OEMs reduce maintenance, weight
Last spring Holland Hitch brought the first low-lube fifth wheel to the truck market. Designed for standard-duty, on-highway vehicles with a maximum GCWR of 95,000 lb., the FW33 features special top plate and bracket inserts that render the component 90-95% lube-free.
In developing the FW33 Series, Holland Hitch looked for a lube-plate system that combined maximum benefit with minimum thickness. The result is a specially formulated polyurethane material that is bonded to a steel backing plate, which is in turn bolted to the fifth wheel. This nonabrasive top plate maintains constant lubrication between the fifth wheel and upper coupler. The new unit is designed so the lubing that is necessary - at the kingpin/lock interface - can be done without uncoupling the trailer.
The company expects the low-lube plates to last about three years, although service life for a particular unit depends on a number of factors. The biggest variable is coupling frequency, since most of the wear is caused by the sliding action that takes place during this process. Other variables are the quality of the trailer's bolster plates and the vehicle's center of gravity. (A higher center of gravity means more trailer roll, putting more stress on the edges of the fifth wheel.)
According to Holland Hitch, a maintenance-free product is possible within three to five years, although it cautions that fleets should not take "maintenance-free" too literally. As with any piece of equipment that relates to safety, periodic inspection is recommended. A maintenance-free fifth wheel would be no exception.
To the future Cutting-edge technology continues at Holland Hitch as it proceeds with the development of an electronic lock indicator, which could reach the market as early as next year. This product would help drivers confirm that trailer coupling has been successful, compensating for visual inspection that can be hampered by factors such as low fifth-wheel height, splash and spray, and high-cube trailers.
Looking even further down the road, Holland Hitch engineers envision an electronic lock indicator on a maintenance-free fifth wheel that counts coupling cycles and tells the driver when it's time to inspect the component.
Responding to fleet demands for reduced operating costs, Fontaine Fifth Wheel recently introduced a lightweight slide that takes about 50 lb. out of the weight of the slide without sacrificing capacity. And by re-engineering the slide so that it has fewer parts, the company has developed a product that requires less maintenance, saving fleets both time and money.
The latest addition to Fontaine's TechLock line, the LWS Light Weight Slide features a new reinforced cast bracket with a greaseless liner, providing consistent lubrication and longer service life. By placing the locking spring inside the air cylinder, Fontaine has increased its protection from dirt and corrosion for smoother, more trouble-free performance. Security and durability have been improved with the development of a four-point locking system, dubbed Quad-Lock.
Although this product may not boast a high-tech look, high technology definitely played a big role in its design. Fontaine engineers used computer aided design and computer modeling, including finite element analysis, when developing the LWS. Of particular importance is the use of computer modeling to test stress points before prototypes were even built.
Other recent products from Fontaine include a fifth wheel that can handle 75,000-lb. vertical loads and a 200,000-lb. drawbar pull. Based on the 5092 Seri es, the XTRA Heavy Duty model is made with a high-strength, low-alloy-steel formed top plate.
For fleets that need versatility and strength, the company's Heavy Duty Blocked Air Slide fifth wheel is designed for standard heavy-duty applications (vertical load force: 55,000 lb.; drawbar pull: 150,000 lb.), as well as a non-rocking fifth wheel for frameless dumps. Both offer the company's No-Slack locking system.
American Steel Foundries (ASF) now offers a lightweight unit based on its Simplex line. Through a top-plate redesign, the Simplex Lite model boasts a weight savings of 46 lb. Maintenance requirements have also been reduced with the use of polyurethane bracket pockets (pads and shoes) on all Simplex models. This lube-free part of the fifth wheel was originally introduced on the Simplex Lite version.