New trailer designs displayed

May 1, 2007
TRAILER manufacturers rolled out a variety of new models at the 2007 edition of the Mid-America Trucking Show March 22-24 in Louisville, Kentucky. The

TRAILER manufacturers rolled out a variety of new models at the 2007 edition of the Mid-America Trucking Show March 22-24 in Louisville, Kentucky.

The event drew 75,525 attendees from all 50 states and 58 foreign countries to see more than a million square feet of trucking-related exhibits. They visited 1,067 exhibitors from 47 states and 11 foreign countries.

Plans are already underway for the 2008 show. It will be held March 27-29, 2008 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky. For more information, please visit the show web site at

Here are some of the highlights from this year's event:

Fontaine Trailer Company designs all-aluminum Revolution platform

Fontaine Trailer Company believes the new concepts designed into its all-aluminum platform are revolutionary enough to name the new flatbed the “Revolution”. As proof, it offers up trailer numbers “never seen before in the trailer industry”, to quote its own press release: The Revolution weighs less than 7,800 lb, yet can handle a 60,000-lb payload concentrated in four feet.

The new concepts start with the main frame beams that are 26 inches deep and have a 12" wide bottom flange. The extrusions include a substantial fillet on the outside at the web-flange juncture. Near the top of the web section is a continuous plate welded at a 45-degree angle to further support the outer ends of the floor extrusions, which run laterally rather than longitudinally.

The top flange of the beam is the extruded floor. That is, the beam web section is welded directly to the floor extrusions, which also introduce a new concept. The lateral floor extrusions are both crossmembers and deckplates. These hollow core extrusions are 3½" deep and have internally four voids and five web sections. Externally, they have slots on the top side for securing extruded aluminum blocks for attachment of tiedown equipment and blocking loads.

While most of these extruded floor sections run laterally across the trailer, the outermost extrusion at each side is longitudinal so that load-securing blocks and tiedowns can be positioned anywhere along the length of the trailer. Then the one-piece siderail extrusion is welded outboard of the longitudinal floor board. This siderail is also a hollow-core extrusion with cut-out sections for the side stakes. In addition, a sliding winch track is positioned below the deck.

Welding of all the hollow-core floor extrusions together to make a solid deck borrows technology from the aerospace industry. The process is called friction-stir welding. A rotating tungsten bit is used to plasticize the aluminum below its melting point, fusing the metal to a depth of about four millimeters (3/16“). This solidly welded deck, which is itself the top flange of the beam, plus the 12" wide bottom flange, greatly reduce flexing and make the unitized construction very stable on the road, according to the design engineer, Jim Adams.

The suspension hangers and air bags are bolted directly to the main beam flanges at the point where 26" C-channel crossmembers run between the frame members. At the front, the entire upper coupler is of aluminum construction, and the 5/16" steel rubbing plate and kingpin are bolted to the aluminum structure.

The clean underside of the trailer, with no exposed floor crossmembers and no side braces, contributes to the aerodynamic, sleek look. All electrical wiring is protected inside the hollow-core extrusions

Scale weight of the 48-ft, 102" wide Revolution introduced at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville KY, was 7,830 lb, but Fontaine officials assure that production trailers will weigh less. The new and patent-pending concepts help reduce weight of the Revolution 500 lb below other all-aluminum trailers of equal size and strength, Fontaine engineers claim. Fontaine Trailer Company, Haleyville AL.

East Manufacturing Corp adds smooth floor to Genesis dump trailer

The concept of a smooth sidewall inside and outside the trailer using hollow-core extrusions has contributed greatly to payload capacity and reduced air drag in dump trailers. Now the next step is a smooth floor inside and outside the dump trailer — again using hollow core extrusions.

East Manufacturing Corp introduced its Genesis dump trailer five years ago using vertical hollow-core extrusions in the sidewall. The internal stiffeners inside the extruded panel result in a thinner sidewall and wider load width. Now East's Genesis II adds to that concept with hollow-core extrusions for the complete floor including integral crossmembers. The Genesis II was introduced at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville.

By running the three-inch deep extruded panels laterally across the frameless dump trailer, the internal stiffeners act as crossmembers, supporting the load every six inches. Since these stiffeners or web sections are flared out at the top and bottom, they actually support the floor load over a wider area. This results in a space of only 4¼" that is unsupported between stiffeners.

By fully integrating the stronger, more rigid floor with the sidewalls, the trailer has increased rigidity during dumping, according to David Tate, president of East Manufacturing. The smooth bottom contributes to improved aerodynamics for reduced fuel consumption. Since there are no exposed crossmembers to collect ice, mud, and snow, maintenance is reduced.

The two-way, rear tailgate is constructed using the same vertical hollow-core extruded panels incorporated inside a perimeter frame. The front bulkhead is a 3/16" aluminum sheet in a full wrap-around design.

The first application of the Genesis II floor is in a frameless dump trailer having aluminum seamless tube draft arms. The smooth bottom of the trailer is enhanced by air deflection panels for reduced drag at the suspension subframe. All brake air lines and wiring are enclosed so they are not exposed to the elements.

Weight of the 52-yard trailer is 10,450 lb. It is 39 feet long, 96 inches wide, and has 60-inch high sidewalls. East Manufacturing Corp, Randolph Ohio.

Manac combines all-steel frame with galvanized steel deck

While Manac continues optimizing its combo aluminum-and-steel platforms, the company is putting new emphasis on the all-steel version. Specifically, Manac is combining its all-steel frame with a galvanized steel deck. The new model shown at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville is pictured on top of the stack of three flatbed trailers.

Floor crossmembers are four-inch deep, hot-dipped galvanized I-beams on 12-inch centers. The side rails are roll-formed high tensile steel, also hot-dipped galvanized. The three-piece main frame beams are fully welded on both sides of the web. After the steel frame is welded together, it is shot-blasted and painted. Then air and electrical lines are run before floor installation.

The 48-ft by 102" platform trailer on display scaled 11,650 lb. Specifications include Intraax 23,000-lb air-suspended axles spread to 122", apitong flooring, 12 sliding winches, and standard LED lights.

Manac also announced that a new plant for all platform trailers will be opened in June in Kennett, Missouri, in the southeastern tip of the state between Arkansas and Tennessee. Manac's other Missouri plant is in Oran, about 70 miles to the north and near Cape Girardeau. Sales offices are in Pittsburgh PA. MANAC, St Georges, Quebec, Canada.

Great Dane displays aerodynamic trailer

The high cost of fuel is causing some large fleets to look for answers in trailer design to produce a more aerodynamic vehicle. Wal-Mart Stores, for example, is experimenting with various trailer designs that might be more efficient in serving their wide-spread network of retail stores. Wal-Mart asked Great Dane Trailers for help, and one of the trailer designs that evolved was exhibited at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville.

In the first phase of this redesign, Wal-Mart tried reducing the frontal area of the van trailer. A trailer with a 16-inch drop in the floor behind the upper coupler was tested a year ago. It did reduce air drag by eight percent, but loading and unloading proved to be a problem. It rode on wide-base single tires, and the height was lowered farther by incorporating low wheel boxes. A lifting suspension could raise the rear to dock height.

The second phase took a more refined approach to trailer aerodynamics and resulted in the trailer exhibited at Mid-America in the Great Dane Trailers booth. It has a curved front wall and more generous front corner radii, a full skirt under the body, and a boat-tail at the rear. The front wall is parabolic, and front corners have a six-inch radius. A curved roof cap is planned, but getting the proper shape cast requires more time.

The polypropylene full skirt is experimental. The forward portion ahead of the wheels is a standard product available from the Canadian firm of Laydon Composites. However, the full wheel covers and the portion behind the wheels are new and untried. Questions such as access to the wheels are still under study. The trailer rides on Bridgestone Graytech wide-base tires.

The boat-tail rear is made by positioning the rear frame farther forward and adding a secondary frame at the rear, a frame having the same height and slightly wider opening than needed for the Whiting Roll-up door. The result of the change to the boat-tail rear and the aerodynamic front wall is a loss of about 24 inches in the 53-ft long trailer, or two pallet positions. The completed trailer scales about l,000 lb less than Wal-Mart's typical stainless steel van trailer in the existing fleet.

In addition to the aerodynamic features and fuel-saving goals, Wal-Mart is trying to achieve a more environmentally friendly design. Charles Fetz, vice-president of research and development at Great Dane, and Adam Hill, designer of the trailer, point out that all the component materials are recyclable, such as aluminum and steel. The plywood backing for the SSL (single-side laminate) steel interior lining comes from a renewable source — -plantation-grown eucalyptus trees.

They emphasize that the aerodynamic design exhibited at the Mid-America Trucking show is just phase two in a long process of designing a trailer that is more friendly to the environment. Great Dane, a division of Great Dane Limited Partnership, Chicago IL.

Wilkens adds belt for moving-floor trailer

Wilkens Manufacturing, which has built thousands of moving-floor trailers, introduced another concept at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville. Its newest option, called the “Xtreme” is a wide belt that needs no chains underneath. The flat belt slides on the smooth floor of the trailer. The belt in the 96" wide trailer on display is 84" wide.

Art Wilkens, president, says that the belt requires only 60 seconds to unload the 45-ft trailer. A hydraulic motor drives a drum mounted at the rear under the floor, winding the belt onto the drum. After unloading, another drum and hydraulic motor at the front rewind the belt forward. Besides the speed and ease of unloading, he says the belt lowers the center of gravity of a moving floor trailer.

The company currently has three manufacturing plants: Stockton KS, Bethel PA, and Plainview TX. It will soon have a fourth plant. Wilkens has purchased the former Trailmobile refrigerated trailer manufacturing plant in Liberal, Kansas, and hopes to be operating out of that huge manufacturing facility by late summer. It is located almost in the Oklahoma panhandle, 225 miles southwest of its present headquarters in Stockton. Wilkens Manufacturing Inc, 1480 South Hwy 183, Stockton KS 67669.

Swan-neck heat treated for extra strength

Latest model of the MAC Trailer all-aluminum drop-deck platform was on display at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville. The bottom flange of the swan-neck for the drop in the frame is formed, welded, and then sent out for heat-treatment before bolting it to the main frame.

Equipped with Intraax air-suspended axles spread to 122 inches, double spools and stake pockets, 10 sliding winches and two nailer strips, this 51-ft long, 102" wide all-aluminum drop-deck platform weighs 10,400 lb. MAC Trailer Manufacturing, 14599 Commerce St, Alliance, Ohio 44601.

About the Author

Paul Schenck | Senior Editor