Trailer manufacturers focus on weight savings, aerodynamics at this year's Mid-America Trucking Show

May 1, 2010
LIGHTER WEIGHT and improved aerodynamics seemed to be the common theme among the manufacturers introducing new trailers at the annual Mid-America Trucking

LIGHTER WEIGHT and improved aerodynamics seemed to be the common theme among the manufacturers introducing new trailers at the annual Mid-America Trucking Show held March 25-27 in Louisville, Kentucky.

With trailer customers seeking ways to cut costs and maximize payloads, these new trailers were popular products — helping explain why the event attracted 70,647 trucking professionals from all 50 states and 59 foreign countries.

This year's edition had exhibits by 965 exhibiting companies representing 45 states and 12 foreign countries. Total exhibit and event space exceeded a million square feet.

Great Dane all-aluminum platform now in fleet testing

Great Dane Trailers is entering the all-aluminum flatbed market. Production started in January 2010, and the first trailers are now in fleet testing. Full production will start in the third quarter. (See image 1 in the related media gallery.)

This new aluminum design will be produced in Huntsville, Tennessee, in a plant that was operated in former years by Wabash National Corporation to build steel platforms.

Primary goal of the new design is reduced weight. It has a design weight of 8,200 lb when equipped with aluminum wheels. The 48-ft, 102" wide show model introduced at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville weighed 8,900 lb when also equipped with a reinforced coil package, two tool boxes, chain tie-downs and winches and two apitong nailing strips in the standard 1.25" deep aluminum flooring.

“We see the aluminum platform business growing at the expense of combination aluminum-steel platforms,” says Keith Monroe, director of the flatbed division at Great Dane. He says the all-aluminum design reduces weight 1,000 lb compared to a combo platform with steel mainframe beams.

The all-aluminum platform has a two-piece bolted main beam 28 inches deep. Crossmembers are attached to the main beams with lock bolts instead of welding to prevent common stress cracking. At the rear, a three-piece bolted impact guard is bolted to the main beams, making repairs or replacement easier.

The only welding is in the extruded aluminum side rails. The rail design includes built-in sliding winch tracks, stake pockets on 24-inch centers and double pipe spools welded to a three-inch aluminum rub rail. The only steel is in the upper coupler, landing gear, and Hendrickson Intraax suspension with axles on 121" centers.

The all-aluminum platform is rated at 60,000 lb load capacity in any four feet or 120,000 lb evenly distributed.

Extreme Flex Utility Trailer side skirt

Utility Trailer Manufacturing has designed and is manufacturing in-house two new aerodynamic side skirts. They both are mounted with a unique steel bracing system that is virtually indestructible, according to Craig Bennett, senior vice-president of sales and marketing. (See image 2 in the related media gallery.)

The galvanized high-tensile steel spring braces permit the fiberglass-reinforced skirt panel to flex both inward and outboard when traveling over road humps and obstructions. If damaged, the steel spring braces can be repaired by bending back into shape.

The Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay program has verified that the Utility Side Skirt (USS-120) offers more than 4% fuel savings on refrigerated vans, and the USS-160 offers 5% and more fuel savings on dry freight vans, Utility says.

Such aerodynamic devices are required by the California Air Resources Board's Heavy Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Measure that went into effect January 1. It applies to all new 2011 and later model year dry van and reefer 53-ft trailers operating in California. Existing 2010 and prior year trailers in fleets also will be required to comply.

These new skirts offer both flexibility and durability, Bennett said. Testing and fleet use show that they can last the life of the trailer with normal repair. They add about 290 pounds for the reefer trailer model and about 330 pounds for the dry van model. Cost can range from $1,000 to $2,000 per trailer.

High-powered shore power for reefers

One way refrigerated fleets operating in California are reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to comply with California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations is to use shore power when at the loading dock or parking area. Utility Trailer Manufacturing has designed a new option to safely handle the high power requirements. It includes a covered receptacle plug mounted at the rear of the trailer and heavy gauge wires running the length of the trailer in a protected tunnel to the refrigeration unit. This level of protection is necessary because of the 480-volt, 30 Amp, three-phase power requirements. (See image 3 in the related media gallery.)

More aerodynamic innovation

More newly designed aerodynamic devices were displayed at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville than at last year's MATS. The Freight Wing belly fairings, the ATDynamics Trailer Tail and Transtex side skirts featured last year were back, but also some newer companies and ideas. (See images 4-6 in the related media gallery.)

Vanguard National assembling CIMC reefers

Vanguard National introduced its new multi-temperature refrigerated trailer at Mid-America, as well as standard reefers and dry freight vans. Both the dry freight vans and refrigerated trailers are manufactured by CIMC in China, shipped to the United States as knocked-down kits, and assembled in the Vanguard plant in Monon, Indiana. All their welded steel assemblies are hot-dip galvanized, such as upper couplers, rear door frames, underride guards, slider assemblies, and landing gear brackets.

The newest reefer exhibited is the multi-temp 28-ft delivery trailer refrigerated by a Thermo King Spectrum SB. This Vanguard Cool Galaxy model has three inches of polyurethane insulation in the sidewalls. CIMC reefers are available with foam depth from two to four inches in half-inch increments.

The CIMC 53-ft refrigerated van, on the other hand, is designed for lightest weight. It has insulation depth of 2 1/2 inches and weight-saving aluminum crossmembers in the floor. Tare weight of this Vanguard Cool Globe model is 12,600 lb, not counting the Carrier refrigeration unit and Green Wing aerodynamic skirts by Ridge Corp. (See image 7-9 in the related media gallery.)

50-ft Titan rides on seven axles in Michigan

Titan patented its Thinwall design over 10 years ago, but it keeps coming up with new applications using the hollow-core extrusions. One of the latest is in the rear doors and the roof of the van — and a removable roof at that.

The Thinwall design uses 1½" thick, hollow-core extrusions 14" wide. Both sides are smooth, and the reinforcing members are inside. The extrusions are oriented horizontally for greatest sidewall stiffness and MIG-welded automatically on both sides to the adjoining extrusions.

The Titan 50-ft wood products trailer shown at Mid-America had both sidewalls and the entire roof panel constructed of these Thinwall extrusions running longitudinally. The door panel extrusions were oriented vertically. The roof panel was removable in order to convert to an open-top van at some future date.

The wood products (chips, bark, etc) are blown in through the rear doors and restrained from spilling out by a second set of three-quarter high doors hinged to the main doors. Unloading is by a Keith Walking Floor. The rear end is also equipped with solid aluminum bumpers clad in stainless steel for protection when raised on a platform tipper.

Titan Trailers Inc is located in Delhi, Ontario, Canada, where they have many opportunities to engineer multi-axle combinations, including A-train doubles, B-trains, and six-axle singles. (See image 10 in the related media gallery.)

Reitnouer unveils bolt-together transfer trailer

Expanding its trademark bolt-together construction, Reitnouer Inc introduced its first all-bolted transfer trailer design.

Known for its bolted platform trailers, the new Reitnouer transfer trailer has sidewalls comprised of five-foot panels. According to company calculations, the design has 70% fewer inside seams than a conventional, vertically welded trailer. The panels can be replaced quickly by drilling out the rivets and unbolting the bottom rail ¼-inch in order to provide clearance for the lip at the bottom of the panel.

The transfer trailer is available now, and an ag trailer is on the way. Reitnouer Inc, Reading PA. (See image 11 in the related media gallery.)

Manac brings Trailmobile back to USA

Manac had a big exhibit booth at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, focusing exclusively on the products it manufactures in the United States. This is unusual for a company so Canadian that the telephone operators greet callers in the French language spoken in Quebec. The company logo has a winged Canadian moose to symbolize ruggedly built products that are light in weight.

Trailmobile, a trailer industry legend almost as old as Fruehauf, was downsized a few recessions ago and its manufacturing plant moved to Canada. Manac Inc purchased the assets and intellectual property of bankrupt Trailmobile Canada in September 2009. As of January 2010, Manac is building the Trailmobile UltraPlate composite sidewall dry freight van in Kennett, Missouri.

Manac opened the Kennett plant in 2007 to build platform trailers. It is 75 miles from Oran, Missouri, where Manac builds its bottom dump trailers, after buying CPS Trailers in 2002.

A new Manac trailer introduced in Louisville is the side dump trailer, which will be manufactured in the Oran plant along with bottom dumps. Side dumping trailers are popular in the Western half of the nation, where they can be operated as doubles capable of dumping without breaking up the train.

The side dump is mounted on the same steel frame designed for Manac's platform trailers. Also new is the option to have the entire steel frame hot-dip galvanized for use as either a platform or side dump. Hot-dipping the entire trailer frame is a popular way to fight corrosion in Europe, but requires a huge dip tank full of molten zinc. (See images 12-13 in the related media gallery.)

Circle R side dump

A few other side dumping trailers were exhibited at Mid-America, including the Circle R of Thurston, Nebraska. Thurston Manufacturing Company claims to have built the original side dumping trailer. Now it is greatly improved with six integrated pivot points and capacities to 24.2 yards. Nick Jensen demonstrates how pulling one handle operates both the left and right pivot lock at the same time. (See image 14 in the related media gallery.)

SmithCo side dump

The SmithCo side dump trailer of Le Mars, Iowa, can have the tub with either a V-shape or round bottom. The V-shape gains about a yard more than the 23-yard waterfull capacity of the round bottom tub pictured here. Either tub is 34 feet long and fabricated of quarter-inch AR 400 steel. (See image 15 in the related media gallery.)

Dump body liner doubles as load-bearing member for new dump trailer

Jimmy Wink is redefining how composite dump body liners are used. Instead of keeping bulk material from sticking to the metal sheet, he eliminates the metal sheet and builds only a metal skeleton frame. The composite liner both supports the load and keeps it from sticking.

Wink Trailer Corp of Rockport, Indiana, showed two new dump trailers at Mid-America in Louisville, one a square body and the other half-round. Both use the UHMW plastic liner as dump body sidewalls and floor, thus saving about 1,000 pounds in empty weight. Wink claims that this not only saves weight, but also reduces repair costs.

The UHMW liner (ultra-high molecular weight) is not riveted or bolted to the skeleton frame. Instead, the composite liner floats inside channel extrusions that capture the liner edges. This allows the liner to expand and shrink in response to temperature changes.  (See images 16-17 in the related media gallery

East combines round bottom, square sides

The newest evolution in Genesis dump trailers at East Manufacturing is still undergoing testing, but it holds many promises for safer and more efficient transport of bulk materials. It is a combination of a half-round floor and straight, flat sidewalls. It was on display at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville.

The biggest advantages are a two-yard greater capacity compared to traditional half-round dump trailers, and a seven-inch lower center of gravity. Dave Tate, president of East Trailer in Randolph, Ohio, says the stronger, more rigid body resists twisting and has better stability when dumping. The flat sidewalls are easier to repair than curved shapes.

Both the clean underside and no-post sidewalls contribute to better aerodynamics and fuel mileage. The sidewalls use 2" by 10" hollow-core extrusions vertically oriented, as does the tailgate. The curved floor sheet is quarter-inch aluminum plate. The body measures 60" deep from the top rail to the center of the floor. The 39-ft, 102" wide trailer on display weighed in at 9,750 lb. (See image 18 in the related media gallery.)

Trail King combines flat floor, curved sides

A curved plate sidewall with no sidewall stiffeners helps reduce weight in the new Trail King Industries ag trailer, designed for hauling seed, feed, and fertilizer. The 45-ft live bottom trailer exhibited at the Mid-America Trucking Show has 84" sidewalls and a 63" wide belt of segmented flaps over a drag chain. The sidewall sheets of .175" aluminum are rolled to achieve the curved shape, which provides better clean-out with less bridging of material. Capacity is 80 cubic yards. Weight including tarp is 14,900 lb. (See image 19-21 in the related media gallery.)

New trailer has nitro-assisted dampening

The new Equalizer by Talbert Manufacturing provides nitrogen-assisted dampening of its spread fourth axle behind a tri-axle heavy haul trailer. The 14-ft-plus spread axle Equalizer oscillates around a central self-tracking pivot point to provide proportionate weight distribution in each axle grouping regardless of varying road conditions. When backing while loaded, it can lift the spread axle off the ground. The Equalizer carries its own Honda gas engine power pack to operate the hydraulics, as shown by Todd Galgoci, Great Lakes area sales manager for Talbert Manufacturing Inc, Rensselaer, Indiana. (See image 22 in the related media gallery.)

MAC adds vacuum self-loader

After building a 15-year reputation in platforms, transfer and dump trailers, MAC Trailer launched a new line of aluminum pneumatic dry bulk trailers at last year's Mid-America Trucking Show. This year MAC added to that line with the PneuMACvac self-loader. It is designed to pick up product directly from rail hopper tankcars at railroad transloading sidings.

This new version of the PneuMACtic has not only the added piping and air filtering equipment fore and aft, it also has a stunning paint job and shine usually not seen on road haulers. That aesthetic treatment is thanks to the fleet owner who already logged 50,000 miles and a couple of truck shows on the trailer before appearing at Mid-America. And the 2007 Peterbilt tractor with the same classy paint job had 325,000 miles already logged. The owner, First Class Services Inc of Lewisport, Kentucky, has its own body shop and invests heavily in the company image and reputation. (See image 24 in the related media gallery.)

With new regs in place, first DEF tank truck ready to deliver

Now that new 2010 diesel trucks are requiring refills of DEF (diesel exhaust fluid), new shipping arrangements are being set up to supply the diluted urea in larger quantities. Oilmen's Truck Tanks Inc of Spartanburg, South Carolina, wanted the honor of designing and building the first DEF delivery truck tank in the nation. The result is this 3400-gallon stainless steel elliptical single compartment tank.

The tank shell is alloy 304-2B 12-gauge material with a 10-gauge bottom plate and 10-gauge dished and flanged heads and three baffles. The tank is fitted with 3" stainless sump, 3" air-operated emergency valve, and 2" stainless steel piping. The certified pumping equipment is in the driver side compartment — pump, meter, electronic register with in-cab slip printer, hose reel and 100 feet of 1½" DEF hose.

The DEF delivery tank is mounted on a 2010 Peterbilt 340 with Paccar PX-8, 330-hp diesel engine, Allison 3000 automatic transmission, 20,000-lb front axle, 40,000-lb rear axle and air-ride suspension.

The DEF weighs about nine pounds per gallon. It is a non-toxic solution of 67.5% distilled water and 32.5% automotive grade urea. (See image 23 in the related media gallery.)

Daimler's Virtual Technician performs truck diagnostics from afar

Freightliner and Western Star touted what the two Daimler brands said was the industry's first real-time remote diagnostic system.

Daimler Trucks North America LLC said it will soon be offering Virtual Technician as standard equipment on 2011 Freightliner and Western Star trucks equipped with Detroit Diesel engines and BlueTec emission systems.

Virtual Technician uses remote telemetric vehicle tracking systems. The program formulates vehicle insights based on engine diagnostic codes from sensors and components. Remote diagnostics help reduce downtime and improve scheduling.

New manufacturer introduces axles, landing gear

Trax Mechanical Systems LLC launched its line of Traxium trailer axles and landing gear at Mid-America.

Traxium trailer axles are available in a full variety of specifications, including standard and small brake offerings, as well as heavy duty applications and non-standard tracks. Traxium trailer axles come standard with extended service brakes and e-coated brake shoes for longevity.

Traxium landing gear is available in the Pro50 model for 50K applications, adaptable for various shoe configurations, handles, and inside and outside mounts. It exceeds TTMA/AAR test standards, while still being among the lightest available. Traxium landing gear also comes standard with features such as specially formulated grease, forged steel gears, and extended maintenance grease containments systems.

“Our initial offerings to the North American commercial vehicle market are specifically designed for the needs of the North American market. Our speed and responsiveness to our customers will continue to be validated during the coming months with the release of additional products such as air suspensions, steer axles, and drive axles.” explained Jim Sharkey, vice-president of business development.

Steve Luc, vice-president of sales, adds, “One of the key values that we provide to our customers, is responsiveness. Consequently, we are making most of our products available as stock items from our assembly and distribution center in Louisville.”

Ridewell introduces series of trailer suspensions

Ridewell RAR-260 is a series of trailer air-ride suspensions providing the optimum balance between price and performance. Available in overslung and underslung configurations for both 25,000 lb. and 30,000 lb. capacities, and a 25,000 lb. capacity yoke mount configuration, RAR-260 is the ideal choice for any application.

RAR-260 suspensions are manufactured with Securelok pivot nuts for maintaining pivot clamping force. The unitized nut, washer, and shim combination is highly resistant to loosening under vibration.

Mounting heights range from 14" to 18" for RAR-260 overslung, 5½" to 9" for RAR-260 underslung, and 6" to 9½" for RAR-260 yoke mount. (See image 26 in the related media gallery.)

Kinedyne reveals improved cargo winch

Looking to its new manufacturing plant for increased capabilities, Kinedyne Corporation has introduced a new cargo control winch featuring a one-piece mandrel made of cast steel and an improved web slot radius that significantly decreases cutting and abrasion on webbing. The mandrel cap holes, designed to receive the winch bar tip, are more resistant to elongation over time. (See image 25 in the related media gallery.)

ArvinMeritor Expands PlatinumShield Availability

ArvinMeritor Inc announced that PlatinumShield coated brake shoes will be available on new, OE production heavy-duty trucks and trailers beginning in May 2010, with specific availability to be set by the respective OEM.

The coating helps prevent rust-jacking of brake shoes, a long-standing industry issue, often more prevalent in northern climates which use corrosive chemicals to remove snow and ice from roads during winter. Rust-jacking occurs when rust forms on bare shoe metal under the lining, causing the lining to lift and crack.

Initially introduced in the aftermarket in March 2009, the PlatinumShield coating was developed by ArvinMeritor brake engineering to resist micro-abrasion caused by the movement of the brake lining against the shoe table during normal use. The product offers a three-year/300,000 mile warranty against rust-jacking.

“The performance of PlatinumShield has been clearly demonstrated in the field, and we're confident its performance will exceed the customers' expectations. With PlatinumShield, new vehicle customers will now receive the benefit of an even longer life brake shoe. The product will help North American truck operators meet their brake maintenance goals regardless of the road and weather conditions the truck experiences,” said James Taylor, foundation brake product manager, ArvinMeritor.

Carrier unveils hybrid trailer refrigeration unit

Carrier's new Vector is a multi-temperature refrigeration unit that delivers up to 20 percent greater fuel-efficiency than its predecessor.

The Vector takes advantage of Carrier's Deltek diesel-electric technology, which features high operating efficiencies, significantly reduced maintenance requirements versus conventional belt-drive systems, and an electric standby option for stationary units.

With the refrigeration system's all-electric architecture, Vector units deliver approximately the same performance on electric standby as they do in diesel operation.

Thermo King shows new multi-temp truck units

Thermo King launched a new line of temperature control units for straight trucks: the T-1000 Spectrum.

The T-1000 is a self-powered multi-temperature unit with the latest in scroll compressor technology. Key features include greater fuel economy in all ambient conditions, regardless of whether the load is fresh or frozen, SmartPower electric standby operation, and advanced Fuel-Saving Control Technology with the new TSR-2 control system.

Tier 4 engine emits 38% less particulate matter and 54% less carbon monoxide than the previous engine.

“The T-1000 Spectrum is available in a variety of two- and three-compartment configurations to suit a fleet's particular needs,” says Scott Bates, truck product manager at Thermo King. “It has unmatched flexibility to accommodate demanding loads and delivery routes.”