Fleetowner 6166 Xtraleasenew

Maintenance Bay: Unloading costs

March 7, 2016

Senior VP: Steve Zaborowski

Company: Xtra Lease

Operation: National leasing/rental company with a fleet of 80,000 trailers, including dry vans, flatbeds, refrigerated units, local cartage vans, storage trailers and specialty equipment

PROBLEM:

There’s a fine line to tread in the trailer business when it comes to cutting costs, as Steve Zaborowski can tell you. A 37-year veteran of the industry—all of it spent at Xtra Lease—he says the trick is to spec trailers just right, “toughening them up” where applicable in order to avoid costly maintenance expenses and downtime for repair over their lifecycle.

That also includes spec’ing spring-ride suspensions where applicable versus their more expensive air-ride brethren for two reasons: better spring suspension designs offer more air ride performance than in the past as well as a lower maintenance cost over a trailer’s expected lifecycle.

Still, that alone was not enough. Could more weight be removed without lessening the strength and durability of a trailer?

SOLUTION:

“We’ve been tracking trailer data closely for 20 years, so we have the numbers,” Zaborowski explains. “That’s helped us take weight out of the trailer but not weaken it. It’s helped us make trailers more damage-resistant and durable while balancing the cost of our investment. It’s about building long-lasting trailers that offer a low lifecycle cost and minimal downtime for repairs.”

First, Xtra Lease switched to composite plate-sided trailers in 2007 to expand the interior width  to 101.5 in., giving forklifts more room to maneuver and providing more space for palletized freight loading.

Zaborowski notes that trailer specs included galvanized steel inner and outer panels, which resist punctures from forklifts better than traditional aluminum sheet and post trailers.

For added interior protection, Xtra Lease then spec’d either fluted aluminum or galvanized steel scuff liners so interiors could withstand the beating delivered by forklifts while maintaining maximum width and cube capacity.

Adding extra cross members on 53-ft. trailers boosted durability and payload capacity. The cross members, set on 10-in. centers, increased the floor rating to 24,000 lbs. to better withstand the weight of forklifts and handle the occasional extra-heavy product.

For even greater durability, Xtra Lease added an extra floor protection package for the last 4 ft.  of the trailer with cross members on 8-in. centers and at least a 24-in. threshold plate.

When it comes to suspensions, the switch back to spring-ride systems cut maintenance costs. According to data gleaned from 65,000 trailers, Xtra Lease calculated an air-ride suspension costs $900 to maintain over a 10-year time period versus $240 for a spring-ride unit.

Yet Zaborowski says it doesn’t mean air-ride suspensions shouldn’t be spec’d on trailers. Air ride may be more suitable in certain niche applications, he notes.

In fact, factors such as a trailer’s gross weight capacity, the amount of time it spends on the road, and how much drag it generates affect operating costs more than the type of suspension—numbers that need to be factored in alongside trailer maintenance expenses.

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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