Many of the issues fleets consider when spec'ing suspension systems on their trucks still hold true when their attention turns to trailers. Fleet Owner talked with two trailer experts to get their take on trailer suspension issues and trends.
“The suspension is one of the most important of all trailer components,” explains Stuart James, vp-sales for San Diego, CA-based Hyundai Translead. “Although air-ride suspension units have a higher initial acquisition cost and a slightly higher maintenance cost throughout their useable life, their advantages — extended door and rear frame life, driver comfort, driver retention and product safety — are immeasurable. The back-end value of the unit will also be a critical factor in making the initial decision.”
The most critical attributes trailer suspensions must display today, says David H. Gilliland, vp-branch sales and operations at Savannah, GA-based Great Dane Trailers, are durability, ride characteristics, maintenance and weight. “An integrated suspension and axle are preferred due to a better customer service [experience] after the sale as one supplier is responsible as they supply both components,” he notes. “Trailer suspensions have become much more user-friendly, with fewer parts and adjustments required. This area is important and not to be overlooked, as proper maintenance is vital for long suspension and [trailer] tire life.”
James adds that, from a maintenance perspective, having an integrated suspension “package” may also be advantageous for the stocking of required parts, warranty execution and initial acquisition cost.
But it's certainly not one-size-fits-all in the trailer suspension world either, argues Gilliland. “Most TL carriers prefer air ride suspensions, while LTL fleets prefer spring suspensions,” he says.
“Different applications and business models call for utilizing different components,” explains James. “Low weight and lighter constructed suspensions may or may not be suitable for companies that are hauling extreme, heavy-duty payloads. The type of business they are in, the relationships they have developed, and historical data typically dictates the type of suspension they utilize.”