Several companies, including Great Dane and Peterbilt, teamed up to produce this concept vehicle for Walmart.

Visitors to Mid-America Trucking Show view some potential future trailer technologies—along with new designs that are available right now

May 1, 2014
ADVANCEMENTS it trailer technology—some baby steps, others leaps of faith—were evident at this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show

ADVANCEMENTS it trailer technology—some baby steps, others leaps of faith—were evident at this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show held March 27-29 in Louisville, Kentucky.

The 2014 edition of MATS featured exhibits by 1,077 companies and attracted more than 79,000 people from 43 states and 10 nations.

With heavy truck fuel economy standards now gaining the attention of regulators, weight savings and aerodynamics are more important than ever. These, along with corrosion resistance, operational flexibility were some of the key benefits that trailer manufacturers were emphasizing this year.

Wheel covers and full-length skirts help reduce aerodynamic drag.

Several of these benefits were wrapped up in a futuristic trailer that Great Dane developed--a 53-foot van trailer made of full-length composite panels. The concept trailer was part of a commitment by Walmart to cut its fuel consumption in half over the course of 10 years, starting in 2005. The retailer is well on its way to achieving that goal. In eight years, the company has cut fuel consumption by 84%, primarily through operational changes. Walmart now is looking to tractor and trailer manufacturers to help the company achieve the remaining 16% reduction.

The trailer may be a concept vehicle, it is roadworthy. When the show was over, it left on a promotional tour that will take it across the country.

While the aerodynamic tractor and trailer promise to squeeze more miles out of a gallon of diesel, Walmart recognizes that achieving that goal will be the result of a wide range of changes, including repackaging goods to get more of them on the trailer, figuring ways to reduce overall fleet mileage, and taking a close look at every component on the tractor and trailer.

Custom fairing encapsulates the landing gear to reduce turbulence beneath the trailer. Not the recessed crank for the landing gear.

“We know there is no silver bullet,” Elizabeth Fretheim, director of business strategy and sustainability – logistics for Walmart said at a MATS press briefing. “But we are 84% of the way to our goal. We are looking for changes in tractors and trailers to get us the rest of the way.”

Among the novel features of the trailer is the use of carbon fiber for the skins of the panels that comprise the sidewalls.

“Carbon fiber can be wound on spools and woven like any other thread,” said Adam Hill, Great Dane’s vice-president of product and sales engineering. It’s expensive--$10 per pound vs less than a dollar a pound for steel. But it’s interesting how much the price of carbon fiber has dropped. It used to be $100 per pound.”

The walls use composite panels produced by Milliken and Fiber-Tech Industries. One key reason for using carbon fiber: The panels are only one-third the weight of conventional FRP panels. The roof, sides, and floors of the 53-foot trailer each consist of one-piece panels. Side panels are a made of carbon fiber skins and a composite core produced by Milliken. Carbon fiber also is used on the floor of the trailer—a single composite panel with balsa as the core.

While a substantial amount of engineering time went into the design, production of the trailer displayed at MATS went surprisingly quickly.

“We built it at our Terre Haute plant on a Saturday morning,” Hill said. “The panels are bonded with adhesives, and we used fasteners to hold everything in place until the adhesive cured.”

The reduced frontal area of the custom Peterbilt cab only provides space for only a center-mounted driver seat. Behind the seat, however, is a full sleeper cab.

Advanced aerodynamic devices smooth airflow—including a custom faring mounted ahead of the landing gear. The faring connects the side skirts, resulting in a unified front to slash turbulence beneath the trailer.

Off-the shelf components used on the trailer include an SAF Holland PosiLift suspension that automatically lifts one axle when enough of the cargo has been unloaded, making the axle unnecessary.

Peterbilt produced the futuristic tractor that was coupled to the trailer. The custom cab has exceptionally little frontal area, with the only seat—mounted in the center—belonging to the driver. The look is more fighter jet than conventional truck cab.

A Capstone Turbine engine and an electrical powertrain team up to provide the power. Capstone Turbines specializes in microturbine power.

“The small turbine acts as a range extender,” said Capstone’s Steve Gillette. “The advantages include the ability for the truck to run on a variety of fuels with the same efficiency. And no SCR is required.”

New Eagle developed the software that helps the components to communicate with one another. Much of the communication is done wirelessly.

Smooth sailing. The Aero Sail trailer skirt reduces aerodynamic drag on this Vanguard trailer while weighing only 75 pounds. Made of the same vinyl material used on curtainside trailers, the skirts flex when impacted. Vanguard says the Aero Sail has passed SmartWay criteria for advanced trailer skirts.
A proprietary roof bow system makes it possible for individual liner panels of Vanguard trailers to be removed if damaged. The shape of the bows and liner panels make the panels grab tighter when pushed. The design can accommodate insulation between the roof sheet and liner panel.

Also promoted at the Vanguard exhibit was the company’s bolt-together rear door frame. The design makes it possible to replace only the damaged portion of the frame, rather than the entire unit. It also simplifies changing between swing and roll-up doors should the customer desire a new door style. The bolt-together frame, which Vanguard tests indicate is stronger than welded designs, is expected to be made standard by the end of May.

Happy One Hundredth. Utility’s Craig Bennett recounts some of the milestones that Utility Trailer Manufacturing has experienced in its 100 years of operation—including record sales years in 2012 and 2013. Behind him is a special museum trailer that includes still photography and video. After the Mid-America Trucking Show concluded, the trailer left on a nationwide tour. Bennett is part of the third generation to run the family-owned company.
Simultaneous video presentations inside Utility’s mobile museum tell the history of Utility Trailer Manufacturing, and with it some of the history of manufacturing trailers.
Mirror, mirror on the wall. The mirror finish of Heil’s new stainless steel trailer draws attention. With this trailer, Heil promoted its decision to begin building stainless steel tanks for the first time in about a decade. The company is reentering the stainless steel market with trailers designed for hauling fertilizers and similar materials. A food grade trailer will be introduced next.
New fertilizer trailer. Mike Conny and Jim Maiorana display the new 5,600-gallon stainless steel tank trailer manufactured by MAC Trailer, Alliance OH. The tank, made of 12.-gauge stainless, is built with a 30-inch drop for improved material flow. A 13-gallon pump is standard. The trailer rides on an Intraax suspension that with galvanized steel hangers.
New to dumps. XL Specialized, known for its lowbed trailers, showed its new entry into dump trailer market. The XL bottom dump trailer measures 40 feet long and has a a side height of 9 feet, 2 inches with 10-foot boards. It boasts a tare weight of 12,750 pounds, including tarp and push-block. It has a capacity is 25 cubic yards.

The 53-inch-high upper hopper, made of 10-gauge steel, has a 96-inch by 193-inch opening. The single lower hopper is 59 inches by 118 inches and is made of ASTM A-572 steel. To maneuver over large piles, an oscillating fifth wheel pivots as needed. It comes with an 18-inch kingpin setting.

The XL Bottom Dump trailer will be available in late fall of 2014.

On the side. Manac unveiled this side dump trailer. The tub is built around the large formed top rails. The top rails provide strength and reduce deflection as the material is being dumped. Hoist cylinders dump the 24.5-cubic-yard load to as much as a 50° dump angle. Features include drain plugs at the front and rear, UHMW readr fenders, and bolt-on galvanized rear push-pull bumper.
Spreading out. XL Specialized showed the aluminum pull-outs that provide extra hauling versatility for the company’s XL 70 low-profile HDG trailer. With the pull-outs extended, the trailer can be as much as 13 feet wide to accommodate oversized agricultural equipment. With the pull-outs recessed, the trailer is better suited for commercial loads.

The XL 70 HDG is rated at 70,000 pounds overall and 60,000 pounds in 16-feet concentrated. The low-profile gooseneck saves weight versus traditional hydraulic necks, while its full-width design length of 10 feet, 6 inches and 49-inch fifthwheel height adds versatility.

The 29-foot long main deck has a loaded deck height of 18 inches with a six-inch ground clearance. Decking made of 1 1/8-inch aluminum extrusions makes the trailer lighter.

New step deck. Trail King celebrated its 40th anniversary by introducing an all-aluminum center frame step deck trailer at MATS.

The product of a multi-year development project, the new Trail King All-Aluminum Center Frame Step Deck (TK80AACS) includes all-aluminum framing, armor-coated landing gear, and zinc-plated steel components as standards.

The AACS is expected to go into production later this year.

Trail King also displayed its new Hydraulic Sliding Axle (TK80SA) that features a cylinder that is completely retracted when the trailer is in the transport mode. It is designed for loading buses, road graders and rollers, all with one-man operation.

After starting small in Mitchell, South Dakota, Trail King is now a trailer manufacturer supported by a network of almost 400 dealer locations across the U.S. and Canada. The company’s trailers are sold in South America, Europe, Asia and other locations around the globe. Trail King has plants in Mitchell, South Dakota and West Fargo, North Dakota. The company has over 700 employees.

Aluminum drop-deck beavertail trailer. East Manufacturing launched its new aluminum drop-deck beavertail trailer that comers with a level deck ramp system. The trailer offers a structural load rating of 80,000-pound beam capacity overall, and 60,000-pound beam capacity in a 10-foot area.

The strength of the drop deck trailer is the dual-T main beam and exclusive cross member design, which balances load stresses more evenly for longer life and less maintenance. Its two T-shape extrusion sections of 6061-T6 aluminum alloy are welded. Rather than bolted. The weld is along the neutral axis of the beam where stress is minimal.

Rated for 23,000-pound capacity per axle, the beavertail ramp section allows cargo to easily roll up onto the lower deck. The ramp section folds up to become part of the usable deck surface. Decks are available in all aluminum or wood.

The trailer comes standard with a Hendrickson HT250US air-ride suspension. Options include load scales for more accurate weighing of payload at the dock and the Hendrickson TIREMAAX Pro automatic tire inflation system.

East also announced the expansion of its aftermarket all makes parts and service program. The expanded program will provide all makes parts and service support across the United States and Canada through its network of more than 70 East authorized dealer locations. For faster service, East is establishing a new drop-ship program which permits parts to be shipped directly from the vendor.

East offers maintenance and repair services on-site for all makes and models of flatbed, drop deck, dump and refuse trailers to support the dealer network. Services are offered for trailers include wetline installation, wreck repair, body installation, brakes, alignment and more. East specializes in wreck repairs too large for most facilities at its service center at its Randolph, Ohio headquarters.

Happy aniversary. Talbert Manufacturing exhibited a customized 55SA-HX trailer featuring the company’s special edition 75th Anniversary Package. It is a spread axle (SA) model with auxiliary cross members. Features include the T-1 steel construction, a removable kingpin that provides for either a 114-inch or a 90-inch swing, a 26-foot deck length, strobes and a third lift axle. The trailer features 24-inch spacings of the structural cross members,

The trailer design also incorporates a five-ride-height adjustable ratchet neck. This gives operators a total of five different ride heights on the gooseneck along with the ability to adjust the suspension height with Talbert’s plus-3 minus-3 leveling valve. The gooseneck is hydraulically operated and can be powered in either of two ways: through a PTO on the truck or a gasket mounted in the gooseneck. The trailer provides connections for both methods.

 The trailer also is equipment with the Equalizer, Talbert’s trademarked nitrogen dampened axle extension that hydraulically transfers loads in all terrains. It allows a 14-foot 1-inch spread with 54-inch axle spacing or a 14-foot 7-inch spread with 60-inch axle spacing.

Platform on a diet. Hyundai Translead has developed a lightweight aluminum platform trailer. The company’s new HT Duralite has a capacity of 68,000 pounds—or approximately eight times its 8,500-pound tare weight. Welded main beams and five-inch extruded aluminum crossmembers form the backbone of the trailer. The floor consists of extruded aluminum planks and two apitong nailing strips. A Hendrickson Intraax suspension is standard.
Bolt-together flatbed. Doonan Specialized Trailer unveiled its new Chaparral II aluminum platform trailer for the first time. Design goals have been to offer a lighter product that provides greater corrosion protection and at a lower cost. Steel components include galvanized landing gear to go with the predominantly aluminum construction. Features include new aluminum load hook side rails with integrated double I winch track.

According to Doonan’s Mike Gordy, the company bought Chaparral in 2008 and has made more than 20 design changes that make the trailer lighter, stronger, and more corrosion resistant than its predecessor.

Out of the woods. Manac has entered the logging trailer business, effective with the start of 2014. Built in the United States for the U S market, the new product line comes with one-piece bunks made of 100,000-psi galvanized steel. Because they bolt in place, the bunks can be repositioned as needed or replaced easily if damaged. The frame, built around 21-inch-deep main beams, is also galvanized. The thickness of the web varies to put strength were needed and reduce weight were it isn’t required.
Low-weight roll-off. MAC Trailer introduced an aluminum frame roll-off hoist designed to lower tare weight. This 44-ft model is set up to carry containers ranging from 22 feet to 37 feet in length. A variety of options are offered, including a choice of stinger or fold-away bumper at the rear and air or spring suspension.
Rolling again. Clement is back in the roll-off trailer business again with its Bridger model. The Bridger is designed to provide additional capacity under the federal bridge formula by extending the internal and external bridges through its use of a sliding tandem. Once the trailer arrives at the dump site, the tandem can be retracted so that the load can be raised over the rear axles during the dumping process. The Clement roll-off trailer includes 80,000-pound hoist, multiple rollers for proper box support, and three-point dumping stability. Options include in-cab controls and inside/outside roller option.
In the pink. The Godwin Group used its exhibit space at MATS to raise money for breast cancer. The company raffled off nearly $6,000 in prizes to benefit the Susan G. Komen foundation of Louisville. Susan G. Komen also sold merchandise and handed out pamphlets on breast cancer. Pictured are the Godwin sales team and management with Susan G. Komen volunteer Amanda Caffee.