Trailers are getting bigger, stronger, and safer.
Written by Ed Ritchie
Today’s heavy equipment trailers are more than a match for the needs of grading and excavation contractors. In fact, with so many options and features, sometimes choosing the right equipment can seem a daunting task. But manufacturers and dealers are more than ready to play matchmaker, it’s just a matter of knowing what you need to get the job done.
Rugged and quick-to-load were just a few of the features needed by Jeffrey L. Hammann, owner of JLH Bulldozing, Atwater, IL. “Obviously user friendliness was important,” says Hammann. “I wanted something that didn’t need a lot of work involved in loading, because many of the sites I work at have narrow roads, so I have to load on the shoulder as fast as possible. My trailer has a very low front deck height so when you detach the trailer you’re loading with a very slight incline and is not dangerous at all.”
Build quality and height options were also important considerations. “I needed something built for heavy-duty use with adjustable height, because out here you occasionally come across a set of railroad tracks that are very high and you have to be very careful about bottoming out. My trailer has five different ride height positions, which is very nice because I always pre-run my route and I set the trailer to the ideal position for clearance.”
Hammann does a lot of work for farming projects, such as dry dams for land conservation, and demolition work, such as taking down concrete silos. His rig can be seen often in the farming communities just south of Springfield, so overall appearance was another factor that helped him settle on a XF HDG-100 (X-Force Hydraulic Detachable Gooseneck 100,000-pound capacity) model from Felling Trailers. “I like the top-grade steel, and cross-members were a big issue for me,” says Hammann.” And I went with their bright aluminum wheels because I like to run nice-looking equipment. Then I chose six lights down each side rather than the standard of three. Overall you can really tell the difference in a smoother ride and stability, and it’s just a very solid trailer.”
It’s not unusual for trailer buyers like Hammann to look for solid quality and features, says Randy Barto, of Lano Equipment in Anoka, MN, and trailer sales are climbing, so it’s a good time for trailer dealers and manufacturers. Lano has a staff of 13 salespeople at three locations, and Barto notes that trailers are a hot topic with customers from large contractors down to homeowners with weekend projects.
Photo: XL Specialized Trailer
Over the years, Barto has seen some common issues in pairing up the right trailer with the right customer and advises contractors to know their equipment and their main use for the trailer. He explains: “They should be asking if it has the right axle capacity, and, of course, the salesperson should ask them certain questions about the loading and things such as piggybacking. Or do you need a certain deck configuration? You should know what your truck is rated for and the gross vehicle weight because you can’t have a three-quarter-ton 7500 GVW and pull a 20,000-pound trailer with it. So there are many variables, and ultimately the person selling the trailer should know more than the person coming in.”
Once the salesperson has determined the customer’s needs, it’s up to the manufacturer to provide a solution that covers all the requirements, in both performance and other issues, says Patrick Jennissen, sales and marketing director at Felling Trailers in Sauk Centre, MN. “Typically, our customers have unique design requests,” says Jennissen. “Many times we have customers who need a custom solution but we have to determine the legality of the design, especially with the bigger and heavy-hauler applications.”
No matter the size of the equipment, customers have told Felling that easily adjustable load heights save time, and the company offers its X-Force Hydraulic Detachable Gooseneck models as convenient solutions that avoid cumbersome blocks and heavy mechanisms. “Our customers that we talked to had some very user friendly ideas,” explains Jennissen. “Our block weighs just about 20 pounds rather than 100 to 300 pounds. We wanted to make it so an average guy could do it with a couple of blocks and wrenches in five or 10 minutes.”
The X-Force line covers a wide range of applications. From the XF-70-2 HDG with a capacity of 70,000 pounds in 16 feet. To the XF-120-3 HDG-L, capable of loads up to 120,000 pounds in 16 feet. Felling also manufactures a large range of rigid-neck semi trailers that work well as industrial lowboys. These trailers are specially designed to haul heavy industrial equipment. The low deck height allows for a low center of gravity and easy loading and is available in 50,000- to 100,000-pound load capacities, with options including tandem or triple axles, and numerous platforms, with beavertail, ramp, and dimensional options available.
“We also have made a number refinements to our Low Pro tag series as well,” Jennissen adds. “And the models that use the Low Pro designation are built with a fabricated i-beam rather than a standard i-beam. We create a web and flanges based upon the weight capacity for the trailer and we fabricate the i-beam with the camber in it in order to get the right strength-to-weight ratio. It's going to be a little bit lighter even though it’s stronger.”
In June 2012, Felling introduced its X55 Cross-Over Dump trailer. With a design that maintains 70% of weight over the chassis, the X55 minimizes rollover issues and has the ability to dump on the move. Typical applications include hauling materials such as riprap, clay, asphalt, demolition, and other materials inappropriate to bottom dump designs.
New product releases made 2012 a banner year for the heavy-hauling category required by general construction, grading, excavation and pavement contractors. Two examples are from XL Specialized Trailers of Manchester, IN, and Talbert Manufacturing of Resselaer, IN. Let’s take a look first at a new behemoth from XL Specialized, the XL 110 low-profile HDG customized trailer.
The 110 was created for hauling oversized loads, and the main deck is equipped with steel pullouts on 18-inch centers capable of handling up to 60,000 pounds. According to Nathan Guess, XL Specialized Trailers’ vice president of sales and marketing, the 110 addresses the needs of equipment dealers and contractors that do multiple and oversized equipment hauls every day. The company’s engineers focused on decreasing the load times through the low-profile neck design. The trailer’s low-profile, scraper-style upper deck and a 36-inch flip neck design, accommodates multiple truck sizes and handles loads up to 110,000 pounds distributed and 110,000 pounds in 10 feet concentrated. The customized XL 110 HDG’s main deck boasts a 24-inch loaded deck height and 8-inch ground clearance.
“We do a lot of custom engineering at Specialized,” says sales representative Matt Brunscheon. “Our customers’ needs are changing and construction machinery manufacturers are building heavier and larger equipment, so that means higher capacity demands on the trailers. With equipment being so expensive, customers want to be using it as much as possible and loading and unloading quickly is very beneficial to the contractors so the equipment stays moving and making money rather than extra time spent loading and unloading.”
At Talbert, the company recently launched its 50CC/PS Hybrid Trailer. The hybrid design features the benefits of a close-couple lowbed design with a roller paver model and offers a longer loading incline and best-in-class lift capacity. A deck length of 26 feet offers space for full construction fleet loads, and a specially designed slope allows easy transport of rollers and pavers. The design slopes from the bottom up to create a more moderate incline over a greater distance, approximately a third of the deck length. Additionally, a bolt-on ramp provides a more gradual load angle at the rear: fifteen-degrees rather than the standard 35-degree angle. The 50-ton capacity 50CC/PS offers a deck width of 8-feet, 6-inches, and a low deck height of 20-inches.
The 50CC/PS is four-axle capable, for greater versatility. It features three axles with a fourth axle pin-on configuration. Axle capacity is 25,000 pounds each. To accommodate varying state laws, the trailer offers a dual kingpin setting of 108 and 90. “People that buy trailers are very savvy,” says Talbert’s vice president of sales and marketing, Greg Smith. “We’ve had tough economic times and people that are buying are the heavy users that downsized their fleets. But with business picking up a bit, there is some replacement in construction and a variety of industries such as agricultural, oil patch, wind energy, and natural gas”
Talbert is pushing its technology for long-term, reliable, heavy-duty performance, in some impressive directions. For example, the Talbert SSTA 5053 is composed of a T-1 and 80K Steel beam constructed framework, with 4-inch I-beam cross-members on 9-inch centers, and 1.5-inch apitong flooring. Among other standard features, the SSTA 5053 includes air-ride suspension, a two-speed landing gear, hub-piloted steel disc wheels, and both side and center tie-down slots for greater loading ease and application flexibility.
For the truly heavy haulers, operators have the option of another new product from Talbert, the 2+3+2 65-ton HRG East Coast Trailer. The 65-ton modular trailer was designed for use in general construction, heavy-haul trucking, and oil fields. Features include a flip extension to accommodate a tandem-axel jeep dolly, permitting it for use in all states at full rating. The ability to add a tag or pin-on axle to the jeep allows for a 3+3+2 axel configuration. Making it legal for operators without a 4-axel tractor.
Another feature is the optional Cleral onboard scale system, notes Smith. “Minimizing time for setup and loading is critical, and having an onboard scale system allows the driver to quickly calculate how to position the load on the trailer. When you’re loading something like a 26-foot backhoe, the position of the load makes a huge difference in running legal. The scale takes all the guesswork out of that so the driver can load quickly without worrying about being delayed.”
Onboard scale technology has evolved dramatically and now provides a wide variety of data. For example, in March 2012, Eugene, OR–based Air-Weigh announced a data interface between trailer tracking solutions. The new QuickLoad Trailer Scale links with Blue Tree Systems equipment to acquire trailer weight from the Air-Weigh scale. When trailers run both the Air-Weigh QuickLoad Trailer Scale and the Blue Tree Systems R:COM equipment, real-time trailer weight information may be transferred from the scale to the R:COM equipment over the new interface. Trailer weight is then seamlessly transmitted over a wireless network to the customer back office software. According to Air-Weigh, fleets can eliminate weight-related costs including in-ground scale fees, time, out-of-route miles, fuel, overweight fines, and delays in truck stops.
Overall, there’s more pressure to keep the weight down, and every hauler in construction wants to see a trailer that’s lighter and lower, according to Dan Rosen, vice president of sales at Fontaine Heavy-Haul in Springville, AL. Fontaine recently released its Magnitude Class of models that address weight and many other concerns. “The Magnitude families are construction-style trailers, and all the goosenecks are hydraulic,” says Rosen. They’re rated at 35 tons all the way up to 70. We started with a clean sheet of paper for the design and went into the marketplace to find out what our customers want, so we were able to make trailers in the 35-, 55-, 60-, and 70-ton class with a minimal weight increase. And a direct result of that is being able to put a decent price point on the trailer because you’re not buying extra steel and capacity you don’t need.”
Rosen notes that customers are more concerned about loading performance, and that’s contributed to a rise in the sales of hydraulic-style goosenecks. “Time is money, and when you have to move an excavator and multiple pieces of equipment to various job sites through the course of a day, you want the load on the trailer and connected to the truck without spending a lot of time loading and connecting. A fast, efficient gooseneck design is very important for guys doing that kind of transportation. High-quality electrical systems with good connectors are also important.”
The new Magnitudes follow recent additions to Fontaine’s Infinity product family, a line that includes a 48-foot spread axle, 53-foot rear axle slide, and 53-foot rear axle slide with twist lock. Infinity mainbeams are designed for strength and built with grade-140 flanges, welded continuously on both sides. The company backs the design and construction with the XtremeBeam Lifetime Warranty. Rosen adds, “Customers are more interested in our performance in general, and corrosion is a big deal, so you need the best finish possible.”
If corrosion is indeed a big deal, it should be no surprise that the industry has raised its standards for developing technologies that address corrosion and manufacturing processes with environmentally responsible methods. In March 2012, PPG Commercial Coatings and the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) honored Big Tex Trailers of Mount Pleasant, TX, with the second annual Green Manufacturing Award. The competitive award recognizes the best innovation or solution by a member of the NATM that positively affects the environment. Companies competing for the award are judged on case studies in which they demonstrate improved, environmentally conscious performance in their operations.
“Paint performance is one of the biggest complaints about trailer manufacturers when it doesn’t perform properly,” says Pam O’Toole Trusdale, NATM executive director. “But our top priority is safety. Trailer manufacturers are conscientious and they want to obey the laws correctly. Yet it’s difficult because there are changes to regulations. We have a very active government affairs program so we can stay on top of all the changes in regulations, and we’ve built a good relationship with trade associations and the Department of Transportation and the Highway Traffic Safety Administration so we can keep up with all the changes and these regulations that are applicable to trailers, so our members know about updates and changes.”
As a member of the NATM, Big Tex has an ongoing interest in safety throughout its wide range of trailers. For example, the 3XGN Super Duty Tandem Dual Axle Gooseneck category offers features such as safety chains attached with cold rolled eyelets, modular sealed wiring harnesses, safety reflective marker tape, rubber-mounted sealed LED lighting, and options for air brakes with ABS or electric over hydraulic drum brakes. Load capacities run from 20 to 30 feet in length.
Circling back to the subject of frame corrosion, there’s no getting around the fact that aluminum’s reputation for corrosion resistance makes it a desirable material for trailer construction. The company’s flatbed trailer Model 1585 comes in lengths up to 36 feet. And the 8-foot, 6-inch width allows transport of large cargo. The trailer comes with a 2-inch rub rail, treated wood floor, and a 1-inch-by-1-inch folding step. An optional toolbox is also available. “Aluminum is strong, and the finish lasts,” says national sales manager Joe Lewis. “That’s what they’re designed for, so they get used and abused. But with our product being lighter in weight, you can get a higher GVW that can be hauled. Another factor is that a longer-lasting product has a higher resale value so if the customer needs to sell or trade it is an advantage.”
Aluminum also stands up well as a material to store fuel, and Featherlite recently announced its new Model 1570 aluminum fuel trailer. It’s a compact trailer that can be easily transported to fields or construction sites to fuel and service equipment onsite, and features a 540-gallon aluminum fuel tank with internal baffles to reduce fuel movement and a sight gauge. Additional features include a gasoline-powered transfer pump, 25-foot-long retractable hose reel with fuel nozzle, fuel filter, drain plug, and enclosed compartment with lockable doors.
East Manufacturing of Randolph, OH, also specializes in aluminum trailer products and for contractors that need a high capacity dump trailer, the company offers a complete line that includes a unique product called the Genesis Hybrid. The Hybrid’s design combines the advantages of a square-box dump trailer with the advantages of a half-round dump trailer. Benefits include a lighter tare weight, plus better handling and the stable dumping characteristics of a square-box dump trailer. Total weight is in the 9,500- to 10,000-pound range, depending on options. Capacity is more than 2 yards greater than a traditional half-round trailer, and the center-of-gravity is more than 7 inches lower than a traditional half-round.
A low center of gravity contributes to safety, and it’s used to maximum advantage in the trailer designs of Dragon Products, of Beaumont, TX. The company’s line of lowboy trailers feature non-ground bearing hydraulic removable goosenecks and airlift capability for the third axle. Add three more axles and you’ve graduated to the company’s Six Axle Removable Neck Heavy Haul Trailer—capable of handling a payload of 60 tons (120,000 pounds) distributed over 16 feet.
Additional features of the Low Profile Flat Bed with removable neck include a four-beam design with fabricated beams relying on A514 T-1 high-tensile steel flanges and webs. The main beams are boxed reinforced at critical deck transitions for a 2:1 minimum safety factor at maximum payload stresses.
All told, from hauling heavy loads to saving fuel, getting hitched is easier and safer than ever these days. The available range of trailers offers more than a wide variety of choices in construction and design. But the one thing they have in common is the capacity to get those loads across a county or across the country, safely and efficiently.
Ed Ritchie specializes in energy, transportation, and communication technologies.