The more weight a trailer manufacturer can take out of a flatbed, the more payload available for fleets. That's the bottom line for truck operators trying to maximize profitability.
But a lightweight flatbed trailer still needs to be strong and durable. Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co. achieved that goal last year when it unveiled the 4000A, an aluminum/steel composite that is 400 lbs. lighter than its predecessor, the 2000A, yet offers equal beam strength, including an 80,000-lb. distributed load beam rating.
Craig Bennett, senior vp-sales and marketing at Utility, says the 4000A closes the price gap on the weight difference between a combo trailer and an all-aluminum one. According to Bennett, every 300 lbs. shaved off a flatbed trailer's design is worth a 0.2% reduction in fuel costs. “Part of the reason we've been able to take so much weight out of the 4000A is having a great design team that's augmented with track testing capabilities at our R&D facility.”
Ed Chambless, Utility's division manager-curtain-side products, notes that the 4000A is stronger than its predecessor thanks to a newly designed 80,000 psi high-tensile steel, main beam top flange. This and other improvements have allowed the manufacturer to eliminate some of the reinforcement plates and structures that appeared on earlier models.
Transcraft Corp. (a Wabash National company) has also introduced new products and product enhancements recently. “With the decline in the housing market, we are adjusting by working on providing more specialized platform solutions to our customers,” Dudley Gayman, director of sales and marketing, explains. “At the recent Great American Trucking Show, we launched a new single-drop deck with 34.5-in. deck height, one of the lowest in the industry.”
This summer, Transcraft also acquired select assets of Benson International. “This will allow us to provide the market with an excellent aluminum product that we find many of our customers are looking for,” says Gayman. Improvements to some of the standard equipment available on Transcraft's flatbed models include a Hendrickson AANT suspension, which provides customers with a significant weight savings. The company also changed the standard brake drum to the lightweight Vortex from Webb Wheel.
Early in 2009, Fontaine Trailer will go into full production with a new platform trailer it's calling the Revolution. “When building this trailer,” Buck Buchanan, vp-marketing, says, “we completely threw out all preconceived notions of how you're supposed to design a flatbed. The result is a platform trailer that's 1,200 lbs. lighter than a standard design combo flatbed and one that dramatically improves aerodynamics for significant fuel savings as well.”
According to Buchanan, the same design that makes the Revolution lighter and more aerodynamic makes it stronger. Load securement is improved, with tie-down points movable anywhere on the deck.
East Manufacturing's Bill McKenzie, product manager for platform products, says the cost of fuel is driving design. “Some of the ways East is helping fleets increase fuel mileage is by offering models with wide-based single tires as well as a Meritor tire inflation system to monitor air pressure.”
Last spring, East introduced the industry's first built-in stairway for platform trailers to help drivers get up and down off of decks. The optional integrated stairway is all-aluminum, so it adds little extra weight to the trailer, McKenzie points out. “This summer we also introduced a new LED lighting system that is completely sealed against the elements.”
Also this summer, Rogers Brothers Corp. introduced a heavy-duty, 40-ton capacity flatbed for hauling oil and gas exploration equipment. The front of the trailer is designed to be winched up. The rear features a heavy-duty 8-in.-dia. “tail roller” built for greater durability. A single-point, two-spring suspension offers a 50,000-lb. capacity.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THESE WEB SITES:
DIRECT TRAILERS, LP
UTILITY TRAILER MFG.
WILSON TRAILER CO.
ROGERS BROTHERS CORP.