has appointed 41-year industry veteran Rod Ehrlich to the position of chief technology officer to engineer a maintenance-free trailer.

“Wabash has extended trailer lifecycles to well over 10 years,” said Bill Greubel, chief executive officer. “With Rod's leadership, we now will address costly maintenance areas, specifically in the undercarriage, to develop a 10-year maintenance-free trailer design.”

Ehrlich, who began his trailer industry career in 1963, was Wabash National's director of engineering when the company started in 1985. He holds a bachelor of science degree from Purdue University.

Wabash does not take a “planned obsolescence” approach to product, Ehrlich said. “Working with North America's largest truckload carriers has allowed us to develop design innovations that extend trailer life.”

Plate sidewall technology has extended the limits of trailer life well beyond 10 years. The aluminum plate trailer, followed by the composite plate sidewall, have made the 10-year life a reality — at least for the box. Some of the first DuraPlate trailers, Wabash's composite sidewall design, have been in service ever since they were fleet-tested in 1987, Ehrlich said.

After almost 10 years of laboratory and road testing, Wabash National introduced the DuraPlate trailer into production in 1996. It followed with the DuraPlate HD in 2003.

Conventional doors still have a life of five to seven years, primarily as a result of moisture intrusion into the plywood core. Furthermore, powdercoated rear door frames typically last five to seven years before they need to be refinished. To address the water-intrusion problem, Wabash is offering DuraPlate doors. An optional stainless steel rear door frame eliminates the need to refinish conventional door frames.

Lighting remains a big problem for fleets. Corrosion, physical damage, and theft all contribute to shorten the life of the lighting system. The SingLEDiode Mini-Marker lamp has the potential to last 10 years on the upper box.

Turning to the undercarriage, Wabash National works with fleet managers through its partnership program to identify where the maintenance dollars are going. According to Ehrlich, the axle beam is the only component that currently has a 10-year maintenance-free life. The life expectancy of other components:

  • Steel springs — every three to five years.

  • Brake shoes — every three years on average.

  • Camshafts — annual lubrication for standard versions and every five years for premium versions.

  • Slack adjusters — three-year warranty and annual lubrication requirement. Premium slack adjusters can go six years before lubrication is required.

  • Wheel ends generally can go between one and five years without maintenance. Premium wheel ends extend the interval to seven years.

  • ABS units carry warranties of three or five years.

  • Slider boxes have five-year warranties.

“Most fleets trade their trailers after a five- to seven-year life, but they would like to keep them for 10 years,” Ehrlich said. “The high maintenance areas are in the undercarriage and electrical systems. More corrosion problems are coming from the new road salts. Magnesium chloride, for example, has twice the corrosion potential of calcium chloride and other road salts.”

According to Ehrlich, Wabash plans to release five improvements per year until the 10-year, maintenance-free trailer is a reality. “The first of these improvements is the Mini-Marker light that we developed with Truck-Lite. We also are showing a future LED strip lighting for interior cargo illumination. Refrigerated trailers have a difficult lighting problem because the fluorescent lamps are heavy and very slow to start up in the cold environment inside the reefer box. LED strip lighting can solve this problem.”

Truck-Lite introduces Mini-Marker

Truck-Lite Company unveiled what it called the world's smallest LED lamp that meets clearance, side marker, and identification applications.

The new LED offers trailer engineers and manufacturers new flexibility in designing trailer and rear door structures. It also is less exposed to physical damage. The LED lamps are so small that they can be carried into protective extrusions or mounted below mechanical features.

“We estimate that 40% of fleet clearance marker lighting costs are the result of physical damage,” said Brad Van Riper, Truck-Lite vice-president of research and development. “Most damage results from tree limbs hitting the front and passenger side of the vehicle. Another major factor is heat entrapment or physical damage resulting from dock seals at freight terminals when loading and unloading. With only one powerful LED in the new Mini-Marker lamp, you can significantly reduce these costs.”

“Wabash National is proud to be the first trailer OEM to utilize the new Mini-Marker lamp in production,” said Rod Ehrlich, Wabash National's chief technology officer. “It will significantly reduce, if not eliminate, light maintenance issues in the upper rear header area.”

Last year, NHTSA ruled that regardless of door header dimensions, rear identification lamps on new trailers must be mounted near the extreme top of the vehicle. Truck-Lite's Mini-Marker allows trailer manufacturers to meet this requirement, even within the narrowest of door frames.

The Mini-Marker LED measures less than 3/4" in diameter and depth. Two mounts are available: a grommet mount or a more permanent, theft-resistant flange mount.

The SingLEDiode lamp exceeds all photometric requirements for rear clearance/marker lamps contained in FMVSS 108, according to Truck-Lite. One version of the lamp will feature three Mini-Markers hard-wired to a harness specifically for use as an identification lamp assembly. The sealed harness has welded wiring where the three leads are joined, leading to a sealed two-pin connector. Individual Mini-Marker LEDs are available for use as clearance, side marker, or identification lamps.

Two new dry vans from Utility

Utility Trailer is celebrating its 90th anniversary as the nation's oldest continuously operated trailer manufacturer. Two brothers, E W and H C Bennett, started building trailers in 1914, about the time that Henry Ford introduced the assembly line for auto manufacturing.

Utility's new 4000D-X Series of dry vans is available in two interior widths, 101¼" or 100". The 4000D-X 101 version provides a full 101¼" inside width from lining to lining and 101" from wearband to wearband. It has 4,085 cubic feet capacity.

The 4000D-X 100 version has deeper side posts with increased stiffness for bulge loads. Inside width is 100" from wearband to wearband.

Both 4000D-X versions have traditional sheet-and-post construction. The interior lining of 80,000-psi galvanized and prepainted steel is squeeze-riveted to the sideposts during sidewall assembly.

The company's second announcement is the new Utility/Hendrickson Wide Track System on the new Utility 3000D dry van. It has a wider suspension and slider box to provide greater roll stiffness. For example, the standard slider box is 42" wide for 96" trailers. This is increased to 48" for 102"-wide trailers. To take advantage of Michelin's X-One single tire, the slider box has been increased to 54" wide.

The air suspension centers are also 6" wider, contributing to greater roll stiffness and stability.

The Wide Track System can be used with either zero offset aluminum wheels or the new zero offset Motorwheel steel wheel. Any industry-standard wheel end and parallel bearing system can be used without a reduction in bearing life because of the zero-offset wheels.

With offices in City of Industry, California, Utility has five regional trailer factories: two for refrigerated trailers (Marion VA and Clearfield UT), two for dry vans (Glade Spring VA and Paragould AR), and a flatbed and Tautliner curtain-side facility in Enterprise AL.

Trailmobile adds composite plate van

Ultra Plate is the name for Trailmobile's new composite plate sidewall. The side panel has a polyethylene core and .019" galvanized prepainted white inner and outer skins.

The standard .236" thick thermally bonded panels are joined into a sidewall by 16-gauge posts on 48" centers. The 9/32" deep by 5" wide hat-section posts are punched with A slots on 6" centers. The punched post is sealed with a .019" galvanized prepainted post cover plate on the outside.

Inside width is 101⅜". The 11½" deep lower rail provides room for three rows of 1/4" rivets on 4" centers to attach the side panels and posts. It also incorporates an integral 6" scuff. Inside width at the scuff is 101". Inside height is 110" front to rear.

Trailmobile claims that the serviceability of the new Ultra Plate dry van is comparable to sheet-and-post construction. Both types are assembled at the Trailmobile Canada plant in Mississauga, Ontario.

Inboard roof fights limb damage

An inboard roof design is just one of the new low-maintenance features on Strick's premium Gold Standard van trailer. This is a sheet-and-post trailer with 101 inches of inside width. The design includes logistics posts installed on 16" centers throughout the van. All plywood has been eliminated, replaced with HDPE lining between the posts. Honeycomb composite core is used for the rear doors.

The recessed roof essentially is 96" wide in spite of being installed on a 102" wide trailer. This helps protect the roof from tree limbs and sideswipe damage. Front corner marker lights are recessed for better protection. The design also helps reduce roof damage at the sidewalls resulting from impact with cargo inside the van.

Monon plant retooled for Vanguard

The Vanguard National Trailer Corp plant in Monon, Indiana, is now producing van trailers. One of the first was on display at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville.

The 53-ft van has typical specifications for a sheet-and-post design. Inside width is 100 inches between posts and 99½ inches between scuffs. Logistics posts are spaced on 16" centers, with plywood lining installed between the posts. Inside height is a consistent 110" front to rear. The trailer weighs 13,800 pounds.

The plant in Monon has been retooled and reconfigured as strictly an assembly plant. All weldments are produced offshore. The upper coupler, landing gear bracing, threshold plate, and galvanized rear frame are welding in China and shipped to Monon ready for assembly.

Great Dane introduces reefer for truckload

Combining many of the features of its Classic and Super Seal refrigerated Trailers, Great Dane introduced its new Super LT at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville KY. The trailer is intended to help truckload carriers in the Eastern US and Canada reduce operating costs. Great Dane will manufacture the trailers at its plants in Brazil IN and Savannah GA to help reduce freight costs in delivering the Super LT to purchasers.

Although intended primarily for sale in the eastern half of the country, the Super LT will be sold by all Great Dane dealer and branch locations. Orders for more than 1,000 of the new trailers have already been received.

The 48- or 53-ft Super LT includes most of the options popular with truckload carriers as standard equipment. For instance, Great Dane's new PunctureGuard Plus lining material is standard. At floor level, the lining is protected by a 10-in extruded aluminum scuffband; options include 16- or 22-in scuffbands. Trailers are built with Great Dane Model 60 landing gear with a lift capacity of 60,000 lb. The support leg mounts spread the load from the landing gear across five crossmembers.

To save weight, the refrigeration unit bolts to deep extruded aluminum J-channels instead of the steel frames traditionally used with refrigerated trailers. For more floor durability, crossmembers in the bay area between the support legs and the running gear are five-inch deep aluminum I-beams, one inch deeper than used in previous trailers. Four-inch steel I-beams are used above the support legs and running gear. All crossmembers are spaced on 12-in centers.

MAC dump trailer snaps together

MAC Trailer Mfg showed a new development of its smooth-wall dump trailer design — sidewalls that snap together. Rather than welding the horizontal side panels, MAC now relies on self-locking, hollow-core extrusions. Weight of the trailer is about the same as previous designs, but the self-locking panels save about 15% of the man-hours required to produce a welded panel.

Three versions of the self-locking panel are now undergoing fleet testing. The first version is seam welded inside. The second one uses adhesives to secure the self-locking joint. The third version uses no welding or adhesives. Only geometry of the joint locks the two panels together.

In addition to the improved aesthetics, the smooth wall results in a surface better suited for decal application. MAC Trailer Manufacturing, Alliance OH, is now in its 13th year of building platform, dump, and transfer trailers.

Thinwall trailer built for severe duty

Titan Trailers introduced what it called “the world's first high-capacity aluminum body self-loading trailer designed specifically for extreme duty applications.”

Designed for hauling scrap metal, construction and demolition debris, and aggregate, the Titan Thinwall demonstration trailer is equipped with a steel V-Floor unloading system from Keith Manufacturing Co.

The 48-ft Titan trailer has a capacity of 130 cubic yards, which according to Titan, is more than double the capacity of comparable steel trailers. And because the trailer can be unloaded without being raised, it is not affected by uneven terrain.

The body has 14" wide horizontal hollow-core extruded body panels that fit together with a tongue-in-grove joint. This allows 100% machine welding of the seams inside and out.

Keith Manufacturing first developed its steel V-Floor for stationary installations in recycling yards. With the development of new high-wear, high-yield steels, Keith was able to design a V-Floor for trailers by overlapping the V-slats and mounting them on a full-length bearing. Weight of the demonstration trailer is 20,150 pounds. Titan Trailers Inc, Delhi, Ontario.

Trail King adds reinforcement

Trail King Industries achieves its “smooth wall” look by putting a single sheet of .165" thick 5454 H32 aluminum inside a frame of extruded aluminum. The only stiffening of the single side sheet is a full-length horizontal extruded aluminum beam inside the dump body. This makes six longitudinal extruded body side rails instead of the usual four. The .250" aluminum tempered alloy floor sheet is supported by 4" U-channels on 12" centers.

The 39-ft Ti-Brook aluminum body has a capacity of 65 cubic yards. It rides on 10-ft spread Intraax axles. Equipped with a two-way barn door and aluminum draft arms, the trailer weighs 10,800 pounds. It is produced at the Trail King plant in Brookville, Pennsylvania.

Travis designs new bottom dump

The Travis Body & Trailer, Houston TX, has adapted its Wave form hollow-core extrusion for use with its aluminum bottom-dump trailer.

Used initially in the company's end-dump trailers, the 6061-T6 extrusions have a 15% higher Brinell hardness for improved abrasion resistance. The hollow-core extrusion has a wall thickness of .156" for the inside wall and approximately .10" for the outside wall.

The first Travis Wave bottom dump was exhibited at the Mid-America Trucking Show. It measures 39 feet long and has 69" sidewalls, resulting in a 28-cu-yd capacity. Tare weight is 10,900 pounds.

The infinitely variable aluminum gate is operated by two 8" composite air cylinders. The underbody windrow deflector is a sheet of half-inch UHMW plastic.

Aluminum hoist reduces tare weight

This seven-axle straight truck is designed to gross almost as much as a five-axle tractor and semitrailer. The Peterbilt 357 chassis carries a 24-ft Rhodes aluminum dump body with a 33-cu-yd capacity. It has a tare weight of 25,600 lb wet, allowing a 53,400-lb payload in Missouri. That state permits GVW ratings of 79,000 pounds off the Interstate highways for configurations such as this one and 77,000 pounds on Interstates.

Key to the light weight and high GVWR are the use of aluminum components — including the 40-ton hoist. The aluminum telescopic hoist has an 8" diameter and 220" stroke, yet it weighs only 250 pounds. Dawson Hydraulics of Barrie, Ontario, says this hoist weighs 360 pounds less than a comparable steel hoist and uses 13% less hydraulic fluid. Furthermore, it can operate on a mixture of water and antifreeze instead of oil.

Four 8,000-lb lift axles from Watson & Chalin save additional weight. The seven air tanks required are made of aluminum by Temco in Charlotte, North Carolina.

An American Made Re-Pro UHMW bedliner, 1/4" thick at the front and 3/8" thick at the rear, protects the body. Rhodes Trailers & Truck Bodies of Washington, West Virginia, has built 17 of these trucks for Bobby Hoelsccher Trucking of Warrenton, Missouri.

All-composite trailer saves weight

An all-composite transfer trailer for solid-waste applications is now available from Martin Marietta Composites of Raleigh, North Carolina.

The entire trailer is made of composite materials with the exception of the kingpin, landing gear, axles, wheels, and other running gear components.

Key to the sidewall strength is the Transonite panel. Pictured showing a sample Transonite panel are Jan Vandenberghe, sales manager in Belgium, and Richard Smallwood, sales manager in the United States.

During the pultrusion process, groups of glass fibers are inserted through the foam core to permanently join the inner and outer skins, making the panels much more resistant to delamination.

The company says its tipper and live-floor transfer trailers allow an extra two tons per load.

Peterbilt truck body programs announced

Peterbilt is partnering with America's Body Company and London Machinery to deliver van bodies, platforms, and concrete mixers to truck customers.

America's Body Company will provide installed van bodies and platforms on the Peterbilt Model 335 chassis, Peterbilt said. Through the program, customers order and take delivery of the vehicles through their local Peterbilt dealer.

London Machinery will provide the same service for its rear-discharge mixers.

Bracket helps platforms comply

Ancra International announced the availability of its GlideLock cargo bracket for platform trailers in response to the recent cargo securement regulations.

The GlideLock slides onto rails of standard platform trailers and can be positioned at any point along the trailer. It is designed to provide optimal pull angles for cargo straps. Each bracket is capable of handling a 5,000-lb working load. It prevents cargo from being secured to or over trailer rub rails.

ArvinMeritor adds to heavy-duty brake line

Arvin Meritor Inc continues to expand its Complete Braking System. The latest enhancements were announced at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky.

The heavy-duty manufacturer has expanded its lineup of foundation brakes. The EX225 Air Disc Brake and the Q Plus High Performance Package were developed to address a variety of stopping performance needs.

“These packages give fleets and vehicle operators two new options based on their specific stopping needs,” said Sergio Carvalho, vice-president and general manager of brakes, suspension systems, trailer products, and ride control. “Whether they're running linehaul, or refuse pick-up, for example, we have a braking solution to fit their requirements while keeping their cost of ownership in mind.”

Specifically designed to optimize stopping performance on tractor-trailer combinations, the package is comprised of 16.5" × 5" front and 16.5" × 7" rear Q Plus brakes. Also included in the package are enhanced friction materials, such as Meritor MA210, higher output air chambers, and a Meritor automatic slack adjuster.

The high performance package provides 30% to 60% more brake torque than conventional cam brakes, which translates into 20% to 25% shorter stopping distances on typical tractor-trailer combinations. The larger front brakes also provide 65% more wearable lining volume than current front brakes, which increases service life. The package is available with optional 16.5" × 8.62" Q Plus wide rear brakes for more demanding applications that require increased fade resistance and longer service life.

“The Q Plus High Performance Package includes many features that set it apart from conventional cam brakes,” Carvalho said. “These features provide our customers with a solution to the anticipated federal stopping regulations changes without a significant increase in acquisition costs.”

The EX225 incorporates innovative technologies to deliver one of the leading air disc brake packages available on the market today. Greater heat dissipation boosts stopping power, fade resistance, and durability. Quick-change pads provide ease of maintenance, reducing downtime and potential service costs. In addition, the EX225 platform provides the maximum wearable lining volume in the industry extending service life.

Providing further options for the fleet and vehicle operator, this platform offers a range of friction-couple (pad and rotor) solutions to meet the differing stopping needs of the marketplace.

  • A high performance friction couple provides optimum stopping performance for vocations subjected to aggressive driving conditions and excessive payload capacities.

  • A city service friction couple provides optimum pad/rotor wear-performance for vocations subjected to higher stops-per-mile at reduced maximum speeds.

  • A linehaul friction couple provides long life for typical on-highway applications comparable with competitive brake shoe offerings.

The Complete Braking System from ArvinMeritor and Meritor WABCO offers the most comprehensive product availability, including truck, tractor and trailer anti-lock braking systems (pneumatic and hydraulic); electronic braking systems; air dryers; air brake control valves; air compressors; air cam brakes (including high-performance drum brakes); air disc brakes; automatic slack adjusters; friction materials; hubs and drums; and stability control systems for straight trucks, tractors, and trailers.

Bendix to make air disc brakes in North America

Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC announced plans to manufacture air disc brakes in North America starting in the fourth quarter 2004. The announcement was made at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky.

Production will take place at an existing Bendix manufacturing facility in Frankfort, Kentucky, and total investment for tooling and related costs will be approximately $3 million. Bendix anticipates production volume for its ADB 225 and its newest design option, the Bendix ADB 22X air disc brake, to easily meet the anticipated increase in demand over the next few years. The company expects to steadily approach full plant capacity of 120,000 North American units by 2006. Additional production is available at company facilities worldwide. Bendix parent company Knorr-Bremse currently has production volumes exceeding one million air disc brakes annually.

“Bringing air disc brake production capability to North America demonstrates our commitment to this technology. We view this product as the future of braking in North America,” said Tom Wladyka, air disc brakes product line director, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems. “Manufacturing air disc brakes here allows us to meet anticipated demand and helps to further reduce the overall cost to the end user.”

Bendix, together with Knorr-Bremse, is the world's leading producer of air disc brakes, with 7 million units on the roads today in Europe and another 60,000 in North America, according to Bendix officials. Air disc brakes are proven to significantly reduce stopping distances for commercial vehicles, as well as virtually eliminate brake fade.

The Bendix ADB 22X is a further enhanced version of the current Bendix ADB 225 disc brake, designed for improved wheel fit with North American vehicles. It offers improved brake responsiveness with a passenger-car-like feel, and improved brake balance and wear.

“Today's air disc brake is a dramatic improvement over past generations,” said Ron Plantan, principal engineer for Bendix air disc brakes. “It has a larger rotor that absorbs more energy, achieves better ventilation, and is an overall more robust system than past versions. Our North American air disc brake design utilizes the proven Knorr-Bremse air disc brake technology, a dynamic and evolving product that has been leading the European commercial vehicle market and serving the needs of global customers since the early 1990s.”

R&D and engineering support for the North American facility will be handled primarily at the company's headquarters in Elyria, Ohio. The Bendix Frankfort plant, ISO14001 and QS9000 certified, has been a strong Franklin County, Kentucky, employer since 1967.

Dana showcases suspension technologies

Dana Corporation showed off some of its latest product developments at the 2004 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky. One of the newest products unveiled is the FrontRunner air-over-leaf front suspension.

Still under development, the FrontRunner suspension is designed for durability and reliability. It can provide better operator comfort with improved vehicle handling and control and reduced fatigue.

The FrontRunner accomplishes this through the integration of current and advanced suspension technologies that combine a single taper leaf spring and a specially designed air spring. New composite materials are used in the suspension.

Among other new products from Dana are two new steering axles and the latest in tandem-drive axles.