Trailerbodybuilders 369 Randy Flanagan

TTMA Convention report: A view of new trailer products

June 1, 2011
FOURTEEN TTMA associate members delivered news about their companies' trailer-related products and services during the TTMA convention. This year's convention

FOURTEEN TTMA associate members delivered news about their companies' trailer-related products and services during the TTMA convention.

This year's convention had two such sessions on the program, during which each of the participants had four minutes to explain their product and its benefits.

Here are the 14 who offered an update:

Fusion Beam from SAF-Holland

SAF-HOLLAND has introduced Fusion Beam Technology for its trailer suspension systems.

Randy Flanagan said the concept optimizes trailing arm beam weight without compromising structural integrity. It combines casting strength with fabrication flexibility that provides a variety of beam configurations. The key is the new fabricated tailpiece that is fused on the back of the cast steel beam, creating a component that can be customized for a wide range of systems applications.

Together with the new SAF X-Series 5¾" diameter, 9 mm wall axle, the CBX Series offers substantial weight savings over previous models.

  • The CBX40 with 265 Fusion Beam and optimized axle is designed for van and reefer trailers, offering a total system weight savings of over 90 lbs.

  • The CBX23 with 245 Fusion Beam is built for flatbed trailers. When configured with an X-Series 9 mm optimized axle, it is 70 pounds light than its predecessor.

  • The CBX23 with 317 Fusion Beam for livestock, grain, dry bulk and medium-duty tanker trailers is 30 lbs lighter per system.

  • The CBX25 with 338 Fusion Beam for tankers and loggers saves over 45 lbs of weight and the CBX25 can also be outfitted with a shorter 245 Fusion Beam for special applications such as dump trailers. This configuration trims an additional 12 lbs per suspension system.

  • The CBX25/30 with 245 Fusion Beam, rated at 25,000 lbs, can carry 30,000-lb loads at creep speeds.

The Fusion Beam and optimized axle is a new step forward in the overall SAF-Holland strategy of offering a wider range of lightweight, application-specific systems for the North American market — suspension systems, axle design, integral disc brake technology, component optimization, and advanced corrosion protection treatment for total system integration.

Main Steel now distributing metals

Main Steel Polishing Company is stocking metal in all of its locations and has just implemented a metals distribution business. Non-standard grades, alloys, and sizes can be ordered. Plans are to get into extrusions and tubular products, according to Keith Medick.

Flat-rolled products, along with all common stainless and aluminum alloys are available at its stamping and fabricating division in Schiller Park, Illinois, just south of O'Hare Airport. Main Steel has 54 presses (10 to 1000 tons), lasers, and plasma punch. Main Steel also does painting, stamping, and product engineering at this facility.

The company was founded in 1956 in Bronx, New York, and acquired in March by Shale-Inland. There are seven locations in six states, with 250 employees. The company touches over 600 million pounds of metal processed within the United States, primarily stainless and aluminum.

“Our goal is to deliver stainless, aluminum and carbon steel, and also finished piece parts on a just-in-time basis, to the North American truck and trailer industry,” Medick said. “We also touch many other industries. We sell to many through our Shale Aluminum Stamping Fabrication Division. We also touch industries such as cookware manufacturers.

“Our goal is to help you redesign, lower the cost, and optimize the supply chain of our OEM customers. How can we do this? First, with seven locations in six states around the country to serve your needs. Our locations are: Los Angeles California; Chicago, Illinois; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Youngstown, Ohio; Union, New Jersey; and Atlanta, Georgia.

“We have a vast array of processing capabilities from slitting to cut-to-length, as well as finishing in coil polishing, sheet polishing, and coil and sheet buffing. Our processing capabilities are pretty extensive on the polishing grinding and buffing side.”

He said the company does dairy finish, wet or dry polishing, multi-directional Scotchbrite and also developed a faux finish for food-equipment manufacturers. The company buffs both flat product as well as coiled product.

New lightweight wheel from Accuride

Accuride has introduced a new light-weight aluminum wheel family called Accu-Lite. The standard industry wheels will be 22.5" × 8.25" and 24.5" × 8.25", as well as duplex wheels that remove some of the weight. The company also is introducing its new 24.5" × 8.25" heavy-duty aluminum wheel that will be available soon.

“With weight reduction, what have we accomplished?” said Greg Nelson. “Out of our standard 24.5" wheel, we were able to get another pound. On the 22.5" × 8.25", we were able to take out an additional two pounds. But we really made some headway in the duplex wheels — seven pounds out of the 2" offset duplex wheel and 12 pounds out of ½-inch offset duplex wheel.

“What does this mean to our customers in fleets? We all know they are trying to get every pound they can out of their equipment to improve fuel economy and increase payload, etc. Accuride is now the lightest-weight wheel in each category.

“No matter what the tractor-trailer configuration is for a typical five-axle, Accuride offers the lightest-weight reduction in the industry. On the duplex wheels, we offer nearly 20 pounds per configuration; on the 24.5", almost 40 pounds per configuration. Where you run multiple axles, that only multiplies the weight savings that our fleets can now use for extra payload or extra fuel economy.”

He said the company is developing a Weight Savings Calculator Tool that can be used by fleets as a marketing tool. Enter the configuration of the rig, what product you're using from Accuride, the competitor's product, and then quickly it tells you what the payback is, what the weight savings could be, what the fuel savings could be, etc.

He said the company went to the market and procured a significant amount of wheels of its competitors' products and compared them against the company's products using a gloss meter.

“We took three different places on the wheel in trailer position from the inside to the outside,” he said. “We took three different measurements of all the wheels and the results show that we have the highest gloss of any domestic competitor, and we have very tight variations from the inside to the outside. The duplex wheel 22.5" is ready now, and the duplex wheel 24.5" will be ready in June.”

Hutchens releases new trailer slider

After years of testing, Hutchens has released the new Hutch Series 10 van trailer slider that was developed as a lighter-weight, durable sub-frame and suspension system. This slider, which has a 10-year warranty, combines new design concepts with lighter materials and advanced welding capabilities.

The Series 10 works with all current standard Hutchens van slider body rails, so it can be used in place of any 9800 series slider. And because it was designed to utilize Hutchens' extensive production capabilities, the Series 10 production process insures consistency in the final product, and the lowest cost for customers and end users, Mike White said.

Leading the new design is the nine-inch-deep frame, made from high-strength, low-alloy, 76 KSI minimum-yield steel. Some features:

  • Corrosion-resistant, C-channel side rails with optimized flange contours reduce weight and resist corrosion. The individual hanger towers provide substantial vertical load support.

  • Full-depth crossmembers provide optimal lateral support.

  • Huck fasteners are used at high-stress crossmember attachments.

  • The lower-profile hybrid hangers reduce frame stresses, while the frame itself provides maximum durability at the impact zones.

  • The wide, center hanger footprint increases frame and hanger life.

  • The rocker connection is Huck-fastened, so it's maintenance-free.

The strategically placed, large-diameter lock pins, and heavy-duty hold-down clips are specifically located to resist braking loads, and sliding forces. Half-inch-thick wear pads at all spring contact points help extend service life. The patented EZ-Pull pin release system makes repositioning simple.

“Using knowledge from decades of slider production and customer feedback, along with state-of-the-art FEA and controlled-benchmark testing in our Engineering Research Laboratory, the new Series 10 Slider is the highest quality, lightest weight, most durable van slider we've ever produced,” White said. “It's designed from the ground up to be less expensive than other options and as cost-effective as possible for our customers.”

Western Extrusions on cutting edge

Dave Ifft said Western Extrusions is committed to delivering the superior service and quality that meets customers' specifications and timetable. Services are done on-site at Western's 700,000-square-foot facility located on 65 acres in Carrollton, Texas.

“Our extrusion technology and capabilities are second to none,” he said. “Western Extrusions offers five presses, ranging from 7" to 14" diameter. Extrusions can be produced up to 19" wide, 60' long, and 25 lbs per foot.

“We run a wide variety of alloys for virtually any market, including commercial and residential building and construction, transportation, consumer durables, distribution, and electrical. Our commitment to your finished product's quality doesn't end with our versatility. Western Extrusions provides sophisticated on-site metallurgical analyses. Our metallurgist can certify mechanical properties, billet chemistry, and perform microstructure analysis.”

He said Western Extrusions' machinery includes precision high-volume saws, miter saws, punching, assembly, welding, knurling, and embossing. Its milling department features five CNC machines, including the 60-foot-long bed CMS-brand Avant.

“No other US extrusion plant has this Italian-made machine, featuring state-of-the-art technology,” he said.

Western can shape extrusions with its stretch-forming, mandrel-bending and roll-form-bending machines, and will fabricate exactly to specifications, Ifft said.

Optronics honored by NATM

Optronics, a truck and trailer exterior and interior manufacturing lighting company, received this year's Supplier of the Year Award from the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers.

The company has three distribution and/or manufacturing facilities in North America, and the product is also manufactured in Taiwan, Muskogee, Oklahoma, Elkhart, Indiana, and Toronto, Ontario. Optronics has 150,000 square feet under roof. All of its distribution facilities are paperless, automatic-warehouse management systems, with SAP implemented starting June 1.

Brett Johnson said the company is primarily an OEM supplier, with about 70% of its volume to the OEM and 30% to the aftermarket.

“Our strongest markets are in the light to medium-duty trailers,” he said. “We are very strong in the recreational vehicle. We supply to every major motor home and towable manufacturer out of that facility — both interior and exterior, from fluorescent to halogen to exterior lighting. Specialty vehicles are serviced out of our Elkhart facility, particularly in the transit vehicles with our partnership with Thor Motor Coach and Forest River. We have committed to the heavy-duty market — the investments, the people, the engineering, the products — to be successful in this market.

“New products are the lifeblood of our company. Over the last 10 years, products less than two years old have represented around 15% of our sales every year. To say that we are diligent in our compliance testing would be an understatement. We have equipment in our two United States facilities that does all of the FMVSS 108 testing, as well as company-owned equipment in Taiwan. Basically every product that is shipped out of our distribution facility is referenced with compliance documentation by the purchase order number on the master.

“Our strength is ‘customization’ for our OEM customers and their dealer networks. We have a very custom marketing program, whether it is promotions, add or show flyers or displays. We do a custom program for our customers to help drive their sales through their dealers.”

AXN Heavy Duty Launches Axle Line

In the past year, AXN has changed its name from Trax and completed the launch of a full line of trailers axles, Jim Sharkey said.

“Designed by experts, backed with experience, the AXN axles have been designed to deliver the lowest cost of ownership today,” he said. “With a full range of options, including disc brakes, tracks, and beam configurations, AXN has the axles to meet your needs. Additionally, our axles provide significant advantages in durability while still being among the lightest in the industry.”

AXN axles are manufactured in a state-of-the art, 5.5-million-square-foot manufacturing complex, which is designed by, and run by, AXN leadership. The facility is a vertically integrated model, allowing AXN to control all aspects relating to quality. It has a combined capacity of over a million axles a year.

AXN utilizes a seamless tube formed into a true single-piece beam. This includes an integral collar for both straight and tapered spindle, as well as cleaned and dried axle interiors to allow for internal pressure venting.

Additionally, both the inner and outer bearing journals are both hardened for longer life, again both for tapered and straight spindles.

“This is very important with the increased use of wide-based singles and offset wheels,” Sharkey said. “All these features deliver durability and increases of 46% to 200% in all key areas. Our brake-system improvements continue. The brake mounting is optimized for the truest fit between the linings and the drums. Our machine does robotic welding of brackets to assure consistent welding performance.”

He said AXN is the company in North America that manufactures its own proprietary line of brake linings standard with extended service brakes. Certified in both the United States and Canada, they are standard with premium e-coated shoes that deliver 500 hours of salt spray or more for greater resistance to corrosion and rust jacking.

“Combined, these features provide fleets with premium performance that they demand out of their brakes,” he said.

“Having a new axle supplier shouldn't mean turning your customer's maintenance upside down. We designed our products to be ‘fleet friendly,’ with common interchangeable parts that are on the shelves today.

“In an ever-increasing market, we strive to exceed expectations by stocking over 5000 axles of standard and non-standard specifications. Additionally, to allow our customers freight optimization, they can combine axle shipments with other products that we offer, and to improve inventory turns and working capital such as our 50K and 60K landing gear that is available today. Coming later this summer will also be the launch of our integrated air suspensions starting with our 23K vocational and 40K sliding tandem market.”

‘A revolution’ from Truck-Lite

Truck-Lite has introduced Flex-Lite, which Lewis Stern says is “a revolution in PC-rated clearance/marker lighting.” The Flex-Lite stands just 0.75 inches high, and 1.5 inches wide, protruding less than half of an inch from the surface.

“So, how small is the Flex-Lite? Very small,” he said. “No tools or mounting accessories are needed. It's also available in a winged version, which can flex around corners. It features a ground-breaking adhesive that will not only keep the Flex-Lite attached permanently, but will also seal out moisture. Simply drill a hole and run the wiring through.

“‘But wait!’ you say. ‘I don't want to drill holes into my new trailer or vehicle.’ Don't worry. We were thinking of you too when we designed the Flex-Lite. The Flex-Lite offers bottom-exit wiring as well in both winged and non-winged versions.

“The Flex-Lite's custom adhesive backing has been rigorously tested against pressure-washing, rain, snow, heat, ice, and shock. Now I know what you're thinking: ‘Yeah, but what if the Flex-Lite were to be wrapped around the corner of a certified five-pound weight. Could it lift that?’ Well, let's see what would happen anyway. It lowers or even eliminates the need for expensive mounting tools and accessories. It features Truck-Lite's high-quality LEDs that last over 100,000 hours. It's designed with a single piece thermoplastic housing that's molded directly around the lens.”

Hendrickson tackles tire-pressures

Baine Adams said that you don't need mounting industry statistics to convince truckers that tires account for approximately 50% of total maintenance expenses on trailers; tire flats and failures are the number one cause of trailer breakdowns; and tires are second only to fuel in operating costs.

“As a trailer OEM, you know tires are extremely important to a fleet's bottom line,” he said. “What causes tires to wear too fast, reduce casing life or even fail? The prime culprit remains improper inflation. Over-inflation can cause as many problems as under-inflation, and trailers equipped with current automatic tire inflation systems cannot address over-inflated tires or tires with unequal pressures.”

He said Hendrickson now delivers a “revolutionary solution” to help fleet managers and owner operators maintain proper tire pressure: TIREMAAX PRO is the first and only automatic tire inflation system in the trailer industry capable of active inflation, deflation, and balancing. He said this gives fleets and owner operators a new tool to minimize costly tire wear and improve productivity and fuel mileage.

TIREMAAX PRO features a mechanical design that constantly monitors tire pressure to respond to underinflated tires and changes in outside temperature that can cause over-inflated tires. The patent-pending system draws from the trailer air supply to help keep all the trailer tires properly inflated and rolling smoothly.

TIREMAAX PRO detects pressure dips below a preset level in one or more tires and directs air to the tire. The system responds to changes in outside temperature and prevents over-inflation by relieving air from the tires. This excess pressure flows back through the supply lines and exhausts at the controller.

The system equalizes the pressure at every tire on the trailer, using special valves in the hubcap that will allow air flow to and from the tires, which automatically close when necessary. The high-tech controller ensures tires are never deflated below the recommended guidelines provided by the tire manufacturer.

The TIREMAAX PRO hubcap integrates the tire hose connection and rotary union mounting to simplify packaging. This hubcap eliminates the need for additional tee fittings or guards. Axle air lines, delivery lines, tire hoses, and other plumbing components are proven designs with millions of miles of real-world applications.

With robust components and no electronics, transducers or pressure switches, TIREMAAX PRO is easy to maintain, he said. A signal light, installed in view of the driver, notifies the operator of TIREMAAX PRO's system status and maintenance requirements. The system is easy to adjust by a technician and also operates on either a 12- or 24-volt electrical system.

New brake chamber from Bendix

Bendix has introduce the new EverSure spring brake chamber.

Bill Gantz said one of the main contributors of life issue with today's chambers is failure of the power spring. By increasing the height of the power spring, Bendix has eliminated coil clash and added life to the product.

“Our technical team has developed a method to mechanically attach the adaptor push rod to the parking diaphragm, reducing friction losses due to side loads and allowing for the elimination of the park return spring,” he said. “Our technical team also has further reduced internal friction losses with the design of the next generation single O-ring center seal that further reduces internal friction losses. Rear housing has been redesigned and achieves 0.7 pounds of weight reduction and improved vibration durability. Another key feature is the reduction in size of rubber diaphragm thickness by 30%, resulting in extended cycle life.

“Durability and reliability are what our joint end customers continue to demand. They want products that will last and withstand the harsh road environments they face today. The EverSure product addresses this need. The power spring incorporates a unique e-coat seal process that provides protection well above any competitive product on the market. Bendix uses premium zinc plating on the spring housing, and we e-coat the non-pressure housing and clamp band to provide superior protection.” He said that by reducing coil clash and utilizing the Bendix e-coat process, the company has a product that beats competitive offerings in side-by-side environmental testing by a 2-to-1 ratio. The EverSure features an advanced slotted center seal design to improve alignment of moving parts; it protects against leakage between chambers, extends product life, and improves product performance, he said. Diaphragms are manufactured with heavy-duty materials in order to resist abrasion and contaminants.

“The new EverSure product gives Bendix the lightest-weight chamber on the market today,” he said. “We are beating our competition by almost two pounds per chamber. The lighter weight will provide fuel savings to fleets, increase payloads, lower stress on the unit, improve the fatigue life for chamber brackets, and add vibration-durability characteristics.”

The product features a base warranty from three years to four years.

Meritor unveils new suspensions

Meritor has introduced the MTA23 Series of trailer suspensions, a complete lineup of trailing-arm suspensions featuring “hard-working, road-proven components ready for a full range of trailer applications,” according to Walter Sherbourne.

MTA Series trailer suspensions are available in top- and low-mount configurations, with a complete offering of suspension options.

“How did we pull it off? With patented technology,” Sherbourne said. “A patented long-life pivot bushing with steel interleaf shims that minimizes roll steer, improves tire life and increases durability. An advanced axle wrap, weld design that provides a secure, robust axle connection. Shock absorbers that are specifically designed for Meritor MTA Series for increased damping power, greater control, and increased tread life. There's also a pivot and alignment connection that better manages road forces. All of our suspensions are equipped with genuine Meritor axles and brakes.

“You get dedicated, responsive suspension specialists and product training. Fast parts availability through 5300 distributor and OE dealer locations. Spec optimization and application engineering support. Personal attention and after-sale support. And real-time support and warranty administration.”

MacLean unveils locking spindle nut

Jay Pawlak said the Integralok is the “newest and most technologically advanced locking spindle nut assembly for truck and trailer axles.”

“The clicks you hear are caused by integral locking elements designed to create a positive barrier against nut back-off,” he said. “In effect, once properly installed, Integralok virtually locks in position on the spindle, ensuring correct bearing adjustment on manually set hubs. With the introduction of pre-set hubs, the need for wheel-bearing endplay adjustment was eliminated. However, these hubs require increased torque values for steer, drive, and trailer hub spindle nut application. These increased torque requirements put several spindle nut solutions at risk of failure.”

Integralok was designed to withstand 300 pounds per foot of torque, and more, without damage, and was rigorously tested in a laboratory and on a test track.

“The Integralok spindle nut logged significant test mileage on the PaveTrack test track on trailers carrying substantial loads before we felt comfortable releasing our findings and product samples to the major OEMs for further testing,” he said. “Test results in our laboratories at METFORM showed an impressive increase in initial application clamp load over the two closest competitors. Clamp load is the force exerted by the fastener on the joint and is directly related to the time the joint stays together.

“While Integralok demonstrated a slight increase in initial clamping force compared to our own Axilok product, it generated 15% more clamp force than the best-known competing spindle nut and 32% more clamp force than competitor B. Equally important, neither of the competitive products has an integral locking ability. Each requires some user interaction to confirm the nut is installed correctly.

“The patent-pending Integralok system is an integrated assembly with four components: a nut, a hardened steel washer, a locking collar and a spring. The nut is forged steel and incorporates a series of locking segments that engage with segments on the locking collar to eliminate nut rotation in reverse. The locking collar forces the system to lock. A one-way ratchet design allows the nut to be installed using a standard six-sided socket without having to disengage the lock. Removal of the nut requires depressing the locking collar to release the locking elements.

“An initial design requirement was that Integralok be configured to allow automated assembly on a line for the OEMs. Concurrent with that was the dictate that no user confirmation be required to determine the locking action. Integralok by MacLean Metform meets all the design requirements established and is ready for production.”

Valspar says sustainability sells

How does Valspar view sustainability? And what does it mean to you as a marketing tool? Tom McAfee provided the answers.

“Our customers — the railroads, fleets, and large retailers — all have sustainability plans,” he said. “If they are publicly traded companies, they have a corporate officer that is in charge. Have you seen the CSX television commercial where they have the nice blue containers stacked? Unfortunately, this goes against our market. They show 50 trailer loads, 300 miles and one gallon of fuel burned. This is a good example of how sustainability can work as a marketing tool.”

He said the definition of sustainability is “the ability to endure.”

“Typically when you talk about sustainability today, it means the ecological impact,” he said. “Why this is important? The 1989 Clean Air Act is the genesis of all the sustainability discussions today. If you continued to use high solvent-containing coating, you would continue to greatly deplete the ozone, and that is not sustainability. If you continued to improperly dispose of unused coating materials and then contaminate the ground water, this is not sustainability. Likewise, if you did not properly protect your employees during use of coating materials, your employees would not be sustainable. And you as a company would not be sustainable.

“Today, we use zinc as galvanizing to protect various metal parts on trailers as well as zinc-rich coatings. Think about how we get zinc. It starts out as a mineral in the ground. It has to be extracted from the ground. It uses a lot of energy, then we have to process the zinc. You have heavy metal by-products as a result, and it releases gasses during that process. When you spray zinc-rich coatings, that's not very sustainable, but it is one of the best coatings we can use in the marketplace today to protect the trailers that we produce.”

Some examples of what some companies are doing today because of the 1989 Clean Air Act to reduce solvent omissions:

  • A component supplier made the conscious decision to move away from typical 3.5 coatings to a .5-pound-per-gallon coating. And at the same time, it was able to dramatically improve performance. The company was able to use that as a marketing tool, and that's a value-added tool today.
  • Another trailer manufacturer has switched from a zinc-containing powder and is now using a functional epoxy powder that Valspar supplies.
  • Another company that recently reopened a facility plans to go from a solvent-containing coating that puts out about 3.5-pounds-per-gallon to a product that is .5-pounds-per-gallon and will be able to save tens of thousands of tons of solvent going into the atmosphere.

SFI provides ‘competitive advantage’

Todd Weber said SFI is a full-service steel fabrication organization with 1.3 million square feet under roof, operations in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Ohio, and 850 employees.

SFI has manufacturing, robotics, and sales engineers to support and interface with customers.

“Our robotics engineers have put in place the necessary resources, such as Genesis and SmartTCP control platforms, to save you valuable time with the consistency only a robot can provide,” he said.

“Our manufacturing engineers are adept in all aspects of the manufacturing process. Our engineers' intuitive thinking with form, fit, and function will help you improve your design. We will help you with better material utilization, lowering your overall costs and increasing your total savings. We produce tool and die sets onsite, designing, fabricating, and maintaining tooling in our own machine shop.

“SFI is the only fabricator to use Apriori quoting software. Using solid modeling, and a virtual manufacturing environment, Apriori allows us to quote faster and more efficiently. Strategic partners simply drop their part into Apriori, at their facility, and have an automatic SFI quote.

“SFI does packaging, kitting and inventory control. SFI can establish kanban inventory programs. We can combine, consolidate, and sequence inventory from multiple suppliers, then deliver to the customer, ready for use, letting you concentrate on your core business, not housekeeping.”